House of Lords
Monday 6 December 2021
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, as agreed by the House last week, from today Oral Questions will no longer have speakers’ lists. As it is over 18 months since we conducted Questions without a list, the arrangements may be unfamiliar to newer Members of your Lordships’ House. There are also new arrangements for the calling of those Members who are eligible to participate remotely in the work of the House. The Leader of the House will now outline briefly how Question Time will operate.
I thank the Lord Speaker. As he rightly said, from today Oral Questions will no longer have a speakers’ list. I will briefly set out on behalf of the usual channels how Question Time will work.
With no lists there will be no agreed speaking order, so supplementary questions will rotate around the parties and groups in the Chamber. Those noble Lords who are permitted to take part virtually may do so in Questions provided that they give notice. Like Members in the Chamber, they are not guaranteed a chance to speak; whether they are invited to do so will be agreed in advance with their parties and groups. During Questions, at an appropriate point I will indicate that the House will hear virtually from a Peer belonging to the party or group whose turn it is.
As noble Lords observed in last week’s debate, the spontaneity of Question Time plays an important part in the House holding Ministers to account. However, some Peers have said that they did not feel as comfortable joining in with Questions. Therefore, as the Senior Deputy Speaker observed, it will be incumbent on all Members to respect the House’s tradition of self-regulation, mutual respect and courtesy. As part of that tradition, it is important that during Question Time the House hears a range of views and from as many Members as possible in the time allowed. Rather than return to the previous seven minutes for each Question, we are now allowing 10 minutes. That should mean that at least 10 supplementary questions can be asked and answered, which I hope will ensure that the House can hear from Members on all sides of any issue.
As noble Lords are aware, the Companion sets out that Ministers’ initial replies should be brief and no more than 75 words and that subsequent replies should also be concise. The Companion also states:
“Supplementary questions should be short and confined to not more than two points.”
It goes on to say that supplementaries should be
“confined to the subject of the original question, and ministers should not answer irrelevant questions. The essential purpose of supplementaries is to elicit information, and they should not incorporate statements of opinion. They should not be read.”
In brief, that means that all supplementaries should take about 30 seconds and ministerial replies should be correspondingly short. I hope that noble Lords will observe these courtesies to ensure that Question Time works for the whole House.
Hate Crimes: Misogyny
My Lords, the Government are committed to tackling violence against women and girls. We have asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of hate crime legislation, including whether additional protective characteristics such as sex and gender should be included. The Law Commission is due to publish its recommendations imminently and it is important that we hear what the commission proposes before deciding on a position on this matter.
I am still haunted by the thought of the last few hours of Sarah Everard—how her life changed in an instant and how terrified she must have been. It could have been any young woman, because the murdering misogynist who is now serving time had prepared to pick any young woman. There are online groups that objectify and dehumanise women and girls and they radicalise young men, who go on to commit acts of aggression designed to intimidate, humiliate and control women. When will the Minister act on making misogyny a hate crime to counteract the widespread misogynist culture in the police and elsewhere and the shameful drop in rape convictions?
My Lords, what the noble Baroness has outlined goes far beyond misogyny, although I totally appreciate her question, in that quite often it starts with misogyny. On rape convictions, which I heard her mention right at the end, she will know that a rape review has been carried out, the intention of which is to improve the response right through the criminal justice system.
My Lords, we were all terribly shocked as we heard about the appalling murder of Sarah Everard and there has been a greater emphasis and scrutiny on the embedded epidemic of violence against women and girls and the misogyny that goes alongside it. Does the Minister agree with Mark Hamilton, the Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, along with growing numbers of other senior police officers, who said:
“I think this is a welcome addition to how we respond to crime … in this area … it’s a good way of understanding offender behaviour and preventing things escalating from the more minor offences”—
as we saw with Wayne Couzens—
“up to sexually motivated crime and murder”?
I would not describe Sarah Everard’s killer’s misdemeanours as minor, but I know exactly where the noble Baroness is coming from, which is the trajectory from which these things start, and I do not disagree with her on that. I am very happy with what the Government have done for the past few years: £100 million towards tackling violence against women and girls; stalking protection orders; allowing new offences to tackle forced marriage and revenge porn; and, of course, passing the landmark Domestic Abuse Act.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that, although we welcome the Law Commission’s review, in any consultation prior to a Bill, it is profoundly important that the terminology used is defined as part of the consultation? We are seeing too many consultations coming forward without clear definitions, which is entirely confusing for the public to respond to.
My Lords, on 15 November, the Minister said, in response to an amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, that she would ask police forces to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person where the victim perceives it to be motivated by hostility based on their sex. If she has not already done this, when will she do it? Does she accept that, whatever policy is adopted following the Law Commission’s report, women should be able to expect the same approach across all police forces?
My Lords, in some recent terrorist crimes in America, the perpetrators have been found to be members of incels—involuntary celibate—groups. Do the Government monitor membership of these groups in the UK or does that wait until the time of the review?
My Lords, we saw with the killer of Sarah Everard that he was part of the police and was protected by a quite toxic culture within the police. Does the Minister agree that if we had misogyny as a crime, the police themselves might improve on their behaviour?
It was clear from the murder of Sarah Everard and the ensuing inquiry that we need to look into an awful lot of areas: the culture, vetting and other elements of what might have led to what happened. It probably goes beyond misogyny.
My Lords, when the Minister responded to my noble friend, she said that she was waiting for the outcome of the Law Commission’s review and its recommendations. Does she agree that the Government need to do more than just respond? They need to proactively act. She mentioned the various other measures that the Government have taken, but here is a golden opportunity to act. What legislation are the Government looking at to move the agenda forward to recognise the recommendations of the Law Commission and the rape review?
My Lords, first, even before we decide whether we should bring in hate crime for misogyny—hatred of women—could the Government clarify that they understand what women are and untangle the definition of women from the confusion around gender? Secondly, is there a danger that, in talking about an epidemic of misogyny, we might frighten young women into thinking that all young men hate them?
We need to strike a balance. On defining what women are, I do not think that the time that I am allotted today is long enough—the noble Baroness is tempting me, but I shall not be drawn into that. However, I think that the language that we use should be very clear so that everyone knows what we are talking about. Balance is incredibly important here as well, because we do not want a generation of terrified women.
My Lords, I suggest to the Minister that, before making misogyny a hate crime, it would be wise to look more widely at the various offences that already exist and to add this if it is appropriate, or possibly to widen some other offence to include it. There is a grave danger, as has been said, of making too many offences.
My Lords, building on the response that the Minister gave to my noble friend Lady Blower, could she say what actions her colleagues in the Department for Education have taken following the Everyone’s Invited website and the emergence of very powerful evidence of the kind of thing that my noble friend was talking about?
I am not particularly equipped to talk about Everyone’s Invited, but I will go back to the point that was made, which the noble Baroness is following up on, which is that respect for other people, whether of the same or opposite sex, is incredibly important in a civilised society, and we all need to lead by example.
Gambling: Children and Young People
My Lords, this research is a useful contribution to the evidence base and will be considered carefully in our ongoing review of the Gambling Act, which is taking a close look at the impacts of advertising wherever it appears. Gambling adverts must already not be targeted at children or appeal particularly to them. The committees for advertising practice will soon publish more on their plans to tighten the rules in this area.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but he will know that the research indicates how easily children can be influenced by gambling advertisements even when they are not targeted at children; indeed, under-age gambling is illegal, yet a third do it and over 60,000 are now classed as problem gamblers. Does the Minister agree that, in developing new gambling legislation, we should do what we already do for alcohol, drugs and smoking, and adopt a public health approach, prioritising prevention of harm in the first place?
The noble Lord is right that a public health approach involves prevention as well as treatment. There is a wide range of provisions in the advertising codes designed to protect children, as well as vulnerable adults, from harm. The Committee of Advertising Practice has consulted on further strengthening the rules on appealing to children. We expect an announcement by the end of the year.
Certainly, I had the pleasure of serving on that committee before I joined Her Majesty’s Government. I thank noble Lords who also served on that committee. That work and much else, including the research that we are discussing today, will be taken into account as part of our review of the Gambling Act.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-chair of Peers for Gambling Reform. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, has already mentioned, 60,000-plus young people are diagnosed as suffering from gambling-related harm in this country. What consideration have Her Majesty’s Government given to ensuring, perhaps under the online harms Bill, that social media companies will provide an opt-in age-verification tool so that we can provide additional protections for our young people to protect them from these adverts?
I assure the right reverend Prelate that the Gambling Act review is taking a close look at the rules regarding advertising on social media. We want full use to be made of all the scope that technology offers when it comes to targeting adverts appropriately.
My Lords, as chairman of the Proof of Age Standards Scheme board, I ask my noble friend: will he look carefully at our proposals for an online verification proof of age scheme to ensure that underage children are not accessing gambling on the internet?
My Lords, it is of course right to shield children from adverts promoting gambling but, as we have heard in this House on a number of occasions, that requires the age stated by the individual for access to be accurate in the first place. As social media companies themselves acknowledge that the systems and safeguards may not work as well as they should, can the Minister confirm that the minimum standards required will be incorporated into the upcoming online harms Bill? Will Ofcom be responsible for ensuring that these standards will protect children?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, wishes to speak virtually. I think this is a convenient point for me to call him.
My Lords, the University of Bristol research shows that gambling adverts are much more attractive to the 16-to-24 age group than to adults, so will the Government expand the definition of “young persons” in the advertising codes from 16 to 17 to 16 to 24?
My Lords, the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising requires paid-for social media adverts to be targeted only at people aged 25 and above and YouTube content produced by an operator’s own YouTube channels must be restricted to accounts verified as being 18 and above. However, all this will be looked at as part of the Gambling Act review.
My Lords, Twitter says it would never knowingly market to minors, yet our experience and the report make it clear that that just does not work. Some people want to see these adverts, but I come back to the question of opt-ins and ask the Minister if he will commit to an opt-in protocol for advertising for gambling.
My Lords, would the Minister consider advising football clubs not to have betting companies on their shirts but instead to follow the good example of Heart of Midlothian Football Club, which for six years had Save the Children on its shirts and now has the motor neurone disease charity MND Scotland, funded by Dell Technologies? Is that not the way forward?
My Lords, as a former Minister for Gambling I have always been very concerned about not only the effects on children of the advertising that we see now on social media but the whole effect of the incredible rise in advertising on our normal media—that is, on television and radio. Can we please have a comment from the Government as to whether we think this has gone too far, as I do, and whether they have any ideas for the future as to how we might restrain those advertisers?
Operators must advertise responsibly, and we are committed to tackling aggressive practices. We have called for evidence on advertising and sponsorship as part of our review. The Public Health England evidence review, which we discussed some weeks ago, did not find evidence that exposure to advertising and marketing was a risk factor for harmful gambling, but we continue to keep this issue under review as we review the Gambling Act.
Newport Wafer Fab
My Lords, we welcome trade and investment where it supports UK growth and jobs and meets our legal and regulatory requirements while not compromising national security. Where we believe there are concerns, we raise them, and where we need to intervene, we will. As the Prime Minister said at the Liaison Committee in July 2021, the National Security Adviser is reviewing this takeover and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment until his review has concluded.
I thank the Minister for that reply, and I understand that he cannot say a great deal more about the review. Nevertheless, can he say something about the clarity of the Chinese Communist Party’s position in comparison with that of the UK, in that it has a clear strategy of undermining resilience and security; promoting dependency; acquiring intellectual property and data; and destroying competitiveness through slave labour in everything from green energy through to surveillance equipment made in places like Xinjiang, which the Foreign Secretary has called a slave state practising genocide? In letting it acquire the UK’s largest-selling silicon chip factory, what account has been taken of these things; the National Security and Investment Act, which will come into effect in January; the integrated review; and the Competition and Mergers Authority’s position?
I totally share the noble Lord’s concerns about the actions of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, Tibet and various other areas where they commit appalling human rights abuses. However, as he will be aware, I cannot comment further on this particular takeover. The National Security Adviser is reviewing it and he will do so on national security grounds.
On Chinese takeovers, does my noble friend share the concerns of a great many of us regarding the way that the Chinese are extending their influence—buying their influence—and taking over the Commonwealth, be it in Barbados, Sri Lanka or sub-Saharan Africa? There have been newspaper reports about this. It is a deliberate thing. They are trying to supplant British or western influence and plant their influence in the Commonwealth and elsewhere.
My Lords, I am disappointed by the response from the Minister. The Chinese have made a huge effort to gain intellectual property over a number of years. I had to go and warn them about this way back at the end of the 90s—they paid no attention then and they are doing it now, more and more. Here is a company with a large chunk of intellectual property, working in the area of chips—something the Chinese are not good at because the Americans have now stopped giving them to them, as they were in the past—and it seems as though we are not really focusing on this. Do we have a real strategy for constraining China’s aims in this area? It is extremely worrying.
Nexperia is not new to this particular company; it already owned 15% of it before the latest takeover. As I said, I cannot comment any further on that particular transaction, but we will look carefully at all the facts of the case. Our powers are being strengthened with the National Security and Investment Act coming into force on 4 January next year. We have retrospective powers under that Act and we will not hesitate to act if we need to.
My Lords, hardly a week goes by without the semiconductor shortage impacting some of our businesses in this country. It is not just about security; it is about manufacturing. Meanwhile, there is an investigation into Newport Wafer Fab and a separate one going on into Arm. Would it not make more sense if there was a holistic view of the semiconductor business in this country and a task force put together, so that we can secure indigenous supplies of these absolutely vital components?
The noble Lord is of course aware that we have announced action in both of those cases: both the instances he mentioned are currently being reviewed. As I said, if we need to take action, we will. On his broader question about semiconductors, we already offer a lot of support to industry through the research councils and the catapults and will continue to do so. It is an area that the Government are acutely aware of.
My Lords, this is part of much wider picture, of course. Can the Minister assure the House that, in their forthcoming national resilience strategy, the Government will deal with such industrial issues in a sufficiently agile way that will be able to cope with a rapidly evolving corporate and technological landscape?
The noble and gallant Lord makes a good point, which is why we have strengthened our powers under the National Security and Investment Act, recently passed in this House. We look forward to implementing that legislation on 4 January. It will require notifications in 17 key areas of the economy. On top of that, the Secretary of State has additional call-in powers.
As I said in response to an earlier question, Nexperia, the company concerned, already had 15% of this company anyway, and already owns other semiconductor manufacturing plants in the UK. The noble Lord can read its statement as to what it intends to pursue for this business, if he wishes to do so.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, wishes to speak virtually. I think this is a convenient point for me to call him.
Is not the real issue whether Newport Wafer Fab, now employing around 450, would have survived without positive Chinese intervention offering long-term viability? If there is real concern over the survival of UK strategic hi-tech, why not revisit lessons learned in the 1970s from Labour’s NEB, the Conservatives’ NEDC and BTG, and the role that Inmos played in the early development of chips? Without a national initiative, we are conceding all to Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China, and a whinging United States of America, and losing markets.
My Lords, one of the stated objectives of a project awarded by Innovate UK to Newport Wafer Fab is to provide the UK with a novel sovereign gallium nitride capability. Can my noble friend tell the House how that capability can possibly remain novel, or indeed sovereign, following acquisition by a foreign state-backed entity?
My Lords, while there can be no doubting the strategic importance to our national security of the part played by Newport Wafer Fab, can the Minister explain why the Government did not intervene in a takeover earlier this year? Could he tell the House what tools the National Security Adviser will have at his disposal that could be applied when the ongoing review is completed?
I am not sure to which takeover the noble Lord refers that we did not intervene in—perhaps we should have a separate conversation about that. But it is clear that the Government as a whole have substantial power. As I said, the new NSI Act comes in on 4 January, when it will be commenced, but we have retrospective powers that can go back to November 2020 under that Act.
I do not have that information to hand. It would depend on what firms the noble Lord refers to and what form of suppliers they were. There are many hundreds of companies that serve some of these large manufacturing plants. As I said in response to an earlier question, we understand the importance of semiconductor manufacturers. We support this by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and we support the commercialisation of projects under the Compound Catapult, and we will continue to do so.
My Lords, the suspicion locally is that the security part of the review is over, and the hunt is on to buy up shares for Nexperia to create a Chinese-UK company. Given the importance of this to electric vehicle manufacturing, of which there is a massive need at present, and to jobs to be created locally, does the Minister agree that this should be the Government’s prime initiative, and that we need a speedy solution so that investment can take place?
I know the concerns locally about the investment. I have spoken to Newport’s MP about this, and she expressed her views on the takeover. As I have said, we have taken all those factors into consideration, particularly that of national security, which the National Security Adviser is currently considering this takeover on, and we will reach a decision on that shortly.
My Lords, the Ministerial Code is the responsibility of the Prime Minister of the day. It is customarily updated and issued on their assuming or returning to office, and any amendments to the code are a decision for the Prime Minister.
My Lords, I recognise that the Prime Minister issued the latest version on almost the same day when he advised Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament so that he could avoid parliamentary scrutiny of his actions for another couple of months. Is not it time now, given the widespread concern about behaviour in public life and the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, for a more measured review, which might well include asking for comments and contributions from the relevant committees of both Houses?
My Lords, high standards in public life are of fundamental importance. I respectfully submit, regularly from this Dispatch Box, that we are fortunate in this country in the high standards we have in public life. Of course this Government look carefully at reports and advice given on various aspects. As the noble Lord will know, we are carefully considering a number of recently published reports and will respond in due course.
My Lords, I am not certain what specifically the noble Baroness is referring to. This Government respect the judgment of the courts and that is a principle of our polity, but any Government are entitled to review the existing law and submit to Parliament proposals for changing it.
My Lords, has my noble friend read paragraph 9.1 of the Ministerial Code? It says:
“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament.”
Does he agree that in the last 20 years that paragraph has been widely overlooked? Would he agree that it should either be abolished or enforced—with Ministers who breach it losing their passports?
That would be a novel sanction for Ministers; obviously I welcome the proposals made this morning on another matter. I have read that, and I personally take it very seriously. As a Minister in your Lordships’ House, I believe that the first duty is to your Lordships’ House. Like my noble friend, I am advancing in years and I remember the days when news was news and not spin disseminated aforehand. We should all aspire to respect for Parliament.
My Lords, if the Prime Minister respects Parliament, he surely has to respect the Ministerial Code. It seems that he has a rather arm’s-length relationship with it at times. Perhaps, instead of having a review, we should see the code adhered to, which I think would please your Lordships’ House more than seeing it change. When the code is reviewed, we should also look at the foreword from the Prime Minister, because I think perhaps his priorities were wrong when he drafted that, as Brexit is mentioned three times yet integrity is mentioned only once.
My Lords, I am sure that events evolve and that what must remain constant is high standards of behaviour. Personally, I am proud to be a Member of my right honourable friend’s Government, and I do not share the view held of him by some on Benches opposite.
My Lords, the first paragraph of the Ministerial Code requires Ministers to follow the principles of public life, which include integrity, openness, honesty and leadership. Did the Prime Minister exhibit these qualities when he allowed No. 10 to be used for an illegal Christmas party on 18 December last year?
My Lords, I can only repeat what I have said: standards in public life are important. I believe that the Prime Minister respects those fully. As far as the alleged events the noble Lord refers to, I point him to the statement made by Downing Street: that No. 10 has always followed, and continues to follow, Covid regulations at all times.
My Lords, the Prime Minister sets the Ministerial Code and is the ultimate judge of standards of behaviour, but now highly reputable bodies are increasingly calling for reforms. It is the age-old question: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Does the Minister agree that, to restore public confidence, the code needs to set stronger standards on how Ministers should use social media and respond to lobbying?
My Lords, obviously the use of social media and lobbying are important and relevant matters. As the noble Baroness will know, there are recommendations before the Government and the country on lobbying, for example. My right honourable friend recently wrote to the Speaker supporting action on lobbying in the other place.
My Lords, I recently wrote to the Cabinet Secretary, asking him to investigate a breach of the Ministerial Code by Ministers misquoting the cost of HS2. He said that, under section 1.4, he would have to ask the Prime Minister first. Is there not a conflict between the Prime Minister’s personal and possible political role and that of making a judicial decision on such issues?
My Lords, a case was determined this morning relating to the operation of the Ministerial Code, which I am sure your Lordships will wish to study. The independent adviser has confirmed that he is content that the Transport Secretary followed the process required under the Ministerial Code for the declaration of his private interests.
My Lords, is it not the simple fact that the only person accountable to the British public is actually the Prime Minister, through elections, and all these people who call for some other person to be in charge of the Ministerial Code forget that any such person would be non-electable?
Others can investigate who has stood for election here and who has not. I agree with what my noble friend said. Ultimately, any Prime Minister is accountable in the conduct of his duty to the British people and is always conscious of that high responsibility.
Will the Minister think again? The Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, and Members of the House of Commons individually are elected by the British people. The Prime Minister should be accountable to Parliament, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, by making Statements and by answering Questions—which the Prime Minister never does; he tries to make it leader of the Opposition’s Questions and challenges my right honourable friend Keir Starmer. Will the Minister, however, confirm that a number of organisations, including the Institute for Government, have recommended that the Ministerial Code should be incorporated in statute and that the independent adviser should be given more powers, including to start investigations? Why is this taking so long? Why is something not done about it, so that we have real democracy in this country?
My Lords, I have repeatedly answered this question in the House. I know that the noble Lord does not agree with the answer, but the answer is that the Prime Minister’s constitutional role as the sovereign’s principal adviser means that the management of the Executive is wholly separate from the legislature. It is for the Prime Minister to advise the sovereign on the appointment, dismissal and acceptance of the resignation of other Ministers. That is why it is right that the Prime Minister has responsibility for the Ministerial Code, which was underlined in the judgment this morning.
Does the Ministerial Code regulate the private and public use of social media, which is a relatively new phenomenon and was not in place when it was first drafted? Is it not better to have strict rules so that diplomacy and tweeting do not become confused?
Football: Casey Review
Private Notice Question
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, for her thorough and important review. Her report rightly highlights that responsibility for the reckless and criminal behaviour at the Euro 2020 final lies with a small minority of individuals who sought to undermine the day for the overwhelming majority of fans. The UK has a long and successful record of hosting major international sporting events. The Government will now work with the police and football authorities to consider the report’s recommendations in full.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he not agree with me that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, has produced a truly devastating report, which everyone—the Football Association, the police and the Government—have to take seriously? She makes it clear in her report that we shall never know for sure how close we came to a huge disaster involving major loss of life, caused by 6,000 ticketless fans outside the stadium who were ready to storm inside had England won the penalty shootout. Will the Government pay particular attention to recommendation 6.a:
“Particular attention should be made to ensuring those entering through gates provided for wheelchair users and other more vulnerable members of society are not endangered by the reckless actions of others”?
My Lords, the noble Baroness’s report is thorough and very significant, and it includes a number of very important recommendations for the football authorities, the police, the Government and many others. We will be looking at them all and making sure that lessons are learned so that the sorts of scenes we saw at the Euro final are not seen again.
My Lords, would the Minister take on the fact that it was actually a total breakdown of communication and intelligence that allowed this to happen? Will the Government undertake to ensure that all those groups—the FA, the football authorities, the Metropolitan Police, wherever they are in the country—when we have a game of this magnitude are required to talk to each other, and not at the last minute but before the event takes place?
There were meetings between the Metropolitan Police, the Government and others in the days running up to the final, but the noble Lord makes an important point about sharing intelligence during incidents such as these. I know that that was something that the noble Baroness looked into and it is one of the things that must be followed up.
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, for her excellent report. We would expect nothing else from her but a high standard of product. The Euro 2020 final should have been a cause for pride and celebration, not life-threatening danger and shame. Of course, due to the nature of the disturbances at Wembley, it was not possible for the majority of the ticketless fans to be identified, ejected and, where appropriate, punished. During the recent Committee stage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we discussed whether those engaging in online racist abuse of sportspeople should be subject to banning orders, and we are hopeful that the Government will finally take action on this. Will the Minister now look more widely at what lessons must be learned from Wembley and whether the current banning-order system is enough to stop reckless behaviour at games? Does he agree that the Government should work more closely with the authorities and with clubs to improve the culture surrounding our national game? Without that change in culture, I fear that these instances will occur on other occasions.
The noble Lord is right that what should have been a happy and important day was marred, both by the racist abuse that we saw of some of the England players afterwards and by the disorder that the noble Baroness’s report addresses. In both of those instances, action has been taken to follow up. As noble Lords alluded to, the Government have set out that we will amend legislation to extend the use of football banning orders. However, legislation on its own is not the answer to disorder. That is why we will keep the legislation under review, but we will also be working with the football authorities and others to ensure that the minority of people who spoil days such as 11 July for the majority cannot do so.
My Lords, the Minister rightly referred to criminal behaviour. There is a mass of photographic evidence showing unmasked individuals behaving criminally. Can the Minister tell the House how many people have been charged with criminal offences, how many people have been convicted and what sentences have been imposed?
My Lords, I do not have those figures. However, as the noble Lord points out, where there is CCTV footage and with the further evidence gathered by the noble Baroness in her report, it is obviously for the prosecuting authorities—rightly separate from Government—to look at that and take the decisions they feel are appropriate.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the most damaging outcome of the events at Wembley—notwithstanding the success of the Olympic Games in London and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the undoubted soon-to-be success of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham—is that international sporting bodies will be reluctant to send prestigious events to be held in the United Kingdom?
I am pleased to say that the UK has a very strong track record in staging international sporting events, the vast majority of which go exceedingly well. We thank the noble Baroness for her report, to make sure that we have learned the lessons from this incident and will continue to do so in future.
My Lords, I support the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, because that is something that would reassure the House and the public about how good the investigation has been. There is clear evidence, which we have all seen, and it should be available to the investigation. The problem with this type of event is that the crowd trying to get in often gets too close to the gates, by which time it is very difficult for anyone to intervene. One of the big things for Wembley is to see what can be done to prevent those without tickets getting anywhere near the gates. At that ground—though not at all grounds—it would be physically relatively straightforward. In time, it would be helpful for us to hear more about how architecture and engineering can make sure that this does not happen again.
The noble Lord of course speaks with great authority. The Football Association asked the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to undertake this review so that matters such as that can be looked into and, in due course, responded to properly. Perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank all the police and stewards who worked very bravely on the day to ensure that the situation did not escalate further and cause further injury or indeed loss of life.
My Lords, I am not accusing the Minister, but he seems to be conveying the impression that nothing is known about the circumstances of this. I am sure that is wrong; not least, how do several thousand people without tickets turn up at a match of such significance not just to the United Kingdom but internationally? It shamed our country and our football. Unless there is a thorough investigation into who organised this—I am quite sure it did not happen by accident—and what their purposes were in doing so, we shall never be able to say in future that it will not happen again.
I hope I am not conveying that impression. The report of the noble Baroness is very thorough and detailed; it was published on Friday and all those who will respond to it—the FA, the police and everybody else—need time to look at it with the detail and attention it deserves. However, the noble Lord is right to point to some of the things the noble Baroness found in her report: a lot of the people gathered there were not there to see the match—they were not even watching it on their mobile phones—but had the intention of causing disorder. It was a small minority of people who were intent on spoiling the day for the vast majority of people around the country and at Wembley who were enjoying it, and it is on them that we must focus our principal attentions.
My Lords, the noble Baroness produced her remarkably good report very speedily. We should acknowledge that; she did a splendid job. The Football Association has aspirations to host other international competitions very soon. Can the Minister assure the House that everything will be done at the speed set by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to make sure that lessons are learned before we get into the next international competition?
As ever, we need both speed and thoroughness. The noble Baroness achieved both in her report and it is incumbent on everyone responding to it to do the same. I am pleased to say that the heads of FIFA and UEFA have reassured us that the incident in July should not have an impact on the outcome of any current bidding processes. As I said, the UK has a strong track record of staging international sporting events, and it is a record of which we are rightly proud.
My Lords, if that is the case, what reassurance can my noble friend give the House this afternoon that families who take their young children to what should be a joyful sporting event will be safe and will not be exposed to the same dangers as happened on that day?
My noble friend makes an important point. It was families with young children, or people who were there with friends or family with disabilities, who were targeted by some of the people trying to get into the stadium. The noble Baroness’s report looked into some of those instances and came forward with recommendations on how to ensure that minorities intent on doing harm do not mar such important days for others.
Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2021
Motion to Approve
My Lords, I beg to move the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.
My Lords, I exercised the right that all noble Lords have to object to Motions being taken en bloc, not because I object to these two particular Motions being taken en bloc but because I object to the fact that, when the Leader of the House made a business statement earlier today, no other Member of the House was able to ask questions or make any comments. Yet it was a very substantial statement, and some of us wanted to point out that we object to decisions about who should speak virtually and who should speak in the Chamber being taken by a party-political representative—the Leader of the House—rather than by the Speaker. I was not able to make that comment; others wanted to make similar comments. I would like the Deputy Speaker, and anyone else who can, to raise the matter with the Lord Speaker, and I will do so myself. Perhaps the Minister will too. The issue is why there was no opportunity to question the Leader of the House when she made that business statement.
My Lords, I strongly agree with my noble friend. This is not directly the subject of the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, and I do not expect a comprehensive and detailed reply. But I urge him to talk to his ministerial colleagues, particularly to the Leader of the House, and make the point that—as my noble friend has said—a substantial statement was made that nobody could have known about: there is nothing whatever on today’s House of Lords Order of Business to tell us that the Leader of the House would be making a substantial statement. The essence of a sensibly functioning Houses of Parliament is proceedings that are intelligible. How on earth can someone in the Gallery know what is going on when someone gets up from the Bench, and they have not got the faintest idea who she is—I mean no disrespect to the Leader of the House—and makes an important statement, and the House continues as if nothing has happened? That is an unacceptable state of affairs.
I have, over the years, made a very small advance in this respect, if I may bring it up: there never used to be an announcement of the results of a hereditary Peers by-election. After much consideration of this revolutionary proposal, eventually it went up on the monitor and it appeared on the Order Paper that such an announcement would be made. This is probably the easiest question in the Minister’s long experience on the Front Bench, but will he talk to the Leader, so that, perhaps through the usual channels, we can get some intelligibility introduced into these important matters? That is all I have to say.
I thank both noble Lords for their esteemed interest in the Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2021. I must have missed their references to this important statutory instrument during their speeches, but I entirely understand the point they are making and, of course, I will convey their views to my noble friend the Leader of the House.
Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (Amendment to Schedule 3) (England) Order 2021
Motion to Approve
Network and Information Systems (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
Motion to Approve
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (Continuation) Order 2021
Motion to Approve
Coronavirus Act 2020 (Early Expiry) (No. 2) Regulations 2021
Motion to Approve
Financial Services Act 2021 (Prudential Regulation of Credit Institutions and Investment Firms) (Consequential Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2021
Motion to Approve
Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2021
Motion to Approve
Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021
Motion to Approve
My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Amendment to the Motion
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly to my amendment to the Motion. I apologise that it was not put down when the regulations were debated in Grand Committee, so I will be as brief as I can. First, I welcome these regulations. My view is that they do not go far enough, but they are a very good start.
The key in my amendment to the Motion is that there needs to be more said and done to promote interoperability. Paragraph 7.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum states:
“This instrument makes clear that a charge point should not introduce a new barrier to switching by being designed to lose its smart functionality when its owner changes supplier.”
That is very good, but it does not go far enough. In the debate in Grand Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Rosser made some excellent points about interoperability and the Minister gave some good answers, but my concern is that electric vehicle use will not take off until there is full interoperability of the system, which I shall come to, and full confidence among users that they will be able to use the electric power supply rather like people use petrol stations now—in other words, they can guarantee that when they go to a supply, they will be able to connect up and get some power.
I have a very small, but I think critical, example of my little village in Cornwall where the parish council has put in two charging points in the car park. This is very important when the nearest petrol station is about 15 miles away. A friend who has an electric car tried to use them but they have been out of order all summer, when everybody goes there. He wrote to the supplier to say that its machines did not work, and the answer was that there was a technical fault. He then discovered from the car park owner—the parish council—that the reason they did not work was that the supplier had not paid the parish council the very small amount of money that it was due to allow the charging points to be placed there. This could be all over the country.
It is a minor detail, but we need to have some comprehensive regulations which cover charging at home, and what is in these excellent regulations, rapid charging, minimum waiting times, sockets on lampposts, facilities for long and short journeys, from wherever you pick them up. The most important thing of all is that one plug and one socket fits all, not like mobile phones at the moment. Will the Minister be able to give some idea about when there will be a comprehensive plan to make electric power for vehicles fully interoperable and fully comprehensive? I am sure she will agree that when that happens it will all take off. I look forward to her comments.
My noble friend will be aware that there are very few charging points across the north of England. There is also still a catastrophic power outage in parts of the north-east of England. Will she reassure the House this afternoon that there are absolutely no plans in the foreseeable future that any public service vehicles, such as buses, ambulances or fire engines, will switch to electric engines any time soon in the north-east of England?
I add to the excellent comments already made that there is an overriding concern among EV owners about whether you are safely going to get to the end of your long journey. You have none of those concerns if you are in a petrol or diesel car; you know that you will be able to refill your car. If you are in an EV, not only do you have the uncertainty as to whether the charge point will fit or will work, you also have to stand out in the rain in the corner of a motorway services feeling insecure.
Until the Government take the leadership that we need on this issue, we will not solve these problems. The legislation before us today is fine as far as it goes, but it is about squeezing a little bit more out of the grid, which is already overstretched. We need greater leadership from the Government.
My Lords—My Lords, I agree with previous speakers. I took a short journey last week in my electric car to a hotel where there were six charging points. Three of them were for Tesla only—that is not me—and of the other three, one was occupied, one did not work and the other I could not make work. I will not detain your Lordships’ too long by saying that I nearly had a heart attack trying to get home worrying what was going to happen.
I should also add that in a new multi-storey car park in Botley, west Oxford, where I live, there are 14 charging points. Every single one is out of order—every single one. The building is operated by Savills, but I have had no response from it other than saying that it does not have a legal obligation to turn on these points. Not only that, but if you were able to make them work, you would have to be a member of a particular company that supplies the electricity and would need to have working wi-fi. This will not do. We do not want competition—we want uniformity and contactless payment.
We had a discussion on interoperability when we debated these regulations last Tuesday in Grand Committee. There were questions asked; the Government were asked to say in their response whether the wording in the Explanatory Memorandum—to which my noble friend Lord Berkeley has referred—in paragraph 7.6 constitutes in reality a requirement for all charging points to be interoperable. I expressed the personal view that it did not, but I asked for clarification on that point.
Later in the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government say that they have
“chosen not to mandate device-level requirements”
relating to demand-side response interoperability
“at this time … because the smart charging market remains nascent, and because delivering interoperability would require broader powers than those set out in”
the Automated and Electric Vehicle Act 2018. That comment was despite the fact that the Explanatory Memorandum states:
“The ability of consumers to freely switch energy supplier is a fundamental principle in the energy market”,
which makes it rather surprising that we seem to have this delay over interoperability.
The Government, in the Explanatory Memorandum, also went to say that they
“intend instead to consider how best to deliver interoperability as part of a second phase of legislation, by looking at placing wider requirements on the entities … which could deliver DSR through charge points. Government aims to consult on this second phase of policy measures in 2022.”
I suggested that that was a somewhat vague timescale that contained no target date for actually legislating. I asked the Government whether they could be more specific in their response. The noble Baroness the Minister was good enough to say—which I appreciated—that she could not give specific answers to these questions when we were debating this last Tuesday and that she would write to answer all questions that had been asked. Irrespective of what the Minister intends to say in response now, I hope that we shall still be getting that written reply to questions that were not responded to last Tuesday.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate, including the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for the opportunity to outline the Government’s position on interoperability. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that the letter is coming his way; it will pick up all the points raised in in that debate and any raised from today’s debate—of course, today, I am focusing on interoperability, but I note comments made by other noble Lords on wider EV infrastructure. They will be aware that the EV infrastructure strategy will be published soon, which will set out the vision and action plan for charging infrastructure rollout, but I am aware that some more specific comments have been made.
There are many different types and forms of EV charge point interoperability, relating to both public and private charge points. Some forms of interoperability are already delivered by the market. For example, most private charge points sold in Great Britain are compatible with all EVs. Work is also under way within government to consider whether further action on interoperability is needed to deliver the best outcomes for consumers.
I turn first to private charge points. These regulations will embed further interoperability by mandating electricity supplier interoperability in law for the first time. This new requirement will ensure that consumers will retain the smart functionality of their charge point. The Government also considered including requirements for charge point operator interoperability in the regulations. This would have required all charge points to be compatible with any operator, but the Government’s view is that this type of interoperability would not be appropriate for such a nascent market. It would not materially affect the consumer experience and would be an unnecessary burden on the industry. Therefore, we are not bringing forward such requirements.
Further work is under way to consider other types of interoperability in the smart energy system, including for private EV charge points. This could include requirements to allow consumers to switch the provider of specific smart charging services. That is another type of interoperability, very similar to that enjoyed, for example, by smartphone users, who can change their mobile network provider without needing to purchase a new device. Crucially, consumers would be able to seek out new deals or better services, but that would not detriment the industry’s ability to innovate and develop new products and services. These are the sorts of things that the Secretary of State for Business aims to consult on in 2022. I have no more specific date today, but, as I said, I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.
Turning to public charge points, in 2017 we mandated that rapid charge points must have CCS connectors to ensure interoperable charging. There are now only two EV models available to buy in the UK with CHAdeMO sockets, and one of those providers has indicated that future models will provide CCS—96% of rapid chargers come with both connectors.
In addition, in February 2021 we consulted on proposals to ensure that UK charging networks offer seamless consumer experience, and considered a range of different types of interoperability. This includes proposals on payment interoperability, which would mandate a minimum payment method, such as contactless, and explores whether we should intervene to ensure interoperable payment apps. The government response to that consultation on public charge points will be published shortly, with regulations being laid next year.
EV charge point interoperability is a critical policy area for this Government. As I hope to have portrayed today, there is not just one type of interoperability; there are several, some of which the Government are very willing to get involved in; others we will leave to the market. We are committed in our smart charging government response to explore those forms of interoperability, and then we will lay regulations.
I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer and for the comments of other noble Lords: the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Rosser. Of course, I am aware that there are many different types of interoperability, but I recall, about 20 years ago, when I—probably like other noble Lords—was travelling around Europe on business, you had to have a bag of about 20 different plugs to plug in your phone, charge it and make the phone work. This will not work unless there is some reaction and force from consumers to have something that is simple and easy-to-use. I wish it well, and I look forward to what the Minister will send to us in the next few months but, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment to the Motion withdrawn.
Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill [HL]
My Lords, before we progress with Third Reading of this Bill, I will make a short statement about our engagement with the devolved Administrations. Officials have worked closely and collaboratively with the devolved Administrations throughout the passage of this Bill. The Northern Ireland Executive have passed a legislative consent Motion on this Bill. The Welsh Senedd is in the process of considering a Motion, and the Scottish Government are considering bringing a Motion forward. I am grateful for their continued engagement on this issue.
My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to lead the Bill through this House. Before the Bill moves for consideration in the other place, I want to take a brief moment to reflect on the Bill and its passage through this House.
This is important legislation that consolidates and strengthens the legal framework for pensions across all the main public services: that is, the NHS, the judiciary, the police, firefighters, the Armed Forces, teachers, local government and the Civil Service. This Bill ensures that those who deliver our valued public services continue to receive guaranteed benefits in retirement that are among the best available on a fair and equal basis. It is also vital in addressing the resourcing challenges facing the judiciary, recognising the unique constitutional role of judges.
It has been clear from the informed and considered contributions made throughout the Bill’s passage that we are agreed on the principles of fairness and equal treatment for public servants. I convey my gratitude to all noble Lords for their contributions to our well-informed debates, which have helped to ensure that we achieve this aim. The Government listened carefully to your Lordships’ arguments and concerns as the Bill progressed and made a significant number of technical amendments on Report—123 in total—which I think noble Lords will agree have strengthened the Bill.
In particular, we listened to the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, during Grand Committee, regarding the importance of ensuring pension scheme members were provided with remedial voluntary contribution arrangements. I thank the noble Lord in supporting the Government to identify and address this important issue.
I would like to extend my thanks to all those who have engaged on the Floor of the House and in the meetings that we have had outside. In particular, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Davies of Brixton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, for their close engagement on the complex area that is public service pensions. I hope that the note sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, earlier today provides some reassurance on her important points raised on Report regarding eligibility criteria for voluntary contributions.
In addition, I thank a number of your Lordships who made impassioned contributions to our consideration of the judicial mandatory retirement age, including the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Etherton, Lord Woolf, Lord Thomas, Lord Hope and Lord Brown, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay.
I also thank the Bill team, ably lead by Fraser Johnston, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, officials across Her Majesty’s Treasury, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, all government departments with responsibilities for public service pension schemes, and the devolved Administrations for their extensive support throughout passage of the Bill.
Finally, I thank my noble friend Lady Scott for her help as the Bill went through the House. There is a lot of technical detail in the Bill, with complex legal consequences, and the team’s guidance and expertise has been exemplary. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in expressing thanks for the support that the whole team has provided, including the updates, letters and briefings that noble Lords have received. On that note, I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his courtesy and helpfulness during the passage of the Bill. It was very much a learning process for me as the first Bill to which I had given such a close and involved consideration. I learned lessons, one of which is to check which group a particular amendment is in and get it right. I thank the Minister, as well as the officials. We seem to be saying farewell, but I suspect that it is au revoir and that, in one way or another, we will be returning to these issues.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister; I thank him for the letter I received today, which answered the question that he referred to, as well as for his leadership and his open and engaging approach. He has ensured that we have had opportunities to be fully briefed on the Bill. As others have said, it is a very complex Bill, wide-ranging in scope, and has implications for millions of citizens, particularly public sector workers.
I also thank all noble Lords for their contributions. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, I am sure that we have all learned a great deal from the Bill. I certainly know a lot more about public sector pensions than I did when we started out. I express my appreciation to the Bill team, for its expert help and support and, not least, its patience in explaining some of these complexities.
Noble Lords across the House have made valuable contributions; certainly, the judicial offices part of the Bill saw a very high-quality debate, with issues arising that apply not just to judicial offices but across the board, to public services and the holding of high office. Again, I thank colleagues for their co-operation. I believe that we have worked hard and well on this Bill.
Lastly, I put on record my thanks to Sarah Pughe in the Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office, for her work on the Bill, and for the professional support that she has given me throughout its passage.
My Lords, I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, has said. I thank the Minister and his team for their comprehensive support to my noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton and myself. It was a very complicated Bill and I know that, like the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, I needed some guidance through it. This is important legislation for public service pensions. It will guarantee pensions for public servants—something which, of course, we all agree with. We are aware that there may well be further amendments in the other place as well as further legislation given that there are ongoing cases currently in court. My noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton is relatively new to the House and, I have to say, he has started extremely well. It is not often, when taking part in your first Bill, that you manage to influence government policy in the way that he has; my noble friend deserves congratulations.
I was present throughout all the debates and, when we debated the mandatory retirement age, I felt there was a sense of relief because it was an easily understood issue. Many noble and noble and learned Lords took part in that debate with a level of passion not forthcoming in the other more technical parts of the debate. Nevertheless, I thank the Minister for his support as the Bill transitioned through the House.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Clause 1: Animal Sentience Committee
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert—
“(1A) The function of the Committee is to determine whether, in relation to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy subsequent to the Committee’s establishment, it is satisfied the Government is having all due regard to the ways in which the policy might have an adverse effect on the welfare of animals as sentient beings.”Member’s explanatory statement
This makes clear that the Committee’s remit relates to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy but only that which has been formulated and implemented after the Committee's formation.
My Lords, I declare my interests as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, so it will come as no surprise to noble Lords that I broadly support the Bill. Moreover, in 2018 I tabled an amendment to the withdrawal Bill to bring Article 13 of the Lisbon treaty into UK statute. That was rejected by the Government at the time, but I suspect that if Her Majesty’s Government look in the mirror of history, they may feel that they should have accepted that amendment then; it would have addressed the issue of sentience at that time and given us a foundation to build on and make changes if so wished.
Article 13 had considerable scope for unintended consequences, and this Bill, which is Article 13 with bells on, has considerably more—hence the number of amendments, particularly from the Government Benches. The Bill goes considerably further than Article 13: for example, it sets up an animal sentience committee; it covers all government policy; it has no exceptions for cultural, historical or religious practices; it includes certain invertebrates; and it specifically allows for the retrospective consideration of government policy formulation. The considerable widening of the scope of Article 13, yet at the same time the lack of detail in many places, has led to the large number of amendments that we see today.
Amendment 1 in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to whom I am grateful for their support, makes two key points. Clause 1(1) of the Bill establishes an animal sentience committee. Our amendment seeks to define, at the start of the Bill, two key aspects of that committee’s remit. The first aspect, which seeks to make explicit what I understand is Her Majesty’s Government’s intention, would introduce the word “process” with regard to the committee’s function in scrutinising the formulation and implementation of policy. It would make it very clear that the ASC did not have a function with regard to commenting on policy per se but, rather, on the degree to which the Government had taken animal welfare into account in developing that policy.
I suggest that that is a critical aspect of the Bill. For example, one of the briefings that we received says that the Bill entrusts responsibility to the animal sentience committee for considering the impact of its policies on animals as sentient beings. But it does not; it requires the ASC to consider whether the Government have considered the impact on animal welfare of the policies that they are developing. I submit that this is not mere semantics but a substantive difference, which introducing the word “process” in respect of the function of the committee makes clear. I note that other recent amendments—for example, Amendment 2 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Marland, and Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, have also included the word “process” with regard to the function of the committee and its scrutiny of the formulation and implementation of policy.
The other key point in Amendment 1, which is a feature of other amendments in this group—I think that is largely why it has been put there—is to exclude retrospective examination of policy formulation and implementation. It is exceptional that any legislation allows retrospective evaluation of actions, and I find it difficult to understand the justification of that. The ASC will exist alongside the current Animal Welfare Committee, which is advisory, and, if some historic legislation appears no longer fit for purpose or inadequate in any way, the AWC is perfectly placed to point this out and to make suggestions for either new legislation or the revision of existing legislation. That is totally within its remit. However, I would be interested to hear from the Minister of the justification for these retrospective powers, which—to judge from the number of amendments on this issue—a number of noble Lords find problematic. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendments 12, 14 and 16 in this group are in my name. However, I will first support Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which seems to be both sensible and necessary to be made to the Bill if we are to have a committee in this form at all. I also support the amendments in this group in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising.
I have one query about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which I will come to in relation to my Amendment 16. The first two, Amendments 12 and 14, underline the requirement in those amendments for the committee to deal with only future policy and when it is being formulated. Surely the value of this committee if it is to have any real effect is to perform a role not already covered by other committees, to draw attention to failures of consideration if it finds them when policy is being formulated or has just been formulated and before implementation, so that the defects can if necessary and possible be remedied before the policy is enacted.
In the Bill at present there is no limit as to how far back the committee can go. The draft terms of reference, which the Minister kindly sent us, express a hope—no more—that it will concentrate on more recent policies, but there is nothing to stop the committee going back as far as it chooses. Ministers come and go—so do civil servants. An examination of whether a past Secretary of State gave all due regard to the effect of a policy on animal welfare, possibly long enacted, will be difficult if not impossible in many cases. The additional cost of this committee, according to the terms of reference, is to be no more than half a million pounds from Defra’s budget. However, there is no calculation of how much time will be needed to be spent by other departments trying to answer the inevitable investigation into how decisions were made. It must take time from the work of those departments in each case, and of course be at public expense too. This committee surely cannot be intended to be a quasi post-legislative scrutiny committee, yet the Bill is without any limit as to its remit.
My Amendment 16 removes implementation from the committee’s remit. After Committee I looked forward to seeing the draft terms of reference because, as it stands, the purpose, remit, scope and any limits on the powers of the committee are not clear in the Bill. I hoped they would be remedied, at the very least, in guidance. Sadly, they are not. Instead, in a number of respects, the Bill and the terms of the reference are in direct conflict.
Amendment 16 removes policy that has been implemented from the committee’s remit. In this, it differs from the way in which Amendment 1 from the noble Lord, Lord Trees, is drafted. In giving all due regard to the ways in which a policy might adversely affect animal welfare, a Minister will have to balance those considerations against the effect of the policy on many other considerations. These may be transport needs, housing needs or public health needs, perhaps. In other words, is the rail link necessary despite the bats that are on the route?
Those other considerations cannot sensibly be part of this committee’s remit. It would be unlikely to have the material unless it is to rerun the Minister’s policy-making role in all its aspects, and it would almost inevitably lack the expertise to do so. The terms of reference support my view that implementation should not concern this committee, unlike Clause 2(1). The terms of reference say that the committee is not expected to consider individual operational decisions nor to consider matters of fiscal policy. Individual operational decisions are then defined as decisions for which no bespoke ministerial direction is sought or required. For example, a policy that sets up a licensing scheme would constitute policy which the committee could consider, but the granting of an individual licence under the scheme and the effects of doing so would not fall within that remit.
In Clause 2(2), the question that the committee has to answer in its report speaks of having regard to the ways in which the policy
“might have an adverse effect”
on animal welfare—not, I note, “has had” an adverse effect. Policy which has been put into effect—in other words, implemented—needs to be outside the remit. As it stands, there is confusion both within Clause 2 and between the Bill and the terms of reference.
I am sorry to say it, but the Bill is a dog’s breakfast and that has not been improved by these terms of reference. I am sorry that the Opposition, on whose Benches I sit, have not seen fit to raise the objections to what are, one would have thought, fundamental defects in legislation. If the Bill is not clarified and amended to indicate its limits and its purpose, then a great deal of public money and public time is going to be wasted on it. I still marvel at how a Government who were elected in part on a promise to reduce bureaucracy, especially that emanating from Europe, have taken the wholly uncontroversial issue of animal sentience, which no one would have argued with, and are trying to turn it into a textbook bureaucratic nightmare.
My Lords, in Committee a lot of us argued very strongly for several amendments, and one of course was to strengthen the terms of reference and ensure that the committee was free and independent from government interference. I was very happy to spend today arguing over various amendments and we have here a whole hotchpotch of them, some of which are fine. However, we also have a naked attempt to filibuster and scupper the Bill by the right wing of the Tory party. I say: “Shame on you”. This Bill is far from perfect, but it is better than it was. Noble Lords must know that the public care very much about this issue and want to see something on the books.
It was also, of course, a manifesto commitment by the Government. I should have thought that noble Lords opposite would have supported it and been loyal Conservative Party members. I shall not speak again in this debate, because I think that it is a complete waste of my time. I shall simply vote against all the spoiling amendments that noble Lords opposite have put forward.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness and see her so loyally supporting my Government—and in the Lobbies as well, no doubt.
I shall add a point to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and, in reference to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, emphasise the question of the terms of reference and what they do to complicate the work of the committee. By the way, the chairman of this committee is supposed to spend 20 days a year on this, yet he has to look at all past policies, all future policies and all present policies in all aspects of government. That will be quite hard work for him.
The terms of reference note that the committee may seek outside input, including from “stakeholders amongst others”. If the committee is looking at process—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, made—rather than policy, why consult stakeholders? Similarly, the terms of reference suggest that the committee
“may wish to prioritise policies … which are more significant in terms of Parliamentary, Departmental, Stakeholder or public interest”.
Is this about ensuring that all due regard is had to animal welfare in the process of reaching policy decisions or about the issues and decisions themselves? Will the committee focus on animal welfare issues that are of high profile as a result of campaigning by interest groups, which does not seem to have been the original intention?
The terms of reference refer to it being
“beneficial for UK Government Departments to seek advice from the Committee to assist them in understanding the effects of particular policies on the welfare of animals”.
It seems from wording like this that the committee will look not simply at process but at the policy itself that is under consideration. I hope that my noble friend will address this point, as it seems to be an issue of mission creep that we need to understand.
My Lords, I have two amendments in this group but, before I turn to them, I congratulate my noble friend on his announcement last week with regard to soil. It was a significant step forward by Her Majesty’s Government, and one that is wholly welcomed by those concerned about our farming in this country and our ability to grow crops. I thank my noble friend very much for what he did last week and for his letter on it.
I turn to the Bill in front of us, to which I have tabled two amendments. Amendment 15 basically copies that of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, who has just spoken, but it also has a second part to it, which is trying to be helpful to my noble friend to get him out of this particular problem. The problem is the retrospective nature of the legislation. In the terms of reference and accompanying letter, we are told that Defra expects the committee to produce between six and eight reports a year. I asked what the likely policy issues of Defra were that the committee would look at—to which the answer inevitably came back that it was up to the committee and not to Defra. However, I cannot believe that the committee will be kept busy looking at future policy of Defra; it is supposed to look across government, but the rest of the departments have to take absolutely no notice of the committee, because the Government merely “hope” that the rest of departments will pay attention to the committee. That is a positive step.
My Amendment 18 would allow the Bill to go through as it is worded but with the condition that, if there is going to be a retrospective report on policy that has already been implemented, the committee merely needs the written consent of the Secretary of State. That, surely, is a sensible way forward. It encourages the committee to look forward and not back and stops it from going on wild fishing trips into past, established policy to try to meet its target of six to eight reports a year. So the amendment is formulated in the hope that it will allow my noble friend to make a tweak to the Bill that will achieve the same result but with a little bit more sense to it.
My Lords, following Committee, in which I took part, this Bill has not really changed at all. As one who cares deeply about animal welfare and cruelty to animals, I would like to make a general comment before I turn to the specific amendments. The Secretary of State said recently, at a meeting that I attended, that he did not want to create a “hostage to fortune” in the future, but that is exactly what this Bill does. It is enabling legislation with no real detail; it has got such broad scope that it allows almost any interpretation. Frankly, it is the most terrible piece of legislation. It is a shocking piece of legislation and the Government should be embarrassed by it. I say to my noble friends on the Front Bench that this is yet another very un-Conservative measure for the right wing of the Conservative party, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out. It will be passed with the cheers of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. As taxes get raised to their highest for 70 years, do Ministers think people will continue to vote for a party that is not recognisably Conservative, or will voters desert us as they did indeed in Chesham?
Turning to the group of amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Trees, made an extremely good speech, pointing out so many things, and I cannot better it. But I will turn to other amendments later. I say to the Minister—and we have known each for some time and are friends, I hope—that this is a terrible piece of legislation and he needs to go back to the Ministry and tell them that.
My Lords, I echo my noble friend Lord Robathan’s remarks. I think this a perfectly terrible Bill, and I would like to speak to Amendment 1. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, made the point that this Bill was Article 13 of the EU with bells on. He knows a lot more about this sort of legislation than I do. I hope that the Minister, when he comes to speak to this amendment, will explain why this Bill has to have bells on. Why could it not be just Article 13 of the withdrawal agreement? Why did we have to add things on to it? Many of us are disturbed at the propensity of our government machine—Whitehall departments—to always add things on to Bills and make them even more elaborate than they were originally intended to be.
The noble Lord, Lord Trees, also made the point that his amendment was about process. Process, as I see it, and certainly in the days when I was in government, was all to do with legislation. When a department produced legislation, if that legislation affected other departments, it was circulated through those departments for their comments on it before it was ever submitted to Parliament. I do not quite understand what this new committee is going to do in looking at legislation before it is actually submitted to Parliament, compared with what happened before. Presumably, if the question of animal welfare came up, it went to the Department of Agriculture and it went to the Animal Welfare Committee who looked at it and said whether it was within its remit and whether it approved of it. So what is this committee doing that the Animal Welfare Committee did not do before? Perhaps my noble friend could elucidate that when he comes to speak.
Generally, what we are doing is expanding the whole mass of quangos and we have to think about the Climate Change Committee. It always advertises itself as a committee that advises the Government but seems to have a complete mind of its own when it comes to climate change. It seems to be obsessed with CO2 emissions. It never seems to champion or recognise what has actually been done in this country to reduce CO2 emissions, and it does not seem to take any account of the collateral damage. I hope this committee is not going to be another one like that.
My Lords, I profoundly disagree with the two previous speakers, and I have no wish to be associated with the views that they expressed.
To look at one particular detail, my understanding of the committee is that it will produce reports which will then come to Parliament, where we can all see them. That publicity seems to me an excellent way of dealing with things. Of course, the committee would not be instigating legislation; it would be an advisory body. It will be up to the government departments concerned whether they choose to accept its advice, but at least we will know what this committee is thinking.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, although I do not entirely agree with her uncritical support of the Bill. I want particularly to support Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, to which I have lent my name, but also generally to support the other amendments in this group. The characteristic they have in common is that they deal with the retrospective powers of the committee—its powers to look back at existing policy and past practice—which clearly cause a degree of concern. My comments are intended to be largely helpful to the Government.
I have heard it said that the Government cannot support this amendment or the general thrust of these amendments because farming practice and husbandry practice go back decades—indeed, hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Therefore, they would say that it is impossible to look at the current situation or a change in the current situation without looking back at what it is changing or at the past. I would have a great deal of sympathy, as I think many people in the House would, with the Government if they advanced that argument. My suggestion, which I hope the Government will be able to take account of, is that an amendment could be crafted, perhaps by the Government, in response to this debate which ensured that the new animal sentience committee could look at existing and past policy only where the Government were coming forward with a specific proposal to change it—that unless there was a proposal to change it, the committee would not be able to look at current and existing policy.
I realise that is not quite the same as the amendment I have put my name to in support of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, but I do not think any of us here are trying to pin the Government down to a particular outcome—indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that she was generally supportive of this. We are coming together around a sort of principle, which is that the ability of this committee to roam into existing policy at will should be limited, and it should be limited in ways that keep it focused on the present and the future, rather than going into the past. If my noble friend could find a way of agreeing something along those lines, I think the force of many of the amendments in this group would fall away.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend. I thank my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb for boosting my right-wing credentials. I think one thing the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and I have in common is that we find ourselves a little out of kilter with our respective parties in relation to the Bill before us this evening.
I have amendments in the third group, so I would just like to put two general queries to my noble friend the Minister. I would hazard a guess that, had we had this Bill in front of us when we were both serving as shadow Ministers in the Defra team some years ago, we would have been minded not to accept what is in the Bill before us today.
I would like to associate myself with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, in moving his Amendment 1. I am proud to be an associate fellow of the British Veterinary Association, and I commend him for his work in flying the flag for vets—I think he is the sole flyer of that flag in this House. He adequately addressed not just the process but the retrospectivity aspect of this amendment. Could my noble friend the Minister give us a reassurance this evening that it is not intended that the work of the committee will have any retrospective effect—that is, going back over old laws in its work—should the Bill be carried in its present form?
I would also like to associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and ask for what particular reason—for some reason the manifesto did not reach me this time, possibly because we are not allowed to be candidates—
I did—my noble friend teases me, but I did. I did not always agree with every single item in every single manifesto, but my understanding was that we made a manifesto pledge to roll into national law what was effectively, as has been rehearsed here this evening, set out in Article 13 of the EU treaty—which I do not think I have read either. My understanding is that that was our commitment. So I would like my noble friend the Minister, in summing up this debate, to set out for what reason it was not acceptable simple to rehearse in UK law what we had already committed to in EU law, because I believe that that would have been acceptable.
I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for that remark.
I am going to go on and query the path the Government have gone down and why aspects of the committee may be subject to judicial review in connection with this Bill, whereas every other Bill that has been put forward by this Government has not been deemed to be subject to such a judicial review. If the Minister will reassure me that there will be no retrospective effect and that we will revert, if possible, to the very limited effect of Article 13, I think it would have the unanimous support of the House today.
My Lords, these amendments broadly consider the remit of the committee regarding policy. Clause 1 sets up the committee. The stated purpose of the Bill is to make sure that animal sentience is taken into account when developing policy across government, but policy is not always set in aspic and I find it concerning that the majority of the amendments that have been put down in this group would prohibit the ASC considering policy formulated and implemented before the committee’s formation.
At the start of his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Trees, talked about unintended consequences, but we should also look at the unintended consequences of this group of amendments if they are accepted. We believe that the prohibitions that are being put forward would prevent the committee considering how the ongoing implementation of recent and historic legislation affects the welfare of animals as sentient beings. The impacts can be significant. To take an example, the primary legislation used to prosecute hare coursing is the Hunting Act 2004 and the Game Act 1831. We believe that the ASC should be free to consider how the implementation of those laws affect the welfare of hares as sentient beings. While the ASC will be likely to focus its work on emerging policy, we believe it needs the freedom to consider existing legislation where it feels it is appropriate to do so.
Amendment 18, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, would require scientific evidence to be published. It is very important that scientific evidence is taken into account right across the committee. It is clear from the terms of reference that that will be an important part of its work. But again I have concerns: requiring things to always be published before being presented to Parliament could place an unintended scientific barrier in front of the committee. I worked in publishing for many years, and I know that sometimes it can take a long time. I would not want to see the committee’s work hugely delayed as an unintended consequence of this amendment.
I will keep my comments brief throughout Report. We discussed at length in Committee many of the amendments before us again today. I do not want to waste time going back over issues that we have already spent a lot of time on, but I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response to people’s concerns.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Trees, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and my noble friends Lord Howard and Lord Caithness, for their amendments on the subject of the animal sentience committee’s remit with respect to existing policies. My remarks will address all the amendments.
This is the first piece of legislation I have steered through the House. I am conscious that I am in the presence of experienced legislators and people very much more experienced, perhaps, that I was in the other place where, when a piece of legislation was described as “terrible” or “poorly drafted” it was usually code for the fact that the speaker did not agree with it. Here, I am sure that that is not the case and that noble Lords are much more discerning, and I will seek to answer their points, be more conciliatory in my remarks and address their concerns.
I thank noble Lords for their discussion on this issue, and for the opportunity to put on record a clear statement on the remit of the committee. The Bill is already drafted so as to ensure that animal sentience is actively considered in current policy-making and implementation and, in line with its statutory function as set out in the Bill, the committee will be expected to prioritise current or recent policy decisions. Prioritising policies that the Government are currently pursuing fulfils the committee’s statutory function under Clause 3. This clause requires the Secretary of State to respond to the committee’s reports and is the only legal consequence the committee reports have. As I have repeatedly stated, the purpose of the Bill is to provide a proportionate, targeted and timely accountability mechanism. There are limits to how far you can hold a current Government to account for the decisions they did not make, and this would certainly not be timely. I hope this addresses points made by my noble friends Lord Moylan, Lady McIntosh and others.
However, the value of the committee is in looking at policy issues that are live in some way, and the committee would not be acting in the public interest if it did not do that. There would be no benefit for animal welfare, for the public, for Parliament or for the Government in discussing policies that have long been customary, revised or resolved. To put it more simply, the committee would not be doing its job properly if it sought to rake over old coals and to reignite past policy issues that are now closed. If this happened, it is something that would need to be raised with the committee chair as part of the performance management and governance processes that will be in place.
Seeking to impose a rigid form of words in legislation on these matters risks excluding the committee from areas where its scrutiny would be valuable. Attempts to distinguish current policy from established policy in statute would leave the committee wide open to challenge if interpretations of the wording differed. We are also of the view that, for the committee to provide targeted and effective parliamentary accountability, the committee’s report should not be subject to approval or preselection by Ministers. I would caution against the approach proposed my noble friend Lord Caithness, which would require Ministers to agree to the preparation of any report.
The noble Lord, Lord Trees, talked about process. Clause 2(2) envisages that the committee can examine what adverse effects a policy might have on the welfare of animals and whether the Government are aware of all those possible adverse effects and fully understand them so they can properly take them into account in their decision. This is clearly about the process followed in decision-making.
My noble friend Lord Ridley talked about the committee’s ability to consult stakeholders. He is right that the committee may choose to engage with a range of external bodies and individuals, as it sees fit. This stakeholder engagement is important as it will allow the committee to prioritise policies that are more significant in terms of the nature and scale of their effect on animals or the extent of parliamentary, departmental, stakeholder or public interest.
A number of general comments were made about the Bill. It honours a manifesto commitment and provides a legal recognition that animals are sentient beings. The legislation will provide assurance about how animal welfare will be taken into account in central government policy decisions.
My noble friend Lord Hamilton of Epsom raised the issue of where the committee sits. We are creating an animal welfare centre of expertise in Defra, which covers all government expert advisory groups that support policy decisions affecting animal welfare. Within this centre, the animal sentience committee will consider how individual central government policies take account of animal welfare. It aims to ensure that Parliament can scrutinise how the Government take the welfare of animals as sentient beings into account, alongside other considerations, in developing and implementing their policies. The new arrangements are proportionate, timely and targeted.
With those comments, I hope that I have been able to reassure noble Lords and that they will feel able and content not to press their amendments.
It does not go way beyond Article 13, but it does create a committee that did not exist. There were other measures in the European Union which sought to give substance to the wording in Article 13—we will come on to talk about some of them, perhaps in the next group of amendments—by referring to cultural and other issues that were of concern to member states. We have tried to transpose the legal wording recognising animal sentience into UK law and have sought to make the Government’s decision-making better by giving them an expert committee to advise them.
Perhaps I may press my noble friend, because I did not follow what he said about retrospectivity—or perhaps he did not say anything. Will he confirm that there is no retrospective effect? I listened very carefully to what he said about animal sentience; I hesitate to say it, but I think he is confusing animal sentience and animal welfare. I think the mood of the House is to keep Article 13 on animal sentience and let the other committee that is already set up to look after animal welfare do the perfectly good job it is already doing.
I am grateful to my noble friend. I will not detain the House by repeating the paragraphs I have put on record in relation to the prioritising policies that the committee will look at. That will be for the current Government and the policies they are currently pursuing, and it will fulfil the committee’s statutory function under Clause 3. I went on to say—I hope this was clear—that the committee would not be doing its job properly if it sought to rake over old coals and reignite past policy issues that are now closed. My noble friend and noble Lords will know that words said by Ministers at the Dispatch Box hold sway when people try to interpret legislation. I hope I have been as clear as I possibly can be about the remit of this committee and the kinds of priorities it will look at. I hope that has reassured my noble friend.
My Lords, I thank everybody who has contributed to this short debate, and I thank the Minister for his answers. I note the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, which I and many others, I think, share, about the time, expense and bureaucracy that may be entailed in the legislation having retrospective force. I would still, however, say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, that I do not see why the animal sentience committee cannot look at current legislation and policy and comment on it. It is a statutory committee. I have huge respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, and her passion for animal welfare, which I share, but I think that she said it was an advisory committee. The committee is statutory. It is a very powerful committee and is there to hold the Government to account, which is why more detail about its remit could usefully appear in the Bill. I respect the explanation by the noble Lord that the terms of reference are very clear about this, that and the other, but as I recall the committee itself can alter its terms of reference, because they are not made explicit in the Bill.
This issue of process is cardinal, and I hope it does not come back to bite us all. Having said that, I am not one to make futile gestures; I appreciate that the Opposition are not supporting amendments and that there is a strong government Whip. I support the essence of this Bill in toto, but one wishes to make constructive suggestions that might improve it. I very much appreciate the kind remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. With that, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement following the sentencing of the stepmother and father of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes on Friday.
The whole nation is distraught at Arthur’s tragic and horrific death. We, across this House and across this country, find it impossible to imagine how any adult could commit such evil acts against a child, in particular parents and carers, to whom children look for love and protection. And I know that colleagues and people outside this place are seriously troubled that Arthur was subjected to a campaign of appalling cruelty and murdered after concerns had been raised with local services.
I want to tell you and colleagues across the House, and I want to assure the public, I am as determined as everybody in this House to get to the truth, expose what went wrong and take any action necessary to protect children. To do so, serious questions need to be asked. I want to make it clear that police officers, teachers, social workers, health workers and others go to work each day to try to make things better—to do their best at what are very difficult jobs. Those already serving our country’s most vulnerable children deserve our thanks, and I want to be extremely clear that no safeguarding professional should be the victim of any abuse.
The targeting of individuals is wrong and helps nobody. But that does not mean that we should not seek to understand what went wrong and how we can stop it from happening again. The public deserve to know why, in this rare case, things went horrifyingly wrong, and what more could be done to prevent abuse such as this happening again in future.
Since the horrendous deaths of Peter Connelly, Daniel Pelka and, sadly, others, the Government have established stronger multiagency working, putting a shared and equal duty on police, councils and health in local areas to work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, alongside a role for schools.
I am sure that Members across the House will recognise that improvements have been made from previous reviews, but the question now is whether that is enough. In order to look at issues nationally as well as locally, we established the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel in 2017 for cases like Arthur’s. That is why, given the enormity of this case, the range of agencies involved and the potential for its implications to be felt nationally, over the weekend I asked Annie Hudson, chair of the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, to work with leaders in Solihull to deliver a single, national, independent review of Arthur’s death to identify what must be learned from this terrible case. This will encompass local government, as well as those working in the police, health and education sectors.
Officials in my department are already in close contact with the Solihull safeguarding partnership, which is grateful for the support offered and agrees with this approach as the best way to deliver comprehensive national learning and identify whether there are any gaps that need to be addressed. Annie and her colleagues on the national panel who come from the police, health and children’s services, have dedicated their lives and decades-long careers to bettering the lives of the most vulnerable children in our society, and I have every faith that their review will be robust, vigorous and thorough.
I have already assured Annie, as I assure you now, that she will be given all the support she needs to do the job properly. This review will focus specifically on Arthur’s case, and identify where improvements need to be made. But I also want to make certain that we have looked at how all the relevant local agencies are working now, including how they are working together.
For that reason, I have also asked Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation to lead a joint targeted area inspection. I have asked that each of these inspectorates be involved because of the range of local services which had been involved in Arthur and his family’s life during the preceding months. These joint inspections are well established, but a new ambitious approach will be used, with a sharp focus on the entry point to the child protection system across all agencies. This will mean we can truly look at where improvements are needed by all the agencies tasked with protecting children in the Solihull area, so that we can be assured that we are doing everything in our power to protect other children and to prevent such evil crimes.
As part of this inspection, all the agencies tasked with protecting children at risk of abuse and neglect in Solihull will have their effectiveness considered and be instructed on where improvements must be made—both in Solihull, as well as where learnings can be applied in other areas around the country. These inspectorates have met today to plan this work, which will begin next week.
I, as well as officials in my department and across government, could not be taking this more seriously and have been working this weekend to bring everyone together to make sure this work can start immediately. Over the coming days, we will publish terms of reference and timelines for this national review and local inspection. Ahead of that, more widely, we are already investing heavily to help the legions of dedicated professionals on the front line deliver the care that we all know every child deserves.
Since the spending review in 2019, there have been year-on-year real-term increases for local government, as well as the unprecedented additional £6 billion funding provided directly to councils to support them with the immediate and longer-term impacts of Covid spending pressures, including children’s social care. Yet we have also known that the care system needed bold and wide-ranging reforms which is why we have the independent review of children’s social care happening now.
I know that Josh MacAlister, who leads the review, will make recommendations about what a decisive child protection response needs to look like, given that it sits at the core of the system he is reviewing. Importantly, I know that the review will be looking at how social workers—especially those with the most experience—can spend time with families and protecting children, because we all know that social workers do their best work with families, not behind a desk.
I look forward to the review’s recommendations in due course, because in any complex system it is important—imperative in my view—to investigate thoroughly to learn and improve the system. My mantra continues to be that sunlight is the best possible disinfectant because, if we are to improve services where they need improving, we must share data and evidence.
Finally, I thank the prosecuting barrister, Jonas Hankin QC, his team, and the jury, for their service in this troubling case. As the court heard, Arthur’s tragic death is a result of the cruelty of his father and his father’s partner. No Government anywhere in the world can legislate for evil, but we will take action wherever we can to stop this happening again because we must do more. To do more, I end my Statement with a plea to everyone in our country. Anyone who sees or suspects child abuse can report their concerns to local children’s services or by contacting the government-supported NSPCC helpline for adults or practitioners concerned about a child or a young person. So if you see or suspect child abuse, report it. If you are worried about a child you know, report it. If something appears off, or you have seen something that troubles you, report it. As we uncover what went wrong and what led to Arthur’s tragic death, we must also strengthen our resolve to make sure that we prevent these crimes as much as they can possibly be prevented. We must make sure that those who would do wicked acts to children face justice. We must do absolutely everything in our power to protect vulnerable young children from harrowing and evil abuse. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I do not doubt the sincerity of the commitments that it contains. This has to be one of the most harrowing and tragic deaths any of us can imagine. My heart goes out to everyone who knew and loved Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. Talking to friends over the past few days, the first reaction they expressed was of course sorrow, but that was quickly followed by anger as to how such an awful fate could have been allowed to happen to little Arthur.
A serious case review is now under way and, while it is of course essential that it leaves no stone unturned in establishing what happened and what went wrong, it must also avoid simply repeating the recommendations of previous such reviews, such as those in respect of Victoria Climbié, Baby Peter, Daniel Pelka and too many others. Their serious case reviews reached conclusions that were depressingly familiar: warning signs were not picked up; the invisibility of children; poor early interventions and support for families; social workers’ high caseloads; and poor lines of communication between the various agencies. The main issue for Government this time is surely that these failures keep occurring. How can we avoid being here again in a year or two in similarly distressing circumstances?
Obviously, there are many questions to be asked in relation to what did or not happen locally, but I hope that the blame game that has already started will not point fingers at social workers, because it is well established that they are overworked and often lack the necessary experience to cope with distressing cases. In respect of the Statement, I welcome that it contains a clear defence of professionals in the various agencies.
Too many social workers on the front line who are recently qualified are sent into situations to deal with difficult households, often with manipulative parents such as Arthur’s. Social workers need to be supported by senior management, and by that I do not mean the directors of children’s services; I am talking about line managers and senior managers who themselves will have built up experience of troublesome families and should more often accompany inexperienced social workers, to provide the support that they need so that their teams can provide what is required by children in those difficult and often chaotic families.
If questions need to be asked about what happened at the local level, they also need to be asked in the national context. When the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education gave evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in 2016, he committed his department to the target of all vulnerable children receiving the same high quality of care and support, with the best outcome for every child at the heart of every decision made. Three years later he returned to the committee and was obliged to admit that the target was delayed until 2022 because the DfE did not have a detailed plan in place to deliver the target. I do not like the blame game but, in the case of little Arthur, if it is going to begin then let it begin at the top, with a department that is inexplicably unable even to put in place a plan to protect the most vulnerable children in society. We are three weeks away from 2022 so does the Minister know whether her department yet has that plan ready? I do not expect her to be able to answer that question today, but we all deserve an answer and I hope she will write to me when she has it.
Let us not ignore the elephant in the room: the funding of local authorities and, by extension, their ability adequately to fund children’s services. Both have suffered substantial cuts through the austerity policies of Governments between 2010 and 2019—decisions, as I have said many times in your Lordships’ House, rooted in political ideology not necessity. The Minister mentioned the MacAlister review of children’s social care, which has already signalled that an increase in resources will be necessary to begin to bring children’s services up to an acceptable level. I look forward to that report when it appears next year, and I hope the Government will use it as an opportunity to reassess the importance that they attach to children’s social care and wider children’s services. We hear a lot about adult social care, and rightly so, but we definitely need to hear more about children’s social care. I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to do—I hope I am quoting the Statement correctly—whatever it takes, whatever is necessary, to keep children safe.
Over the last few days my mind has consistently returned to an image of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes that appeared in many newspapers and on many websites. It showed a happy little boy in his Birmingham City football top, with a big smile, full of potential and with his whole life ahead of him until two evil monsters shamefully and horrifically cut his young life short. Let us try to remember that smile, not just the awful events that took it and his life away.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement, which I thought was very thorough. I agree with every word. It is a tragedy that Arthur lost his life in such a horrific way. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, talked about those photographs of a happy young child with his school bag on his shoulders. You just cannot believe how people can be so evil as to do that to a child, to poison and abuse him in the way that they did.
A single child abused, a single child suffering as poor Arthur did, is one life lost too many. Sadly though, as the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, both rightly said, we have been here before. Daniel Pelka, Keanu Williams and Keegan Downer are the names of only a few children murdered by their guardians. What lessons have we taken from those previous cases to empower social services with the mission of preventing child abuse?
Let us not forget that the serious case review published after Baby P’s death in 2007 said it could and should have been prevented. Every agency involved in his care, including health, the police and social services, had been well motivated and wanted to protect him, but their practice collectively and individually was completely inadequate and failed to properly challenge the explanations of maltreatment. More than 10 years on from that appalling crime, we see this tragic murder of young Arthur.
I think people struggle to understand why the photographs of his bruising and the complaints raised seemed not to satisfy those concerned. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that this should not be a blame game against social services. As a head teacher, I worked with social workers a great deal and I found caring, hard-working individuals. However, not through the fault of any individual, I also found that bureaucracy meant that it took time for issues to be dealt with.
I remember the case of a little girl who we felt was being abused. We contacted social services, but a case conference had to be arranged and we had to make sure that all the partners could be at the case conference. We would be told, “We can’t make this date or that date”, as the weeks went on. Eventually, the case conference was held and, I am glad to say, strong action was taken in that case; we were right to have raised the flag on that event. The point I am making, however, is that it is not the fault of individuals—individuals care. No social worker, teacher, police officer or health worker wants this to happen. What they want to see is speedy action but, sadly, that does not happen because of the system that we currently have. In this case, these were evil people who, sadly, would probably have circumvented any system, but that is not to say that we should not have tried.
I was interested to hear the comments of the Children’s Commissioner on “The Andrew Marr Show” yesterday. She made a number of important points and commented on the serious case review under way, saying that
“we need to see what that says but we must take decisive action and now.”
We cannot wait months, or whatever it may be, for this case review to happen; we need to know what we are going to do now. So I put it to the Minister: following the words of Dame Rachel de Souza, what does the Minister think we should directly do now?
It is essential that we protect vulnerable children and families. The national review needs to take into account the significance and scale of the circumstances of Arthur’s murder and allow findings to be disseminated around the country. We must identify the lessons that must be learned and ensure that nothing like this is ever allowed to happen again.
I thank both noble Lords for the tone of their remarks and their support for the Statement by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I reiterate that we will leave no stone unturned in trying to understand and address what happened in this case, both in terms of its local implications and nationally.
I understand the focus of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on funding and the pressures that local government and children’s social care have been under, but I would say again that there really has been a shift; since 2019, there have been year-on-year real increases for local government. The latest spending review shows that the core spending power for local authorities is estimated to increase by an average of 3% in real terms each year until the next spending review. Importantly, that includes £200 million for family help, as part of a £500 million package to make sure that all children get the best start in life.
Both noble Lords asked what is happening on the ground, and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, raised the issue of the performance of local children’s services teams around the country. He will be aware that we have moved from only 36% of children’s services teams being judged to be good in 2017 to, today, 50% being judged to be good or outstanding. Solihull’s children’s services team is currently rated as requiring improvement. We intervene decisively where local authorities are failing, and we continue to facilitate and fund sector-led improvement.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Storey, who said that we cannot wait; we need to do something now. Work had already started in Solihull. It is part of the strengthening families programme, which is very tailored support for local authority children’s services teams, where they follow a clear model. That work started in October this year. It is also getting support through the sector-led improvement partners, which is the more bespoke element, so the first takes well-understood and well-established improvement programmes and applies them in the local authority in question, and then the sector-led improvement partners allow for a more bespoke approach. Clearly, events such as this give a renewed urgency to the work that was already in train, and I will of course write to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, with more detail on the implementation plan.
Both noble Lords asked—possibly not in these words, but I hope I paraphrase accurately—how we avoid being here again. We have the two new reviews that we have just announced, and we will need to wait and see what they advise. We cannot pre-empt them. We also have the care review, which we hope will come forward with very practical, actionable recommendations focusing on empowering social workers to take those extremely difficult decisions to which both noble Lords referred.
I genuinely think that great progress has been made over the past 10 years in implementing almost all of the recommendations of Professor Eileen Munro’s review, and major investment is going into the workforce, with 10% more social workers today than in 2017. A great deal of work is going on. We are trying to ensure that that is sequenced and delivered in a way that is practical and effective on the ground.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful for the repeat of the Statement and I shall be very brief, but it is necessary to emphasise, yet again, that the awful suffering and death of this defenceless child at the hands of those to whom the child looked for love and protection must stay with us. It must be part of our thinking as we go forward.
The law makes it very clear, for all services dealing with child protection work, that the child must be at the centre and the focus of all their activities: the child is of paramount concern . It is very tough work being on the front line, and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, was correct to say that each of those front-line workers deserves the support of more experienced staff around them who can take a more objective view and support them in what they are doing. As has been said, we must not fall into the trap of scapegoating the youngest, least experienced and most junior of people who go into this area of work.
The review is greatly to be welcomed, but I say to the Minister that it is right to say that since 2019 there has been an increase in local authority funding, but, boy, for the decade before 2019 there were cuts and cuts and cuts, year after year. That has meant that many of the support, preventive and family services that social workers could rely on to look at the relationship between the child and the family have disappeared.
I welcome the review, but it will take some time for it to complete its work, and I wish it well. But, to take some action now, would the Government be willing to write a strong letter to the senior people in each of these key services to remind them of their duties and responsibilities in law to protect children subject to the possibility of abuse or danger? It could be said these people already know this, but we have to be seen to react and we have to get across our concern and say, not just to the people of Solihull but to people nationwide who carry the responsibility for protecting children that now is the time for them to look at and support their front-line services to ensure that no child in their patch experiences this level of abuse and awful suffering. I hope the Government will consider doing that.
I thank the noble Lord for his comments. His remark at the beginning that we should never forget the terrible suffering of Arthur reminds me of when I founded the domestic abuse charity SafeLives. As I was having lunch with the noble Lord, I thought I should read his report into the tragic death of Victoria Climbié. As your Lordships can imagine, it was possibly the most terrible thing I have ever read. But reading it is obviously less awful than what these children have suffered, so I absolutely share his view that we need to keep that front of mind, and of course I will talk to colleagues in the department about his suggestion.
My Lords, I would like to add to the comments made. When I was a practising lawyer, I represented social workers in two child abuse inquiries and the two little girls, Kimberley Carlile and Jasmine Beckford, still have a place in my heart. They were brave little four year-olds who were murdered by their stepfather. In this case I think it was the stepmother who was the protagonist. At the time, I represented the social workers, but many other agencies were exposed to this child and were unable to recognise the symptoms of the abuse.
Nowadays, there is a greater awareness of the risk factors as far as children are concerned, and, perhaps, of the absence of proper parental care. But there are not sufficient funds to take the necessary protective actions, and for the necessary support to be given, maybe to parents who are struggling—which is not a popular position, but sometimes is a factor in child abuse cases.
We have to understand that this is a case of money, and of funding. Too many local authorities are struggling to provide basic services. There are many demands on their funds and there have been substantial cuts. I recognise that in recent times there has been some increase, but it is an increase on a very low base. There have been substantial cuts and a substantial shortage of services provided by the necessary agencies that need to be aware of and alert to these situations.
So I ask the Minister once again to raise these issues in the places where it can make a difference. We also need to recognise that we need to do some more research into why these parents behave in this way. It is too easy to describe them as monsters—they are, obviously; their behaviour is unforgivable, unimaginable and horrendous for the rest of us. However, in the two cases in which I was closely involved for many, many weeks, both the parents had themselves been victims of abuse. That does not in any way excuse their subsequent behaviour, but it is quite sensible to look at those situations as well.
The noble Baroness is right that of course we need to understand, even if that does not excuse behaviour. To her first point, I agree that there is greater awareness of the risk factors that children face across a wide range of different aspects, but we are still battling with some of the same issues about sharing information, understanding the significance of information and, critically, acting on it. Clearly there is more work to do.
Funding is of course extremely important, which is why we have made the commitments that I have already set out. Also, the noble Baroness would accept that there are other aspects that go along with funding to make sure that we unlock the maximum impact for children, including how services are organised, how practitioners are empowered and supported and how they are trained. Those are all areas that we are investing in to make sure that we get the best result for our children.
My Lords, this of course goes right back over very many years, and we have been here before—in my case, right back to Maria Colwell. The noble Lord, Lord Laming, has led this House and led the departments through these tragedies over many years. When people say that it will never happen again, I think that is a false line of thought—there will always be disturbed, distorted, evil parents. It goes against the grain—it is totally abhorrent—but we have to support those who are sceptical or cynical. It was said that social workers should be in the community and not at their desk; actually, they should be at their desk writing careful notes, liaising with others and making sure that we do everything in our power to diminish these appalling situations. It takes a village to bring up a child, as has often been well said. This is not only about the agencies; it is about the neighbours, the volunteers and the community as a whole.
I absolutely agree with much of what my noble friend said, but I think that she would also agree that there are children who, when things happen, are genuinely hidden from us—or substantially hidden—and there are others to whom terrible things happen in plain sight. We should at least make sure that the latter are addressed effectively.
My Lords, sadly, we are here again. To the point from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, which is about looking to the future, one of the terrible things about this particular death was that we saw and we heard the torture of this child and the terrible life they were enduring. I wonder whether there, there might be some hope for the future in the sense that technological surveillance of the victim, as in this case, or the suspects—the people who eventually murdered him—may give us more hope. Sadly, this poor child was alone with the people who tortured him and eventually murdered him.
The Government are already experimenting with tagging. People can be monitored for their alcohol and drug intake and, if someone has a mental health issue, it is now possible to see whether they are taking medication. We could have technological surveillance of both the potential victim—the child—and the people who might hurt him, as in this case. Who is in the home at the time, who is available as a witness, the condition of the child—it is now possible to technologically surveil all these things. Some people may argue that this is an intrusion too far and an intrusion into the privacy of the family. But the only reason this intrusion is being suggested is that, presumably as in all these cases, a child is already at risk. This is not an intrusion without cause; it is an intrusion with cause, where no one wants to disserve the family, but everybody wants to make sure that the child is kept safe in the future.
Therefore, in terms of an immediate response, I wonder whether research in that area—or perhaps this review—could quickly look into that and pilot it. Of all the pilots that happen, that might give us some hope for the future fairly quickly. I worry that all our investments and all our encouragements do not make people work better. We will always have human error and people on the front line will be worried to make the wrong intervention. Perhaps that is what happened in this case. I think technology can assist. It would not be foolproof in any way, but I wonder whether it is some hope for the future.
The noble Lord makes a really interesting point. I am not aware of whether that is an aspect that the reviews will be looking into, but I will take it back to the department and if there is evidence, I am very happy to share it with the noble Lord.
My Lords, someone I know with great experience in these matters tells me that in the years before the involvement of social services, in a case of suspected child cruelty the first knock on the door would be from a policeman or a policewoman. Occasionally that resulted in a bit of embarrassment, but I think perhaps children’s lives were better protected in those days. Perhaps we ought to give this matter a little more thought.
I understand the spirit of my noble friend’s remarks. With respect to him, the thing that first the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and then others have brought out is the fact that so often in these cases different organisations, whether it be the school, the GP, the police or children’s services, have different snippets of information about a child. Critically, and very often, we need to share those to get an accurate picture of that child’s life.