House of Lords
Monday 10 January 2022
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester.
Death of a Member: Lord Hughes of Woodside
Care Workers: Professional Register
We will invest at least £500 million in the social care workforce over the next three years. The major investment includes the introduction of a digital care workforce hub. This hub will help identify people working in social care and provide them with access to resources to help them in their careers. It will also include a skills passport to provide staff with a permanent record of their training and development over their career.
My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. In his letter to us today on NHS resilience, the Secretary of State says:
“Social care is vital for our success in managing Covid-19, working as part of a single system with the NHS.”
We all agree that we need to integrate the NHS and social care and provide a high-quality, seamless service to users, but as long as those in the social care profession are seen as the undervalued poor relations of those in the health sector, such integration is going to be very difficult. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already introduced a registration scheme, offering professional skills and better working conditions for those in social care and making it a more attractive career profession. When will England do the same?
As my noble friend rightly points out, the devolved Administrations have registers in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and they have taken a phased approach over the years to registers of staff working in a variety of roles across social care, because of the complexity of the sector. This is why our first priority is to embed a knowledge and skills framework to clearly understand the current layout of the workforce and the skills required in their roles and to look at potential pathways before we consider mandatory regulation.
My Lords, I am sure the Minister will agree that if the pandemic has taught us anything, it has confirmed that those in need of social care are much more dependent now and much more vulnerable. They require very intensive personal care. That being so, is it not time that we recognised carers for what they are, because apart from their commitment, they display enormous skills, day in and day out, and people at the end of their life are dependent upon them?
I am sure all noble Lords will agree with those sentiments, and that is why we have published the White Paper on social care. We are investing an additional £5.4 billion over three years and we want to make sure it is a career that people feel valued in. We also have £3.6 billion to reform the social care charging system, to make sure that all local authorities can move towards paying care providers a fair rate for their care, and a further £1.7 billion to begin major improvements across the whole social care system in England.
As the noble Lord says, pay is one of the important issues when people consider what career to take, but also how much that career is valued. One of the reasons we are looking at this voluntary register, but also the skills passport, is to understand the current layout of the sector. There are a number of different qualifications at the moment and before we consider what should be mandatory and make sure that everybody is aligned in terms of qualifications, we want to understand the care force out there. Some 56% of those in the care sector, for example, do not have any qualifications and we want to make sure that we address that.
My Lords, the Economic Affairs Committee report of some two years ago estimated that £8.6 billion was needed just to get back to where we were 10 years ago. This money, which the Government are promising, is not available now. The need is now and the Government themselves have said that they want to deal with the problem of beds that are blocked in the NHS. That can happen only if the care workers are there and encouraged to be so, and that is about training and pay. At the moment, really good, wonderful people get paid more for stacking shelves in Tesco than they get for carrying out this work. Will my noble friend persuade the Treasury that this money needs to be made available now?
My noble friend makes a very important point that we need to make sure that this is an attractive career and that people feel valued. One of the reasons we launched the Made with Care campaign in November, which is running over five months, is to attract more people to the sector. Some of the money we have made available is to make sure that the sector is more attractive to people who want to work in it and that people in local authorities push the care home owners to pay their staff more.
When providing care for some of the most vulnerable in our communities, staff such as art therapists and occupational therapists have to have mandatory registration to practise. What is so different for social care staff who provide professional care as part of a multi-disciplinary team to such vulnerable people?
Only last week we opened a consultation on whether or not to make registration mandatory and to move towards it. When I spoke to people in the department about why it is currently voluntary and not mandatory, they said it was because they did not want to inadvertently put people off registering. They were worried that some people might leave the sector if registration was mandatory now. The noble Lord can shake his head, but this is a very real concern. We want to make sure it is voluntary first and we are consulting on the steps towards mandatory registration.
My Lords, the noble Lord’s Question is timely, with the Government’s consultation on future statutory regulation and the criteria that could form the basis of assessing whether regulation is appropriate. We all want to see care workers given the professional status that they deserve, but, as has been said, this needs a whole suite of key improvements on pay, training, career structure and development. Does the Minister agree that paying staff a wage that truly reflects the importance and value of their work is an essential first step and what action are the Government taking to ensure this?
As the noble Baroness will appreciate, many people who work in social care are employed by private care home owners and other bits of the sector. If she looks at the minimum wage, there has been an announcement of 6.6%, effective from 1 April, which means that workers will be paid more, but one of the bases of some of the additional funding that we have announced is to convince local authorities to put pressure on private care home owners and others to make sure that they pay staff more.
Given that the Government have clearly expressed the view that social care must be adequately valued, which is to be welcomed, and the comments about pay scales, what is the Government’s attitude to those employers in the private sector who do not hand on pay at time-and-a-half on bank holidays and so on, to their front-line staff? These front-line staff feel exploited and do not receive any pay or reimbursement for travel time between clients, even though they may spend quite a lot of time on the road. They are paid only while they are actually in somebody’s home in the community.
Issues such as the way private care home owners treat their staff are all part of the consultation that we launched on 6 January. We are working across government and with the devolved Administrations to seek views on the proposed criteria on which the profession should be regulated, whether there are regulated professions that no longer require statutory regulation, and whether there are unregulated professions that should be brought into statutory regulation. The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 31 March, when we will look at the results before taking further action.
My Lords, was the Spectator right when it said that 25% of people over 65 were worth more than £1 million, and is it right that these people should have capped care costs of £86,000, which means that taxpayers on much lower incomes have to pitch in and support them?
My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many care workers there are at work on a given day? Does he agree that it would be a good idea to have a considered, perpetual publicity campaign persuading those in the care service of the importance of gaining qualifications?
To ensure that the profession is attractive, we want to focus not only on making sure that social care staff are paid a decent wage but that they are recognised. The idea behind the skills passport is, first, that we want to understand all the different qualifications that there are with regard to the social care sector; and, secondly, we want to make sure that they can transport that when they move from one employer to another. That is the important thing that we want to look at.
Post Office: Horizon Compensation
My Lords, the Government are working closely with the Post Office to ensure that the approach and processes adopted are being designed to ensure that postmasters receive fair settlements as swiftly as possible. Of the 72 postmasters who have so far had their convictions quashed, 66 have applied for interim payments, of which 62 have received offers; 57 of those have been paid. The Government are also ensuring that the historical shortfall scheme is delivering in line with its objectives.
My Lords, the Post Office scandal involved some 732 prosecutions over a 20-year period. Many convictions have since been overturned. Can the Minister say how many claims have now been settled, how many remain outstanding and what the total cost will be?
I gave the noble Baroness the figures on those who have had their convictions overturned so far. Interim payments of £100,000 each have already been made to many of them. We are attempting to negotiate with the rest of them; payments will be made as quickly as possible. It will then go to the dispute resolution process, which we think will be quicker than any ongoing further court action, to negotiate appropriate settlements with those sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted.
My Lords, what matters will be covered by the compensation announced last month for those sub-postmasters who have had their convictions overturned? It will include financial loss, obviously, but will it also cover loss of reputation, pain and suffering, and consequential loss? How will the Government ensure consistency over the many different types of cases that there will be?
I start by paying tribute to the work of my noble friend in both this House and the other place in drawing attention to this scandal when many others were not discussing it; he was right to do so, along with many other Members on all sides. I can confirm that, when negotiating compensation for postmasters with overturned convictions, the Post Office will consider claims for financial and consequential losses as well as non-financial losses, such as reputational damage and mental distress. In terms of consistency, each case will necessarily be decided on the particular circumstances of the individual postmaster but, to ensure broad consistency, the Post Office and its legal advisers will seek to agree a consistent approach in assessing the different heads of loss with legal representatives.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Bakewell said in her follow-up question that there had been 732 convictions. From the Minister’s Answer, I get the impression that only 10% of those convicted have actually had their cases heard. Is that correct? When does he see that the whole process will be completed?
The noble Lord makes a good point but this is in the hands of the court. So far, 72 people have had their convictions overturned. As soon as the others have had their convictions overturned, we will proceed with offering compensation to them as well.
My Lords, the postmasters and postmistresses were treated shockingly by the Post Office. Can the Minister tell us whether anyone in the Post Office seniority has been reprimanded or sacked or had money taken off them? Has anything happened to anyone? Has anyone in the Post Office taken responsibility for this appalling treatment of men and women?
“Shockingly” is almost an understatement of the full extent of the terrible injustices that went on for sub-postmasters over many years and many different Governments, Ministers et cetera. Most of the senior executives of the Post Office who were responsible are not there anymore, but the appropriate mechanism to find out exactly who was to blame and who was responsible is the independent public inquiry with full statutory powers, which is currently considering these matters.
My Lords, this is not the first time that your Lordships have had to discuss this, and already this year we have this Question again. I am sure that the Minister would agree that, for these people to start to live the rest of their lives, they need to draw a line and be able to move on. This process is dragging on, so does the Minister agree that by setting a target—a political target that the Minister can set—with his department, with the lawyers and with the Post Office, we could get this done? Will he undertake to do that, and make sure that this is done in the first half of this year, so that the line can be drawn?
I can speak for my colleague Paul Scully, the postal affairs Minister, that we want to see this settled as quickly as possible in order, as the noble Lord said, to draw a line under it for the benefit of those people who were so badly affected. Of course, we are in the hands of the courts initially for the convictions to be overturned, but as soon as they are—if that is the judgment that the courts come to—we want to use the ADR process to try to get compensation offers to these people as quickly as possible.
My Lords, I have raised the plight of my friend Rita Threlfall on a number of occasions. She is one of the 555 sub-postmasters and mistresses who initiated the group litigation. They won, and were awarded £57 million. However, £46 million went on costs and funding the action—action that helped lead to today’s situation. They were thanked by the Government, but their compensation was woefully inadequate. Will the Minister ensure that the 554 plus Rita are properly compensated? At the moment, their feeling is not of compensation but of discrimination.
I totally understand the point that my noble friend is making; we have spoken about it on a number of times in the past. The problem, of course, is that this compensation settlement that was reached in a civil action was in full and final settlement of the claims. However, having said that, my colleague Paul Scully has met with them many times and has said that we are in active discussions with them to see what more could be done. Indeed, officials are meeting this week with lawyers representing them to discuss it.
My Lords, will the Minister say whether, following on from that question, those who are currently negotiating compensation with the Post Office for some form of redress are having their legal costs paid, or are they expected to pay them and then try to claim them back later?
I am not sure of the precise details of that; I assume the right reverend Prelate means those from the historical shortfall scheme or those who have had their convictions overturned. My understanding is that all of their costs will be met, but if that is not right, I will write to him.
My Lords, hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses were sacked and prosecuted over the space of 16 years and wrongfully labelled as thieves and fraudsters by the Post Office and by our judicial system. Just to take the noble Baroness’s Question a bit further, what action if any has been, or will be, taken against Her Majesty’s Government’s representatives who sat on the board of the Post Office throughout this terrible situation?
I totally agree with the noble Lord on the first part of his question. The correct answer to that is to wait for the outcome of the inquiry. As we have discussed before, this went on for decades, and exactly who was responsible at the time, and who knew what and when, is a hugely complicated issue. Of course, many of the people responsible at those times are no longer in government, in the department or in the Post Office. It will be important to find out who exactly who was responsible over a long period of time, and then we can pin the appropriate blame.
My Lords, to accelerate things and bring an end to the scandal, would the Government consider a scheme similar to that which applies to personal injury cases, to agree guidelines or bands within which a settlement could be reached so that legal advisers can properly give advice to those who have suffered as a result of the Post Office injustice?
As I outlined in my earlier answer to my noble friend Lord Arbuthnot, we will of course take all the circumstances into account, but necessarily it is important to look at the individual circumstances of each of the postmasters who were wrongly convicted and had their conviction overturned. We want to ensure that everybody is appropriately and fairly compensated within the appropriate bands and will do so.
My Lords, we hear many tragic cases of people who have lost their liberties and lives and faced years of financial hardship. Can the Minister clarify what role the National Federation of SubPostmasters played in the Horizon scandal, in terms of representing affected sub-postmasters, and the damage that Horizon has caused to the relationship between the Post Office Ltd and postmasters? Finally, will this impact on the post office network, going forward?
The answer to my noble friend’s last question is no. The funding for the post office network is separate to this. It provides a vital service, and we must ensure that it continues. I do not know the answer to her question on the precise role played by the National Federation of SubPostmasters, but from discussions that I have had with senior management of the Post Office I know that they are very keen to ensure that relations with people who provide the day-to-day services for their organisation is improved and they are much better represented in the future than they were in the past.
Prime Minister: Meetings with First Ministers of the Devolved Governments
My Lords, the Prime Minister held bilateral calls with the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland on 17 December. They discussed the collective response to omicron, including any financial support needed for additional measures, and confirmed plans for further engagement. The UK Government and the devolved Governments continue to work together during this pandemic to save lives and livelihoods across the UK.
My Lords, I am sure that I speak for many Members of your Lordships’ House when I say that we are disappointed that the four Governments of the United Kingdom continue to exhibit such difference in policy and execution of policy in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. That said, can we have a guarantee from the Government that there will be proper co-ordination between the four Governments in relation to any post-Covid inquiries, allowing for the economic, social and health impacts of the policies of these four Governments during the Covid pandemic to be analysed for their impact, including, for example, their impact on teenage suicides, which are not publicised uniformly across all four Governments and which should certainly be part of the overall assessment of impact afterwards?
Certainly the tragedies of teenage suicides affect the whole of the UK. The new intergovernment review structure is set up to allow closer co-operation and in-depth discussions between the devolved Governments on strategies to tackle matters such as this very important point that the noble Lord has raised. Engagement going forward into 2022 can be at three levels: portfolio engagement at official level; interministerial standing committee level; and, of course, higher up at the heads of devolved Government council level.
My Lords, given the recent new customs regulations that came into force for goods moving from the UK to the EU on 1 January, can my noble friend give the House an update on recent developments on framework agreements between the four nations of the UK?
I can say that, in terms of Northern Ireland, which is the gist of the question, there are some significant issues to resolve and people and businesses in Northern Ireland are facing these daily. The Foreign Secretary, who has taken over from my noble friend Lord Frost, is committed to finding a resolution and proceeding talks with renewed urgency on matters such as those that my noble friend has raised.
My Lords, given that the difference in policy applications across the nations has not led to much difference in outcomes, is not the reality that we need a more co-operative approach across the UK? The Prime Minister said that devolution was a disaster. Does he not have to work twice as hard now to show that it can be a constructive and co-operative partnership and that the devolved Administrations are valued as part of the team?
Yes, indeed. The review, which is due to be published shortly, sets out a fit-for-purpose system that allows for meaningful and effective engagement between the UK Government and the devolved Governments. As I said earlier, this was achieved by discussions occurring at the portfolio level, where possible, and within the particular groups. The package also contains commitments to transparency and a robust dispute resolution mechanism founded on the principle of dispute avoidance.
My Lords, since science knows no frontiers—and as New Year’s Eve showed, our citizens travelled between the countries of the UK—what efforts has Westminster made to agree common policies with the devolved Governments for dealing with the pandemic?
As the noble and learned Lord will know, there are constant meetings regarding the pandemic with the Chief Medical Officers, but the Prime Minister himself is Minister for the Union and he met the First Ministers three times last year—there were meetings in June and October and bilateral calls in December. But it is more than this: last year there were more than 350 meetings at ministerial level. Co-operation is getting better and will certainly improve in 2022 after all the discussions on the IGR.
My Lords, is not the fact of the matter that the Prime Minister made the right judgment and the right call, and in England people were able to celebrate new year? In Scotland, for the first time ever, hogmanay celebrations were prevented, resulting in people having to go south of the border. It is a bit rich to blame the United Kingdom Government for the mistakes of the Scottish Parliament.
My Lords, Crisis has found that the economic aftermath of the pandemic risks exacerbating levels of homelessness right across the UK, but it has also praised the work of the Welsh Government and their measures to alleviate the immediate increase. Have the Government met with the Welsh Government to discuss best practice for reducing homelessness, and, if not, will he press them to do so?
I certainly cannot say that they have talked specifically about homelessness, but, as a result of the improved co-operation and the increased number of meetings between the Governments, all matters of importance will be discussed during the rollout of the IGR during 2022.
My Lords, do the Minister and his colleagues recognise the impact on citizens in Yorkshire, the north-west and the north-east of England of the constant discussion of what is happening in London, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and the neglect of what is happening in the other parts of England? Will Ministers take into account the regional dimension of the dominant part of the United Kingdom in the White Paper on levelling up, or will they continue to insist on imposing governors on counties and mayors on other regions?
Levelling up all corners of the UK is at the heart of this Government’s agenda, and the White Paper, to be published early this year, will set out an ambitious vision to improve living standards, increase opportunity and grow the private sector in all parts of the UK. This will take account of the noble Lord’s question on Yorkshire.
My Lords, I am happy that William Wallace got in before me on this particular question. There are issues beyond the pandemic that need to be discussed between the four Governments. Is the Minister aware that there have been terrible cancellations of ferries to the islands of Scotland? Indeed, the other week 13 of the 14 Arran ferries were cancelled in one day. In the meantime, the ferries that the Scottish Government commissioned, which were supposed to be ready two years ago, are now rusting in the Ferguson yard on the Clyde. Will the UK Government put this on the agenda of the next meeting and consider how they can give some assistance to the failing Scottish Government in relation to ferries to the Western Isles?
This perhaps reflects the tone of the question from my noble friend Lord Forsyth. I have no idea whether ferries have been discussed, but again, this is just the sort of matter that could be discussed, given the greater co-operation that will take place as a result of the discussions over the last two to three years with the devolved nations. I will certainly take back the point made by the noble Lord.
My Lords, co-operation is good, as are accountability and dispute resolution. But devolution began as a process. Do the Government agree with that, and do they have any proposals to put before the Ministers of the devolved Administrations about further elements of devolution?
The noble Lord is right to say that this has been an evolving process. There are no plans to take it further. Obviously, the whole process of devolution and the matters arising from it, and the links and co-operation between the four devolved nations, will continue to be discussed. The idea with the IGR is that all four will be treated equally, there will be transparency, and there will be reviews.
I can only repeat that devolution for Scotland has, of course, been rolled out in the same way as devolution for Northern Ireland and Wales. We believe that it works well, but, as I said earlier, we continue to monitor it and to make sure that the effective co-operation and links between the four nations continue as they are.
Thank you so much. What a gallant gentleman.
I am quite curious about the dynamics of these meetings, and I wonder whether Westminster goes in with any sort of listening attitude. The Scottish Government are now much greener than the Westminster Government, and I suggest that Westminster could learn a lot.
I am sure that the new Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, my right honourable friend Michael Gove, will have taken this on board. He, of course, is the one tasked with taking forward the main links with the four devolved Governments. As the noble Baroness will be aware, that has been set up recently—and he is very much up and running.
Authors, Booksellers and Libraries: Economic Recovery
My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government are committed to supporting the UK’s world-leading publishing industry. We support all parts of the literary ecosystem, with libraries, for instance, benefiting from the £5 million libraries improvement fund, and authors from the annual £6.6 million public lending right. Booksellers, too, are central to the Government’s build back better high street strategy, which will ensure that businesses are profitable and resilient as we emerge from the pandemic.
My Lords, despite the interest in books shown by the public during the pandemic, many authors, like other freelancers, have suffered financial hardship and fallen through the gaps in support. Will the Government consider increasing the PLR fund, which has been frozen for the last seven years? Will they look, too, at business rates, which favour Amazon warehouses over high street bookshops? Bookshops are not just shops: in tandem with libraries and schools, they can, and often do, provide enormous social and educational value at local community level.
I certainly agree with what the noble Earl says, and I am pleased to say that the Booksellers Association reports that independent booksellers have increased in number over the last two years: more than 50 new independent bookstores were opened last year and the year before. That includes the excellent Forum Books in Whitley Bay, thanks to the encouragement of Ann Cleeves, the author of the Vera books, who, I am pleased to say, was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List for services to reading and libraries. The noble Earl is right to point to the plight of authors. A statutory instrument is being introduced today increasing the rate for the PLR. Authors also benefit from support from Arts Council England, including through its “time to write” grants—so they are in the Government’s mind.
If the Government genuinely agree with the noble Earl, when are we going to do something about this unfair competition between Amazon and the high street bookshop? Amazon may be good, but people can browse in a bookshop, and they should be able to do it without fearing that the bookshop will close.
As I said, the Booksellers Association reports that the number of independent bookshops has grown over the past 22 months. Its membership is up 12% since the pandemic began. As my noble friend knows, we will continue to consider the arguments for and against an online sales tax which, if introduced, would raise revenue to fund business rates reductions.
I would like to ask the Minister about the current consultation on a change to UK copyright law relating to the UK’s future IP exhaustion regime, the impact of which could be far reaching for authors. Does he share my concern that, according to the Publishers Association, a move to international exhaustion could cost authors more than £500 million a year in lost income? The Minister will know that the author community is very concerned about this. I declare an interest as a non-executive director of a publishing house, as stated in the register.
As the noble Baroness will know, this matter is being led by the Intellectual Property Office, but it is clearly a complex matter which touches on not just the work of DCMS but other government departments. Officials across government are analysing the responses before Ministers are able to make an informed decision on the UK’s future approach. It is very much a case of measuring twice and cutting once rather than rushing forward into a decision and bearing the consequences later.
My Lords, as pro-chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire I am very aware that during the time of pandemic there have been issues with ebooks relating to university libraries. How will the Government address the current issues of excessive pricing, restrictive licensing and lack of availability of academic ebooks?
My Lords, that it is a matter for publishers and their academic customers. I am pleased to report that ebook sales have increased during the pandemic, so people are continuing to buy them, but I will take that point back to the department.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that to ensure that authors get fair recompense we should do far more to ensure that readers are accessing legitimate books, not least by removing illegitimate material online? Will he tell us what progress has been made in developing the codes of practice to detect and remove illegal content, as committed to by the Government in the creative industries sector deal of 2018.
This is a matter which has been touched upon in relation to the review of intellectual property rights. The consultation brought forward concerns in the sector about the unauthorised reproduction of books, so it is being looked at. I will write to the noble Lord on the follow-up work that has been done in the meantime.
My Lords, the proposed procurement Bill is supposed to make procurement more accessible to small businesses by ensuring that the social value of contracts is considered when choosing suppliers. Can the Minister assure the House that social value will include supporting local booksellers and suppliers when considering the procurement of books for local libraries and schools?
My Lords, while independent booksellers are indeed showing signs of a hopeful comeback, as the Minister said, it is important to acknowledge that there are closures as well as openings of new shops which are still up against the might of online delivery services and chain shops. What consideration are the Government giving to reducing barriers for small, independent bookshops which are, after all, livening up our high streets and making book buying and reading more appealing? Will the Minister discuss business rates or small tax incentives with his Treasury colleagues to allow independent booksellers to survive and be able to support their local communities?
The noble Baroness is right. Despite the encouraging news, challenges remain for independent booksellers as we emerge from the pandemic. That is why the Government have put in place one of the world’s most comprehensive economic responses worth £400 billion to protect jobs, businesses and public services throughout the pandemic. We have provided support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, business rates relief for eligible high street retailers, grants for small businesses and government-backed loans. We have also protected commercial tenants from eviction and debt enforcement because of non-payment of rent until March 2022.
My Lords, it goes without saying that the PLR should be doubled, and that will be an easy win for my noble friend. I declare an interest as I work with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. On libraries, within central government there needs to be much more co-ordination between the levelling-up department, the Department for Education and the Minister’s excellent Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. I urge my noble friend, who has a very busy diary, to meet entrepreneurial figures, such as William Sieghart, who are pioneering new ways of providing library services to ensure that libraries continue to be relevant in the 21st century.
Yes, I would be delighted to meet Mr Sieghart and anyone else who would like to make representations on behalf of libraries. Libraries are the bedrock of our communities. I am pleased to say that in the last year before the pandemic there were nearly 180 million visits to libraries. That is more than the combined number of visits to Premier League football games, the cinema and the top 10 UK tourist attractions and, of course, libraries have played such an important role in supporting people through the pandemic. I would be very happy to discuss that further.
My Lords, my noble friend reminded us that the pandemic has been particularly challenging for creative freelancers, including authors and writers. The Minister will also be aware of the challenges to his department in dealing with freelancers as a sector, given the breadth and diversity of the freelance community. What consideration have the Government given to the appointment of a freelance commissioner or the establishment of a freelance creative council to ensure that the concerns of freelancers are effectively represented and clearly understood?
The Government provided some money just before Christmas to help freelancers working across the creative industries and the cultural sectors who were affected by the omicron wave of coronavirus. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, who I saw was making sure that that message was getting out to freelancers. I would certainly be happy to discuss with freelancers and their representatives the challenges that remain as we continue to face the pandemic.
My Lords, the Minister’s warm words in support of libraries are welcome, but since 2010 more than 800 public libraries have closed and the number of qualified librarians employed by local authorities has decreased from more than 18,000 to just over 15,000. Warm words are all well and good, but what more practically can be done to support local authorities to keep libraries open and, where that fails, to support local communities themselves to keep libraries open?
I do not recognise the figure the noble Lord cites. The dataset published by Arts Council England in August last year indicated that there have been around 200 permanent closures of static libraries in England over the decade ending December 2019. New data covering the period up to the end of December last year will be published in the coming months. The statutory duty is on local authorities to deliver a comprehensive system. The Secretary of State has a role to step in and encourage a public inquiry if that duty is not being met. The Government provide not just warm words but significant taxpayer funding to local authorities to deliver that statutory obligation and additional funding through the DCMS such as the library improvement fund and through Arts Council England, as I have mentioned.
Procedure and Privileges
Motion to Agree
My Lords, I beg to move that the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper be agreed to. The most significant item covered in the Procedure and Privileges Committee’s report is our proposal to formalise a procedure for holding debates before Second Reading in Grand Committee. This change has been proposed by the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip, whose letter is annexed to our report.
We expect that the procedure will be used infrequently and for less complex and less controversial Bills to assist in business management. If a Grand Committee debate has been held before Second Reading, it would be expected that the Second Reading Motion in the Chamber will be taken formally.
The proposal is supported by the usual channels. The procedure itself will be used only following consultation with the usual channels and with the agreement of the House through a Business of the House Motion.
The other change proposed in our report, which gives rise to the second Motion in my name, is to amend Standing Order 21 on leave of absence to establish a process for refusing or terminating leave of absence where this is necessary for conduct purposes.
We made a similar recommendation in our third report in October, but, after the debate on pass-reader voting on 25 October, I withdrew my Motion to agree the report. We have now reflected further, including on the amendment tabled in October by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. We have decided to accept his amendment, and so the proposed new paragraph in Standing Order 21, as set out in the second Motion standing in my name, now says that the House “may” refuse or terminate leave of absence, not that it “shall” do so.
Finally, the report provides a further update on our thinking on the introduction of pass-reader voting. I seek no decision at this time but hope that this outline of our thinking will be of assistance to noble Lords. I beg to move.
My Lords, I put on the record a specific point and a couple of statistics relating to the debates before Second Reading in Grand Committee, to which the Minister referred. I note that this measure was proposed by the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip, and relates to government Bills. I can see the case for—and certainly do not wish to oppose—making greater use of Grand Committee. This has been a fairly consistent theme over a number of years and, by and large, successful. If we can deal with more business more effectively, while still keeping to proper scrutiny, that is all to be desired.
Under this same procedure, the Second Reading debate can take place in Grand Committee and then has to be accepted by the House in the normal way; the House can still take possession of it should it wish to do so, but the debate is in Grand Committee. My question to the Minister is this: why does this proposal apply only, as I read it, to uncontroversial government Bills? It does not apply to Private Members’ Bills. I think that it should, and I would like the Procedure Committee to look at the case for that, particularly given the frankly shocking record on Private Members’ Bills.
I have corresponded with the Senior Deputy Speaker in the past about the shockingly low record of success for Private Members’ Bills that start in the Lords. For example, in the two-year Session 2019-21, 86 Private Members’ Bills were presented in this House. None of them received Royal Assent; in other words, none got through all the stages. Very few even get as far as the Commons—of course, we have no control over that. To take it even further, in the eight years since 2014, 363 Private Members’ Bills have been first introduced in the House of Lords. Of these, three have received Royal Assent; that is three in eight years, or an average of roughly one every three years.
One way of looking at this is that almost a deception is being practised on the public. All these Bills are being introduced with virtually no chance of success. Some, of course, do not deserve success, but one or two that spring to mind deserve acclamation.
Whatever one’s views about individual Bills, as the Senior Deputy Speaker said, this procedure would apply only to non-controversial Bills; it would have a limited application. But I can think of no good reason why we should not adopt this procedure for Private Members’ Bills. It would facilitate more of them getting through, earlier in the Session—and the earlier in the Session any Bill gets dealt with, the better its chances of getting through the various stages and into the Commons, where it stands a much better chance. I ask the Procedure Committee to look into this modest proposal, and hope for a successful outcome.
My Lords, I wonder what sprang to mind when the noble Lord was thinking of Private Members’ Bills. I do not want to touch on that, beyond saying that I endorse in broad terms what he said.
However, I am a bit concerned because of the experience of the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill. First, the publicly announced time for the debate was changed on at least two, if not three, occasions, resulting in the list of speakers shrinking because people had made their arrangements and could not suddenly unscramble them. Secondly, it was very much a hybrid Bill—two Bills with almost nothing in common cobbled together. I hope that, if we are going to use this new system—and I am not opposed to it in principle—those who decide on the Bills will take a little greater care on which Bills they put to Grand Committee.
The only other point I make on this report is regarding the use of the proposed new system of voting. When we had the debate in October—my noble friend the Senior Deputy Speaker’s baptism of fire—he listened, and I want to thank him for that. I want to thank him particularly for the clause in this report which says that Tellers will be reinstated when we go to the pass-reader system. That subject is what upset many of us and it is essential—it was not a particular objection in principle to pass-readers but was rather about that. So I would like to thank my noble friend and the committee for listening to what was virtually the unanimous voice of the House. I also ask him if he can give us some idea of when he thinks there will be a proposal to move to this new system.
My Lords, I would like to endorse the point made by the noble Lord about Tellers and ask a quick factual question of the Senior Deputy Speaker about recommendations 3(c) and (i). If a Member were, although it is not expected, to move the formal Second Reading in the Chamber and wished to speak, given that paragraph (i) says that debate
“in Grand Committee should count as part of second reading,”
would a Member in fact be allowed to take part both in the short debate that might not be expected in this Chamber and also in Grand Committee?
My Lords, it is very seldom that we have an opportunity to discuss procedures in this House, and I want to raise a particular issue that arises from the three points in the report but goes wider than that.
Nearly half the Members of this House now reside either in London or nearby. It is a growing feeling among those of us who do not that they do not understand some of the difficulties that those of us who live outwith London have in relation to the business of the House, to keeping up with changes and starting times, and to keeping up with changes in the business and Motions before the House, which often, as the Government Chief Whip will confirm—and I know the problems that he has—take place at very short notice.
I wonder whether the people who live in and around London—who are able to have breakfast at home, wander in and participate, and then go home for dinner—understand some of the problems those of us who do not live in London have: that we have to find somewhere to stay, and pay for that; that we have to travel on a Monday and back on a Thursday, with all the problems that that involves, particularly during Covid. I wonder whether they understand the problems we have in relation to access to papers to be able to deal with these matters. I am raising the issue now with the very helpful chair of the Services Committee about being able to run off documents at home, which is a very expensive thing that we are expected to undertake and very difficult when we are not able just to wander in, as people who live in London can—at the weekend, even—to do these things.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats last week raised the issue of voting and got very short shrift from the Leader of the House on the problems that some noble Lords have had in participating in voting now that we have abandoned the ability to vote from home. I know that there are all sorts of arguments for and against that, but I wonder whether Members realise the problems that we have. I do not think people outside this House realise that, let alone Members living in London.
I have told this story before to some friends. I was sitting at my desk a few weeks past and the phone rang. It was one of these corporate secretaries, who said, “Could I speak to Lord Foulkes’s diary secretary?” I said, “Speaking”, because I look after that, as most of us here do. Some Members—again, particularly those who live in London—are able to carry on other activities outside this House, for example in the law, whereas Scots lawyers are not able to do that. People who live in London are able to take on other kinds of activities that people who live outside London cannot.
I hope that those Members who live in London will give this some thought. In my view—in fact a lot of my colleagues have said this, but I am the only one foolish and daft enough to raise it—a lot of people feel very strongly that we get the brush-off from the people who live in London and who find it so easy. If this House increasingly becomes a south-east of England House, its reputation as a legislature for the whole of the United Kingdom will be put into question.
My Lords, I do not want to detain the House. I just want to thank the Senior Deputy Speaker for making the amendment and to make one point about the use of the Moses Room and Grand Committee meetings. I am ashamed to say that, after probably more than 20 years in this House, I spoke in the Moses Room for the first time on the subject of the governance of this House. I was grateful that so many points were raised and I know my noble friend will be addressing them in due course.
I think it is quite ridiculous to schedule the debate on the Budget in the Moses Room. Although this House has limited influence in these matters, the Budget is a central part of the Government’s programme and this House is meant to give advice. So I hope we will not see important debates on committees or on the Budget being shunted next door, where I think they have limited exposure.
My Lords, will the Senior Deputy Speaker consider the very appropriate plea from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, for the greater use of the Grand Committee Room for Private Members’ Bills? I was extremely fortunate to have a private Member’s slot very high up on the ballot last year, but of course, because of the Covid constraints on the timetable, no Private Members’ Bills were taken. These Bills have been used as an extremely successful mechanism in the other place when the Government have wanted to see a minor change to the law and have used a Private Member’s Bill for that purpose.
I support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, about those of us who have our main home outside London.
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. Some have perhaps used the opportunity to go a little wide of the report, but that is no matter because, in a sense, I would say very strongly, it provides an opportunity for ensuring that this House is contented and harmonious and works successfully.
The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, raised the point about the use of the Moses Room. There is actually nothing in the report that says that this applies only to government Bills; as I have said, it is clearly a matter for the usual channels and the House to agree. From that point of view, there is nothing in the report that says it is just for government Bills. As we know, all Private Members’ Bills go through journeys that involve the other place as well, and many Bills that have gone from this House have not being successful in their journey through the other place—but the points are noted.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, raised a point about time changes. I am afraid I did not know about them but, from my work with the usual channels and the Government Chief Whip, I do know that every attention is given to making these matters straightforward. If times were changed, I am sure that that was not with intent but from necessity. What is clearly important in what the committee sought to ensure in the choice of Bills, following the letter of the Leader and the Government Chief Whip, is that they should be less complex and controversial, and should have the agreement of the usual channels. So I think it is understood, in this proposal, that great care will be taken on that.
On Tellers, it was clear from what was—yes—my baptism of fire, that the House feels strongly about the probity and importance of Divisions when we are in the right position. We are meeting as a committee on 17 January, but I think it is fair to say that, in the current circumstances, we should not be returning to the Lobbies. However, we will obviously need preparatory work and consideration on these matters.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, mentioned being outside London. In another life, I spent quite a lot of time supporting rural interests and interests beyond the metropolitan mindset—some people may say metropolitan “elite”. It is desperately important that this House is drawn from across the United Kingdom. That is one reason why the start time on a Monday has always been designed to enable Peers from all parts of the kingdom to assemble here. The point is that this is an assembly; it is where we gather and where we all have the privilege of being able to have this discourse. As I live in Suffolk—not as far away as the noble Lord—I have intense sympathy with him on the interests of Peers making their contribution while living outside London and its environs.
The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, raised the use of the Moses Room. Again, it is clearly important that this is used in a proportionate manner. I am very conscious of that in the context of scheduling business, as I know is the Government Chief Whip, particularly in these times when many noble Lords want to make a contribution.
The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, also raised Private Members’ Bills. I have taken all these points on board but, so far as the committee’s fifth report is concerned, I commend it to the House.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he threw me slightly by saying that this applies to Private Members’ Bills as well. Having reread the letter from the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip, I think I can be forgiven for not seeing that. The Senior Deputy Speaker is quite right that they do not specifically mention government Bills, but one could reasonably assume, in a letter from the Government Chief Whip and the Leader of the House, that in the front of their mind are government Bills. So if, as he says, from now on people presenting Private Members’ Bills, who normally have to negotiate with the Government Chief Whip about a suitable Friday when a Second Reading can be held—it is often a very long wait—will have this new procedure whereby the Second Reading can be held in the Moses Room, that should be clearly explained as an option to everyone who is successful in the ballot for Private Members’ Bills, and indeed to people who present Bills that are not necessarily in the top 20, or whatever it is. What he is suggesting is a new procedure to most Members and I urge the Procedure Committee to ensure that Members are fully aware of that option when they are successful in the ballot on Private Members’ Bills.
I must reply by making it very clear that this procedure is for less complex and non-controversial pieces of legislation. That is why there is this safety valve for all of that.
I owe the noble Viscount an extreme apology: I was going through my list and omitted my answer—which is yes—because it was so short. The said Peer is able to participate in both.
Standing Orders (Public Business)
Motion to Approve
That the standing orders relating to public business be amended as follows:
Standing Order 21 (Leave of Absence)
After paragraph (7) insert the following new paragraph:
“(7A) The House may refuse or end leave of absence on the application of the Commissioner for Standards or the Conduct Committee, where this is necessary either to enable the Commissioner to conduct an investigation under the Code of Conduct, or to enable the Conduct Committee to impose or recommend the imposition of a sanction on a member of the House.”
Charities Bill [HL]
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Charities Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, the Charities Bill requires no legislative consent Motions. In relation to Wales, charity law is reserved to Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom. In relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland, charity law is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Clause 41 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill. The Bill extends to England and Wales only, subject to certain exceptions. Those exceptions are Clause 24, Schedule 1 and paragraphs 12 and 46 of Schedule 2, which have a different application than the general application of the Bill set out in Clause 41(1). These differences are explained in the Bill and in the Explanatory Notes. Given the limited scope of the applicability of these parts of the Bill, no legislative consent Motions are required. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.
My Lords, in moving that the Bill do now pass, I want to take the opportunity to express some thanks, first to my noble friend Lady Barran, who so ably guided the Bill through its Second Reading and the beginning of the committee’s evidence sessions. Her dedication to and personal experience in the charity sector is evident, and I know that she was pleased to be the Minister to set this Bill on its way. I am grateful also to all Members of your Lordships’ House who have spoken on it. I draw attention especially to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, who chaired the Special Public Bill Committee which examined the Bill, and to the members of that committee, my noble friends Lord Bellingham, Lord Cruddas, Lady Fullbrook and Lord Sharpe of Epsom, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Goudie. I also pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who inspired the Law Commission to take on this project in the first place. He has, as ever, eloquently and doggedly conveyed his expertise and experience in these debates. Although I am afraid that we did not agree on absolutely everything, I certainly appreciated the way in which he prosecuted his case and am grateful for his invaluable perspective on the Bill.
I thank all those behind the scenes, the staff in your Lordships’ House and colleagues from the Law Commission, the Charity Commission, Parliamentary Counsel and DCMS, for their work.
The passage of this Bill has demonstrated the passion and expertise of your Lordships’ House and its Members in relation to charities. It will make a great a difference to a number of charities, and I hope to see it on the statute book very soon.
This Bill will be warmly welcomed by the charity sector. As chair of the Special Public Bill Committee, I thank the Minister and, as he said, his predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, for their membership of the committee and their engagement with it. I join the Minister in thanking the members of the committee, who had to consider some really quite difficult technical evidence, as well as those who gave written and oral evidence. Professor Hopkins and Daniel Robinson of the Law Commission were extremely helpful. Finally, and certainly not least, I know the committee would want me to thank expressly Alasdair Love, the clerk to the committee, who so ably supported us in so many ways.
My Lords, my noble friend was kind enough to mention my involvement. This is an excellent piece of legislation which will be of great benefit to the charity sector. Obviously, I regret that I was unable to persuade the Government of the importance of my amendment, but that particular recalcitrant attitude should not disguise the fact that my noble friend was extremely courteous and helpful in explaining the Government’s position. I am grateful to him for that, and I wish the Bill a speedy passage into law.
My Lords, I wish to add my name to the sentiments that have already been expressed. I particularly thank the many people, in different roles, who came together to bring this piece of legislation to our attention, after such a long time and a lot of work. This House prides itself on its detailed scrutiny of Bills, and this is the place in which a Bill such as this should have been given the attention that we gave it.
I regret that we did not manage to agree on the subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hodson of Astley Abbotts, which remains an outstanding piece of technical law and a very important point of charity law. It will have an impact on the Charity Commission, as the regulator of charities, to do its job. I do not imagine that that issue will come before Parliament for a very long time, but I hope that those who have followed our proceedings will not let it go.
Secondly, one other very small issue was drawn to our attention by one of our witnesses during our session: the operation by the Crown law officers and the Attorney-General of an alternative cy-près scheme. Legislation does not come much more obscure than that, but this is an issue that, on this occasion, we could not probe fully. I hope that that will happen when this goes to another place and, more importantly, that when the practitioners and people in the charity sector come to reflect on our work, as they will do in years to come, they will regard those two points as unfinished business. But, in the meantime, I thank everyone, including the Minister, for his patience with all of us—we lobbed some very difficult questions at him.
My Lords, I echo the sentiments that have been expressed across the House. I particularly thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, for chairing us so ably. I think that I am right in saying that all of us who participated in Committee had never done so for a Law Commission Bill before, so it was a learning experience for all of us. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, is undoubtedly an expert—some would say a leading expert—in this field, and the whole House has benefited from his expertise.
From the experience of my wife, who works in the charitable sector, I know just how lengthy and wide the consultation has been on this Bill over many years. While there are some loose ends, as expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, this is nevertheless a piece of legislation that the whole House can be proud of. I hope that the impact of the Bill will remain in place for many years to come.
I am grateful to all the noble Lords for their comments. As the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, said, charity law can be very complex—not just for legislators but for the charities and organisations that it affects, especially those that do not regularly have access to legal advice. There is a duty on legislators to make the law as accessible as possible, while probing the issues that we have. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, that the expert advisers who gave evidence to the committee have helped us to do that and that the Bill has been improved because of the work of the committee and your Lordships’ House.
The Bill leaves this House in very good shape. As I say, it will make a big difference to those who run charities and the many great causes that they support. So, with renewed thanks to all involved and repeating the noble and learned Lord’s thanks to the clerk of the Special Public Bill Committee, Alasdair Love, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.
Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill
Schedule 1: The Advanced Research and Invention Agency
1: Schedule 1, page 7, line 40, leave out from beginning to “not” and insert “Sub-paragraph (1) does”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment removes a reference to a paragraph that was removed at Report.
My Lords, Amendment 1 is minor and technical and is consequential to the amendment made on Report in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes.
My noble friend’s amendment removed the power for the Secretary of State to determine a pension or gratuity for non-executive members. This government amendment is needed to remove a reference to that power, which no longer exists, in paragraph 7(4) of Schedule 1. This paragraph disapplies the power for the Secretary of State to determine a pension or gratuity for the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, who will sit as a non-executive member on ARIA’s board ex officio. The power is of course not relevant in this case due to the Chief Scientific Adviser’s existing employment and pension entitlement as a civil servant. As the original power no longer exists, I am sure that noble Lords will agree that this reference needs to be removed to tidy up the Bill before it returns to the Commons for consideration of the amendments made in this House.
My Lords, is it in order to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, on her success in moving her amendment in Committee? I watched as it went through and I thought how pleasing it must be for anyone to get an amendment accepted by the Government.
Amendment 1 agreed.
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to thank all those who have supported the progress of this Bill. I first thank my Whip, my noble friend Lady Bloomfield, who is currently demonstrating just how good she is at multi-tasking because she is in Grand Committee supervising another piece of legislation going through. It is always a joy to work alongside her with her support, capability and good humour.
As we have debated this Bill, I am of course grateful to have witnessed the shared ambition across the House for our nation to cement its role as a science superpower and for recognition of the important role that additional funding for high-risk research can play within that, through the ARIA model. While this is a relatively short Bill, the debate has none the less been thorough, as is right and proper in this House—from the role of ARIA in the R&D landscape to the definition of gratuities. It has demonstrated once again the important function of this House.
To that end, I join the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, in thanking my noble friend Lady Noakes for her efforts in sharpening the governance arrangements set out in the Bill, and my other noble friends Lord Willetts, Lord Lansley and Lady Neville-Rolfe, among others, for contributing their considerable experience.
I thank, on the part of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, for her constructive challenge on many parts of the Bill. I think we worked well together, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on future Bills. I also pay tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, and members of the Science and Technology Committee for their very thoughtful contributions. I particularly welcome the thoughtful debate we have had on, for instance, intellectual property and the importance of retaining its benefits. I thank all noble Lords who spoke on these important issues. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, especially, will closely follow the words of the Science Minister as the Bill returns to the other place.
It would be remiss of me not to also thank, once again, the excellent team of officials who have been behind me on this Bill. As always, I am just the front guy, as it were. Their support has been invaluable and a tribute once again to the finest traditions of the Civil Service. I particularly single out my private secretary, Hannah Cowie, for her support; the Bill manager, Andrew Crawford, and his deputy, Salisa Kaur; and Katie Reardon, Alex Prior, Robert Magowan and Charles Norris for their work over the last 18 months—a considerable time—to take this Bill forward and, hopefully in the near future, get it on the statute book. I also thank the broader ARIA team and colleagues across government who are undertaking the programme of work to make it a brilliant and realistic success.
Finally, let me recognise the exemplary work of the parliamentary counsel in both drafting this Bill and supporting its progress at so many points during its passage so far, and, of course, the House authorities, parliamentary staff, clerks and doorkeepers. As I mentioned, this is a relatively short Bill, but I really do believe its potential impact is profound. I know I am not alone in this House in looking forward in anticipation to all that will come out of ARIA and the benefits it will create for the research community, businesses and the everyday lives of people across this country.
My Lords, first I should apologise for not being here to participate in the Report stage of this Bill. My disappointment was alleviated by the knowledge that my colleague and noble friend Lord Clement-Jones would more than compensate for my absence. I thank him for that and for his assistance throughout consideration of the Bill, and my noble friends Lady Randerson and Lord Oates for their work. I also thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, and the departmental team that has seen this Bill through; and the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, the Labour Party and their team for working with us and the Cross-Benchers in a collegiate way. This was an example of good scrutiny coming to the fore. Finally, a big thank you to Sarah Pughe in our office for her support.
We still do not really know what ARIA is. Until it is decided who is leading ARIA, we will not know what its purpose is or how it will interact with the rest of the research environment. During the debate the Minister undertook to keep us informed—while enshrining secrecy in the Bill, of course, at the same time. So, I hope he will be able to keep us well informed as this effort unfolds —indeed, perhaps in advance of things happening. Without wishing to rain on the parade, we should keep a sense of proportion about what this is. This primary legislation has put in place a research effort worth about £200 million to 300 million per year. Meanwhile, the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe has more or less evaporated. During the debate, there were many discussions about the effectiveness of UKRI. In accepting this Bill and moving forward with ARIA, we would be grateful if the Minister also addressed these two elephants in the room: the continued participation of the United Kingdom in Horizon Europe and making sure that UKRI is as effective as it really can be, in order to make a big difference to the research effort in this country.
My Lords, we are pleased to see ARIA move to its next stage and we look forward to the inventions and innovations that will come from it. I was particularly pleased to see the amendment from my noble friend Lord Browne, which will secure the intellectual property that comes about as a result of investment by taxpayers via ARIA. I hope that Ministers in the other place see the benefit of it and feel able to support it. We will, of course, be listening very carefully to what is said about that.
As the Minister well knows, we are concerned by the rejection of the amendments on transparency and accountability. As the noble Lord, Lord Fox, rightly reminded us, the research environment has changed dramatically since our departure from the EU, and we would encourage Ministers to resolve their outstanding differences and make sure that Horizon participation is secured for the future.
However, for today, I would just like to thank the Minister and his team. He is correct in what he said about the nature of the discussions we had. This is my first Bill in this place and I have learned an awful lot and made some new friends, I think, through the process of the Bill, particularly my noble friend Lord Stansgate, and the noble Lords, Lord Morse, Lord Ravensdale, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones—I have already mentioned my noble friend Lord Browne. I also thank the officers of the House and all other noble Lords who contributed. I should put on record, too, my thanks to Dan Stevens, our political and legislative adviser, who has been enormously helpful to me, as a new Member, in being prepared for the process of seeing through a Bill in this place. I thank all noble Lords who contributed.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Report (4th Day)
Relevant documents: 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th Reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 6th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee, and 6th, 13th and 15th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 140: Secure 16 to 19 Academies
90A: Clause 140, page 130, line 22, at end insert—
“(8) A local authority may establish and maintain a secure 16 to 19 Academy.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would enable local authorities to run secure 16 to 19 Academies, either alone or in consortia.
My Lords, the purpose of Amendment 90A in my name is to put beyond any doubt that an application to run a secure school by a local authority or local authorities, either working as an entity or acting in a consortium with others, will be treated on its merit, on the quality of the provision it proposes and can provide. In other words, there will be a level playing field for applications of this kind as for those from other, non-local government bodies. This amendment brings local authorities into the tent. It simply allows them to compete alongside other non-local authority organisations in order that the best provision will prevail, from whichever quarter it comes.
Since the debate on this matter, there have been discussions between the Minister, myself and other noble Lords from around the House and it is now clear that there is a legal route open to local authorities to make a bid for running a secure academy, but such a bid would run counter to the Government’s policy. I will return to this matter shortly, as it is fundamental to the rationale for this amendment.
I want to make it absolutely clear that we on these Benches support the proposal to create secure schools and academies. Youth custody, by its very nature, means that those within them are the most vulnerable and challenging young people. That is why Charlie Taylor, in his review, proposed secure schools as a major way of dealing with the problems of the youth custody system. It is worth remembering two points from his 2016 report. First:
“Children who are incarcerated must receive the highest quality education from outstanding professionals to repair the damage caused by a lack of engagement and patchy attendance.”
“Rather than seeking to import education into youth prisons, schools must be created for detained children which bring together other essential services, and in which are then overlaid the necessary security arrangements.”
These two points reinforce the need for the highest quality provision possible.
Further to that second point in the Taylor point report, the absolute importance of integration was emphasised, not only of education but of a wide variety of services within the work of these schools—health, social care and services providing reintegration following custody are required within the school and not external to it. These are services that local authorities currently provide. Following the logic of local authority statutory provisions, particularly those of the duty of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their children and the need for a new form of integration, there is much that local authorities can offer.
What is clear is that the skills and abilities of the heads and staff of these secure schools are fundamental. They need the best, and only the best will do. That is why this amendment is so important, because it ensures that local authorities are not excluded from providing secure schools, simply because of their nomenclature as academies.
The letter from the noble Lord the Minister to my noble friend Lord Marks makes two fundamental points: first,
“it would be legally possible for a local authority to set up an entity capable of entering into academy arrangements”
with the Government; but, secondly,
“it is the policy of the Government that … no academy in England is operated by a local authority.”
The key issue here, then, is the use of the words “secure academy” rather than “secure school”. It is not a matter of who would be the best provider offering the very best and highest quality of education and integrated services outlined in the Taylor review and accepted by government. It is worth recalling that, when the Taylor review was published, the Government in a Ministerial Statement two days before the publication—which is quite interesting—referred to the setting up of two secure schools, one in the north and one in the south, and used the words “secure schools”. It is only in recent months that the word “academy” has moved into the nomenclature used for what was initially designed to be secure schools and was recognised by the Government as being secure schools.
Local authorities certainly have expertise in the provision required, but this amendment does not seek to favour them. It simply says that if they can produce the best provision needed, they should do the job. In doing so, they would have to follow all the frameworks set out by government, for example, on the devolution of decision making to the head, staff and governors. There would be no difference in the tender requirements, but these secure academies require the very best. To exclude a group of well-placed potential providers is a mistake.
As the noble Lord the Minister says in his letter to my noble friend Lord Marks, it is not a matter of the law but of the Government’s policy. That is why this amendment puts the matter beyond doubt. I and, I am sure, all noble Lords here will want the very best provision, from wherever it comes. I am not arguing that local authorities should win these bids, merely that they are given the chance to try. This legislation should provide the certainty that those who may be able to provide the best will not be left out. That is why I believe this amendment is important to put beyond doubt that all will be available and everyone can make a bid to run these services. I beg to move.
My Lords, I start by reminding the House that I sit as a magistrate in youth and family courts and, as such, send youths to secure accommodation for welfare reasons and as a result of offences they may have been convicted of in the youth court. To make it clear, the Labour Party supports Amendment 90A, which the noble Lord, Lord German, has just spoken to. My Amendments 90B to 90F look at a different aspect of secure accommodation.
The amendments in my name seek to address national shortage in secure accommodation by placing a duty on local authorities to assess the local need and create a strategy to deal with that need. In Committee, Peers from across the House highlighted the significant lack of secure beds in certain areas that leaves children being dispersed across the country, sent to unsuitable establishments or unnecessarily remanded in custody. The Government responded by saying that they are taking steps to support local authorities to maintain existing capacity and to expand welfare provision in secure children’s homes.
There are currently no secure children’s homes in London, with London children being placed in justice and welfare placements in secure accommodation an average 124 miles from home. This is disruptive for the children, their families and the services supporting them. There are other significant geographical gaps across the country. Currently there are only 15 secure children’s homes in England and Wales. This amendment places a statutory duty—a requirement—on relevant local authorities to address this issue.
Following the Government’s response to the amendment in Committee, the Mayor of London’s office stated that the reality of the £259 million referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, is that it will take some time to translate this into available secure beds. This is especially true given that there is no indication of how that funding will be apportioned across the country to address the geographical gaps to which I have referred. There is also no commitment to ensuring that both welfare and justice placements are provided for within this funding. This is also a gap in the answer given by the noble Lord. Therefore, the additional funding does not remove the need for relevant local authorities to assess the need for secure accommodation and to develop a strategy for any shortfall.
In conclusion, I will repeat a statement given by Lord Justice Baker. This is the ruling on an appeal brought in July 2021 by Just for Kids Law against Waltham Forest Borough Council which successfully argued that the failure by local authorities in London to provide appropriate alternative accommodation for children was unlawful. He said:
“The absence of sufficient resources in such cases means that local authorities are frequently prevented from complying with their statutory obligations to meet the welfare needs of a cohort of vulnerable young people who are at the greatest risk of harm. The provision of such resources is, of course, expensive but the long-term costs of failing to make provision are invariably much greater. This is a problem which needs urgent attention by those responsible for the provision of resources in this area.”
If the noble Lord, Lord German, chooses to put his amendment to a vote, we shall support it. Nevertheless, I have raised other issues which I hope the Minister will respond to in his reply to this group of amendments.
My Lords, the aim of this exercise is to ensure that children who enter custody leave it better educated, better able to become part of normal working society and better able to function in a family environment. When Charlie Taylor produced his advice, which has already been mentioned, on the education of children in custody, his aims were exactly those: to ensure that the quality of education in custodial institutions, which currently is extremely variable, from the excellent to the terrible, should reach a good standard, comparable with that provided by decent schools around the country.
There is an issue about numbers. I would not like it to be taken that every local authority will be required to provide an educational provision for those children who come from that local authority. I know that is not what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, with all his knowledge of this issue, is aiming at. There are well under 1,000 children in custody—significantly fewer than there used to be—which, after all, is the roll of a typical London comprehensive school as we speak. It would not be in the public interest to have a large number of academies for children in custody around the country because it would not be possible to supply the quality of education. However, as Charlie Taylor emphasised, we need the balance between having good schools or academies—whatever one calls them—for children in custody and local authority provision of the kind envisioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, which ensures that they are kept in touch with their communities and their families and where they will probably go back to live after they leave custody.
It seems to me that, if all that is right, it is beyond argument that local authorities should be able to participate in this process without hindrance and establish educational institutions for those in custody, and that there should be as few obstacles in their way as possible. Once that is achieved, they will have to compete with everyone else who is in the area—that is perfectly sensible—but it would be wrong, for policy reasons that are, in my view, poorly conceived, to obstruct a legitimate role for local authorities.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. As some noble Lords will know, I spoke on issues relevant to this amendment at an earlier stage of the Bill.
In quoting the Taylor review, the noble Lord, Lord German, made the case for his Amendment 90A. It would be singularly inappropriate—I think this was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—to debar all local authorities from setting up appropriate provision simply because of the use of the word “academy”. This is wrapped up with other aspects of educational policy. If the local authority is capable of providing what would manifestly be the best institution and provision for this group of young people, who need absolutely the best quality of education that can be afforded to them, it should do so. I take the view that the provision in Amendment 90A should categorically be in the Bill to ensure that we do not debar any local authority from engaging in the process to set up an institution. As has already been said, this does not require that local authorities should do it but it does not debar them; debarring them would be unreasonable.
My Lords, this group of amendments covers Part 9 of the Bill. I will cover the group in two parts, if I may.
Amendment 90A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord German, would allow local authorities to establish and maintain secure academies either alone or in consortia. The noble Lord kindly mentioned the sustained engagement that he has had with me and others on this matter; in turn, I acknowledge my gratitude to him for his time and commitment. As he mentioned, I wrote to him and the noble Lord, Lord Marks, outlining that, in our view, it would be legally possible for a local authority to set up an entity capable of entering into academy arrangements directly with the Secretary of State, and that this is not prevented by the Academies Act. Therefore, as I set out in that letter, there is no legal bar to what the noble Lord wants to happen. I understand that, as he said, he wants to put the matter “beyond any doubt”, but I have explained in writing that there is no legal doubt on this point at all; indeed, I think I heard him accept this afternoon that it is “clear” there is no legal bar. I therefore say to him and the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, that there is no issue of being debarred here. I suggest that the amendment is therefore unnecessary.
I accept that the Government’s policy remains that academy trusts are not local authority-influenced companies and that our position on secure schools is to mirror academies’ procedures. However, I can confirm that, when considering the market of providers of future secure schools, my department will assess in detail the potential role of local authorities in running this new form of provision. We of course recognise, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, noted, that local authorities have a long-established role in children’s social care and the provision of secure accommodation for children and young people. In particular, the secure children’s homes legal framework may present a more straightforward route than the 16-19 academies framework for the expansion of local authority involvement in the provision of secure accommodation. However, I reiterate that there is no legal bar here. I therefore suggest that the amendment must necessarily be unnecessary.
I now turn to Amendments 90B to 90F, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Local authorities have a duty, under the Children Act 1989, to ensure sufficient, appropriate accommodation for all the children they look after and to ensure sufficient children’s homes for other children whose welfare requires it, whether or not they are looked-after children. I recognise that some local authorities have sometimes found it difficult to access the most appropriate accommodation, particularly for children with the most complex needs. It is right to say, both from the judgment of Lord Justice Baker, which was mentioned, and indeed from other judgments, that some of these children have extremely challenging and very complex needs. It is also the case that, sometimes, children are placed in locations away from home when they may be better served by a placement in their local area if one were available. We are looking carefully at that, not only in my department but in others as well.
We are taking significant steps to support local authorities to fulfil their statutory duty. We have started a programme of work this year to support local authorities to maintain existing capacity and to expand provision in secure children’s homes to ensure that children can live closer to home and in provision that best meets their needs. In the spending review we announced £259 million to continue this programme to maintain and expand capacity in both secure and open residential children’s homes. We acknowledge, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said, that it may take—I will use the same phrase—some time to see all the benefits of that capital investment, particularly when you are talking about new builds, but it is the case that the capital programme will also result in increased capacity in the secure children’s home estate in the shorter term as we seek to create more beds through investment in a range of projects, including extensions of current buildings, refurbishments and rebuilds. I know that in the judgment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Justice Baker used the phrase “urgent attention”, and that is what we are giving this problem.
Ofsted has also taken steps to support local authorities in this area. It has an amended process to make it easier for local authorities or other providers to apply for registration of children’s homes in emergency situations. It is also now easier to open and run a single-bed children’s home, which can be one of the most commonly needed types of accommodation when the child has very complex needs. It can be almost impossible, sometimes, to have more than one child in that location. Ofsted has now published guidance on these changes, and I hope that will help as well.
Before I sit down, I should also remind the House of two other relevant pieces of work ongoing in this area. First, the independent review of children’s social care, which commenced in March last year, is looking at this whole area in a fundamental way. Secondly, also in March last year, the Competition and Markets Authority launched a market study examining the lack of availability and increasing costs in children’s social care provision, including children’s homes and fostering. It has proposed a number of changes, of which I will not go into detail now, but they are important. We will look at the full reports when they come out. I expect both of those pieces of work to be serious and substantial reports.
I recognise the aims of all noble Lords who have supported these amendments; we all share the same aims here, but I suggest that we have existing statutory requirements and significant, wide-ranging and independent reviews under way, looking at the whole care system, alongside that CMA market study. For those reasons, I hope the noble Lord, Lord German, will withdraw his amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, will not press his. I urge them to do so.
My Lords, I am deeply grateful to all who have contributed and to the Minister, who has not been able to go beyond the text of the letter that he sent to my noble friend Lord Marks. Although I understand that, it just reinforces the position that I outlined at the beginning.
To reiterate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, we are seeking the best, and to not leave out a potential bidder who could be one of the best is all that this amendment is about. It is simply to make sure beyond doubt. We understand that there is a legal route through this. I did not read out the exact words that the Minister repeated, but there is a route through—although he does say that it would place burdens on local authorities. Interestingly, and moreover, he said earlier that it also conflicts with the policy of academies.
The one thing the Minister did say, both in replying and in his letter, was that they will keep this issue under review. The problem with keeping something under review is that the process will already have started, and keeping it under review does not mean that there will necessarily be any changes or any scrutiny in this House.
The noble Lord said that there are two routes: the academy route, which local authorities will be excluded from, and secure family accommodation, which they want to encourage local government to do. Charlie Taylor’s review and report seek integration, not silos. It would be sensible to make sure that, at this point, there is absolutely no doubt. For the simple reason that we have to be able to search for the best and get the best, this amendment should be part of the Bill and not part of some future discussion—which may or may not produce a sensible outcome, as far as I am concerned. I am therefore minded to seek the view of the House on this matter.
Amendments 90B to 90F not moved.
Clause 141: Serious violence reduction orders
90G: Clause 141, page 131, line 27, leave out “on the balance of probabilities” and insert “beyond reasonable doubt”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would raise the threshold for the standard of proof required to impose an SVRO, from a civil standard (the balance of probabilities) to the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt).
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 90G in my name, and to speak to some of the other amendments in the group—but, with the leave of the House, I shall not speak to all 23 of them. We now come to what the Government optimistically call “serious violence reduction orders”. These would allow the police to stop and search people without any suspicion that those targeted have anything on them that they should not legally have in their possession.
This is yet another form of stop and search without suspicion, which is notorious for three things. First, understandably, it is notoriously ineffective, even compared with stop and search based on suspicion. Secondly, it is, notoriously, disproportionately focused on black people, even compared with stop and search based on suspicion; and, as a consequence, it is notorious for the damage it causes to the relationship between the police and the communities they are supposed to help.
The Minister cited in Committee the fact that young black people are 24 times more likely to be victims of homicide than young white people. That is exactly why the police need to work together with those communities to build trust and confidence, and to demonstrate that they are on their side, and not using powers disproportionately against them, as these new powers, by the Government’s own admission, will continue to do.
It is not just me saying that disproportionate use of powers against certain communities—the very communities that need to work together with the police to tackle knife crime—is “undermining police legitimacy”. Those are the words of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. Serious violence reduction orders are likely to make serious violence worse, as they further alienate the very communities that the police need to co-operate with them to identify the perpetrators.
I was a sergeant in Brixton at the time of the Brixton riots in 1981; I was a chief inspector in Brixton 10 years later; and I was then the police commander in charge of Brixton 20 years later in 2001. In my professional judgment, serious violence reduction orders—in fact, any form of suspicionless stop and search—are counterproductive. That is why Amendment 101 would repeal Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Only one in 100 Section 60 searches results in a weapon being found, and black people are 18 times more likely to be targeted by the police than white people—compared with nine times in the case of stop and search, where the police must justify their decision. I remind the House of what I said in Committee: Section 60 is not used at all in Northern Ireland for fear of the damage it would cause to police-community relations. It should not be used anywhere in the UK and should be repealed.
Amendments 90G and 90M follow the well-worn path that we on these Benches have consistently trodden, and where previous Governments have agreed with us. They realise the injustice, as we do, of allowing the breach of an order made on the balance of probabilities to be a criminal offence. When it was realised that ASBOs—the first of this kind of civil order with criminal sanctions—led to large numbers of people being criminalised, the then-Government changed course and replaced them with wholly civil orders and sanctions. The Minister in Committee cynically cited precedent for this approach, but it is an approach that we on these Benches have opposed every single time it has been proposed. Amendment 91C would also apply the higher standard of proof—beyond reasonable doubt—to renewals of SVROs. Amendment 90H, which I have signed, would disallow an SVRO being applied on the grounds that someone simply had a knife on them when an offence was committed.
The Minister’s quite extraordinary letter of 6 January tragically fails to answer my criticism, made in Committee, that someone who was carrying a knife lawfully and who did not use the knife in the commission of any offence could still be made the subject of an SVRO. The letter says:
“Whilst you are correct … this could include… where a person is caught unlawfully carrying a bladed article or offensive weapon.”
If they are caught unlawfully in possession of a bladed article or offensive weapon, they can be charged with that offence and then be made subject to an SVRO. Referring to the examples I gave—of a chef, an electrician or a Sikh in lawful possession of a knife—the letter goes on:
“In the examples outlined in the debate it would be difficult to see how a court might consider that an SVRO is necessary to protect the public.”
Is the Minster not aware of the Metropolitan Police gang matrix, where even innocent bystanders at a shooting were characterised as gang members? Any evidence, whether normally admissible in a criminal court or not—hearsay, gossip or rumour—can be given in support of an SVRO.
As the Minister has recently admitted, public trust in the police has been seriously undermined and distrust is even worse among the communities most seriously affected by knife crime. Allowing the police free rein to say whatever they want in support of an SVRO will make a rapidly deteriorating crisis of confidence in the police service even worse. Hence, Amendments 90N, 90P and 90Q would restore the standard of evidence used in the granting of SVROs to that which would have been admissible in the proceedings for the substantive offence. We also strongly support Amendments 90J, 90K and 90L but I will leave others to speak to them.
We have tabled Amendment 91A for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames gave in Committee. There needs to be a reasonable excuse defence for wrongly telling a police officer that they were not subject to an SVRO—something that the police officer could immediately check in any event. Amendment 91B removes the new offence of obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty in relation to SVROs as this is already covered by existing legislation. Amendment 91D limits the renewal of SVROs to a maximum of four years, allowing those subject to them to move on with their lives rather than being targeted and harassed by the police indefinitely, even if they commit no further offences.
Amendments 95A and 95B, to which I have added my name, would prevent SVROs being introduced beyond the pilot phase until a report on the pilot had been laid before Parliament and both Houses had agreed to its rollout. We need to be sure that these orders will not be counterproductive. Amendment 95C would strengthen the pilot; I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, will explain this further.
If the Government insist on proceeding with this dreadful measure, they should at least limit the damage until they are sure that it will not make matters worse. We support all the amendments in this group.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 90H and 90J, as well as 95A, 95B and 95C, but, before going into the arguments for those amendments, I express my strong support for Amendments 90G and, indeed, all the amendments in this group. I have such considerable concerns about the detrimental impact of these serious violence reduction orders that I believe that any way in which we can limit their detrimental consequence should be supported.
I begin by addressing why I hope the Government will make adjustments to the Bill in view of those considerable concerns—expressed not just by those of us in this House but by many organisations in the community, including Amnesty International—about the severe consequences of SVROs for so many innocent young people and the need to restrict these provisions appropriately.
As Ministers know, SVROs would expand stop and search powers to enable the police to stop and search someone whenever they are in a public place, without any suspicion of current wrongdoing, simply on the basis of a past conviction that may or may not be a knife offence. The purpose of Amendments 90H and 90J is to put right this apparently unintended wrong.
The Minister repeatedly stated in Committee that
“at the point at which … someone is issued with an SVRO, they will have been convicted by the court of a knife or offensive weapon offence”.—[Official Report, 17/11/21; cols. 310-311.]
However, the legislation as it stands makes it clear that an SVRO can be issued to individuals who have not been convicted of a knife or offensive weapon offence. New Clause 324A(3) clearly allows for an SVRO to be issued if the offender had
“a bladed article or offensive weapon with them”
or, under subsection (4)—this is in many ways much worse—if the offender
“knew or ought to have known”
that someone else had a knife. This could include someone convicted of shoplifting who happened to have a penknife in their pocket. It could also—this is really important, and I hope that the Minister will respond—include people in abusive and coercive relationships, who may have known or, according to the Bill, should have known that their abuser had a knife.
Will the Minister say whether she believes that individuals involved in these ways should be regarded as having committed a knife crime and therefore liable to have an SVRO imposed? I feel quite certain—because I know the Minister and know that she has great integrity—that she will not want these people to find themselves caught up with an SVRO.
There are many reasons to amend the Bill as proposed in Amendments 90H and 90J. First, as Agenda has said, the proposed terms of an SVRO render invisible the impact of coercion in relationships experienced by many young women drawn into the criminal justice system or at risk of criminal exploitation. Ministers need to take account of a study by Metropolitan University and JENGbA which examined 109 joint enterprise cases involving women and girls, the majority of whom had convictions for serious violent offences. The study found that none of the women involved had used a deadly weapon and in 90% of cases they did not engage in violence at all. In half the cases, the women were not even present at the scene. Perhaps the Minister can comment on this study and its implications for Amendments 90H and 90J. We are simply asking the Government to adjust the Bill to bring it into line with the Conservative Party manifesto, which makes clear the aim to make
“it easier for officers to stop and search those convicted of knife crime.”
The removal of new Clause 342A (3)(b) and (4) would achieve this alignment, and I hope the Government may be willing to do that. As Minister knows, the College of Policing has expressed its concerns that the use of stop and search without an intelligence-led approach is unlikely to reduce crime.
In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that SVROs will be effective in reducing knife crime. This point brings me on to the other amendments I have tabled in this group—Amendments 95A, 95B and 95C— which focus on the need for the pilot of SVROs to be comprehensive and meaningful. Amendments 95A and 95B require a vote by both Houses. It is crucial to have this democratic control before these SVROs are introduced. This must happen under these amendments before SVROs can be commenced.
Amendment 95C strengthens the pilot to ensure that key issues are examined. A key reason why these amendments are vital is the experience of a pilot into the relaxation of the best use of stop and search safeguards. The rollout of these changes was announced by the May Government prior to the publication of the evidence arising from the pilot. The Government were forced into a U-turn by a legal action, but they have continued to refuse to publish the evidence on the grounds that they need a safe place in which to discuss changes. Are we going to be up against this sort of argument in this context? Amendments 95A and 95B would ensure publication of the evidence and parliamentary scrutiny before SVROs could be rolled out.
We know that the proposed new measures pose significant human rights impacts, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out. Black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. They do not commit these crimes 18 times more than white people. Also, only 4% of stops find a weapon. The pilot will need to show that SVROs meet their stated aims of breaking the cycle of offending and protecting our communities from harm. The pilot also needs to analyse the effect upon others who will be severely affected by SVROs as the Bill stands—for example, exploited women. It is for them, in particular, that SVROs must not be applicable to people who knew or ought to have known that someone else had a knife. I am sure the Government do not wish to bring these women into the criminal justice system, as others have already said.
Amendments 95A and 95B are hugely important because they ensure that SVROs can be introduced only if Parliament is satisfied on the basis of the evidence from the pilot that they will reduce serious violent crime and that the consequences for the human rights of individuals and communities are proportionate and justified.
It is not sufficient that the report on the pilot will be laid before Parliament, as is specified in the Bill as it stands. Suppose the pilot reveals that SVROs fail to stem serious violence and breach individuals’ human rights in unacceptable ways. Clearly, SVROs should not be rolled out in that context. Yet Parliament will have no power to achieve that objective unless Amendments 95A and 95B are agreed to. These amendments deal with the concerns expressed by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee about the absence of adequate evidence and other supporting information to underpin the proposed policy changes.
I look forward to the Minister’s response and urge them to strengthen the democratic process underlying the potential rollout of SVROs. However, if the Minister cannot reassure the House about Parliament’s role in relation to the pilot, I will want to test the opinion of the House—and this has changed—on Amendment 95A, rather than Amendment 95B. If successful, Amendment 95B would become consequential. These two amendments are very much interlinked and you could say it is arbitrary which one we vote on. To explain, if the Minister cannot satisfy the House, we will have to test the opinion of the House.
As a Green, I am very concerned about the Government undermining the doctrine that police on these islands gain their authority from the consent of the governed. Overuse of stop and search powers has deeply undermined community consent in many areas of the country. We worry all the time about the police being constantly distrusted. That is no wonder, especially with a measure such as this. There are racial and socioeconomic disparities in who gets targeted by the police—we cannot avoid that. These government severe violence reduction orders will create, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has said, a new suspicionless stop and search power, and once a person is issued with one of these orders they could face unlimited interference from police officers. We have to ask: is this the sort of measure that will bring those offenders back into society or will it turn them further away?
The Greens will support any amendments that improve this system of serious violence reduction orders, in particular Amendments 95B or 95A—whichever amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, comes up for a vote. That the reports from a pilot project are approved by Parliament before these orders can be deployed more broadly seems to me to be common sense. Why on earth would they be brought in before they have been measured? It is essential that the Government prove the efficacy of these measures and demonstrate that they are not being used in a way that is racially or otherwise discriminatory.
I particularly support Amendment 101 from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which would repeal the existing powers of suspicionless stop and search. There should not be a power for the police to search without reasonable suspicion.
My Lords, I support Amendments 90H, 90J, 95A, 95B and 95C, to which I have added my name. I also signal my support for other amendments in this group which also seek to control more tightly how serious violence reduction orders will operate. I draw your Lordships’ attention to my work on policing ethics, both for Greater Manchester Police and for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, as set out in the register of interests.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has indicated, Amendment 90H seeks to ensure that an SVRO can be applied only when a bladed article or offensive weapon is used to commit an offence, not simply when such an item happens to be present and in the possession of the defendant. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has indicated, as presently drafted, the Bill requires no substantive link between the weapon and the offence. An individual could, for example, commit a road traffic offence while driving home from a church picnic, with their used cutlery on the passenger seat next to them, and the prosecution could ask for an SVRO.
I can see that subsection (5) of the proposed new chapter is intended to mitigate that by requiring the court to consider that imposition of the order is necessary to protect the public or the defendant from possible future offences involving such weapons. However, I do not believe it adequately achieves that objective. Asking a court to conject what might happen in the future can all too easily invite decisions taken on discriminatory or flimsy grounds, especially as no court would wish to face public criticism for having failed to apply an SVRO should later violence occur. To legislate for future conjecture requires a robust link to what has already happened. Subsection (3)(a) gives that; it requires that the weapon was used by the defendant in committing the offence in question. Deleting subsection (3)(b), as this amendment seeks to do, would ensure that any order is based on genuine and evidenced risk. To put it bluntly, it would pass my church picnic test.
Amendment 90J, if I may turn to that, seeks to more closely tie the order to the offence by limiting it to the actual person who used or had possession of the weapon, not some putative third party who
“knew or ought to have known”
that they had it. The de facto joint enterprise element in the current drafting of this clause widens the net substantially for who can be affected, and includes people not convicted of knife crime. As the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has just said, this is likely to disproportionately affect women and girls, who may well know or suspect that a partner or family member may be carrying a weapon but are far too vulnerable to be able to extricate themselves from a situation where violence involving such weapons may be committed by others.
I understand that the intention may be to provide such vulnerable adults with an excuse to stay away from both people and situations with which violence may be associated, but when I try to put myself in the position of such a person, I cannot really imagine saying to my partner or brother: “Oh, I must not be near you when you have a knife because I might get an SVRO against me.” I think these people are far too vulnerable. I hope I have persuaded your Lordships that Amendment 90J will address this deficit.
Finally, on Amendment 90J, apart from it being grossly unfair by ignoring the impact on vulnerable people, subsection (4) appears to be unworkable. How will the court determine if someone “ought to have known” that some other person had a knife? The amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, tease out this point specifically. I will leave others to speak to them at greater length, but if our own Amendment 90J does not win your Lordships’ support, I would hope that her amendments are more persuasive.
I now turn to Amendments 95A, 95B and 95C on the pilot scheme. In order to understand how SVROs operate in practice, these are entirely welcome. SVROs present a major innovation. There are significant risks of dangers from unexpected consequences—dangers that may outweigh any good that SVROs achieve. If we are to roll them out across the country, we need to have confidence that they are doing the job intended and making things better and not worse. For all the eloquence of our arguments in this House, there is nothing quite like having real, practical experience on the ground to draw on if we are going to get things right. These three amendments, taken together, simply seek to strengthen the pilot; to make it a genuine gathering of all the most relevant evidence, and one that will feed into a proper decision-making process here in Parliament, ahead of SVROs being rolled out across the nation.
In my early days as Bishop of Manchester, we had an idea of how we might make better and more locally informed decisions on where we deployed our vicars. We set up a two-year pilot across about a fifth of our dioceses. Towards the end of that period, we commissioned an independent evaluation by outside experts. We learned a huge amount from the exercise, and, in consequence, we never rolled out the substantive project. We did something different; we did something better. A pilot has to have the capacity to substantially implement the eventual shape of whatever is the final product, otherwise it is simply window dressing.
It is clear from speeches already made here today that there is considerable uncertainty about SVROs. In particular, noble Lords have drawn attention to the danger that they become associated with disproportionality and hence diminish confidence in policing and the courts. None of us wants that. We noted the risk that, rather than prevent criminalisation, they may draw more vulnerable people—especially young women—into the criminal justice system. We have remarked that extensive use of stop and search powers, especially in the absence of specific evidence of intention to offend, has over and again proved counterproductive. These last three amendments cover both the process and the content of the pilot evaluation. They will make for much better decisions on how and when, and perhaps most crucially if, SVROs are rolled out across the nation. I hope the Minister will be minded to accept them or to meet us to find an agreed way forward.
My Lords, I wonder whether I could ask the Minister a question about her amendments to Clause 141. This takes forward to one point of detail the comments made by other noble Lords about targeting particular groups of possible offenders. Amendments 92 and 93 would extend the guidance from the exercise of functions by the police to, as in proposed new subsection 1A(b),
“guidance about identifying offenders in respect of whom it may be appropriate for … serious violence reduction orders to be made”.
To me, this reads very much like profiling. Can the Minister tell the House whether “identifying offenders” is about identifying particular individuals or a cohort, class or demographic in respect of whom the Government may see SVROs as appropriate?
My Lords, I rise to support in particular Amendments 90H, 90J, 90K and 90L. As has been said, they are critical to ensuring that more vulnerable women are not drawn into the criminal justice system through the de facto joint enterprise element of SVROs. Probably like other noble Lords, I was shocked to read the briefing from Agenda, which states that analysis of
“109 joint enterprise cases involving women and girls”
“there was not a single case in which women and girls had handled a weapon; in 90% of cases they engaged in no violence at all; and in half of the cases they were not even present at the scene of the crime.”
As we have heard, SVROs will mean that women can be given an order based on a single judgment that, on the balance of probability, they “ought to have known” that someone in their company was in possession of a knife. That key phrase, “ought to have known”, is really troubling. Will the Minister consider how this fits in with wider policy, including the female offenders strategy, to limit the number of women serving short sentences and prevent reoffending?
We have a duty to limit unintended consequences. These amendments would do just that.
My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 90G, 90H and 90J, but I will concentrate on Amendment 90G. I declare an interest: when I was a vicar in Tulse Hill, south London—I was there for 14 years—I was stopped and searched a number of times. I asked the police why, particularly when I did not have my dog collar on because I had gone to B&Q to get some paint to decorate our house. They said that they wanted to make sure that the tins of paint had not been stolen. I had to produce a receipt. I was then let go, but there were other occasions; it was not just a one-off.
I then became the Bishop of Stepney. I had been there for only about 18 months when, one evening, having taken my wife to a selection conference, on my way back, at about 10 pm, on that wonderful hill in London, I was stopped and searched. The man wanted me to open my boot, which I did. As I stood up, he suddenly saw my dog collar and purple shirt and said, “Whoops”.
I was an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. By the way, it was not the Macpherson inquiry, as people tend to call it. If you look at the book, you will see that it was the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, chaired by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, who died last year.
We said that stop and search is a useful tool, but it must be used when the police have evidence—when there are a lot of people around in the community who will tell you, “So-and-so has done this”. Community intelligence was necessary; that is why we recommended it. The words were that you stop and search somebody on “reasonable grounds”, but the issue is that it depends on who is judging the reasonableness of it. If you said to the likes of me that I must use reasonable grounds—because I was stopped and searched a number of times—I would be bound to err on the side of “Well, give them what-for”. Language does not always mean the same things to every person. I can see why the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is trying to introduce “beyond reasonable doubt” instead of “reasonable”, because, after all, we are talking about prevention of a crime, so the standard has got to very high. If we were to use this very strong expression, “beyond reasonable doubt”, it is quite possible that the police woman or man who is trying to stop and search somebody would think about whether it was really reasonable for it to be done, whereas at the moment, people of my hue have been stopped without any reasonable grounds whatever.
The problem is not that there has not been enough training or enough work; it is just that it is one of those things that you do. Not all police officers have got it in for black people—it would be ridiculous to suggest that that was so; I have come across some wonderful people—but the way in which the language is used does not help. I said to somebody who asked me why I left law, “Maybe, it is like when somebody opens a shop and they put you in charge of the money. God, in order to prevent me putting my hand in the till, put me where there is a lot of light everywhere, so that people can see what I am doing”. That is why I became a clergyman, to prevent me doing even worse things. All of us are liable, friends, to do the sort of things that we know we ought not to be doing. When you are given a uniform, it gives you power. Stop and search has gone wrong—I insist that it is still a very good tool—because this reasonableness stuff for some is not reasonable; they just assume, and it creates difficulty within the community.
For those reasons, I support the amendment. It would stop every police officer and require them to think about whether they have gone “beyond reasonable doubt”. It is better to get the community working with you instead of you feeling that they do not want you to do whatever you are doing. Community policing is at the hub of it; intelligence is necessary; stop and search is a useful tool, but, at the moment, the language used does not stop people doing that which they know instinctively they ought not to be doing.
My Lords, I generally support this important legislation, but I expressed at Second Reading and again in Committee my sense of unease about the whole concept of serious violence reduction orders but also about the detail of their implementation. It is clear that my arguments have not borne the fruit I would hope to see, because I have read—since she kindly copied it to me—my noble friend’s letter to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in which the Government made it clear that they did not see any scope for budging either on the principle or on the detail of the implementation of these provisions. So, rather than engage in a discussion across a broad front, I shall simply focus my few remarks on Amendments 90K and 90L in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, which deal with what might be the most egregious question on this subject, that of “ought to know” or “ought to have known”, depending on how it is phrased in the Bill.
The Government are proposing that people should be subject to these orders, which are serious constraints on their liberties and which have potentially severe reputational consequences. In some cases, these may be merited, but in the case of “ought to have known” it is extremely difficult to accept that the burden on those who receive these orders is merited, on the basis not of their carrying a knife, not even that they knew a knife was being carried but that they ought to have known a knife was being carried.
There are three essential problems. The first is meaning. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, pointed to the difficulties that arise from the variability of language. The expression “ought to have known” is one that we can easily use in different ways in ordinary, natural language. But we are dealing here with language that ought to be drafted in a precise fashion and can be applied in a predictable way in a court of law, because we want our laws to be predictable. We want people to know that, if they do this or that, they will be in trouble, but if they do not do so, then that is okay. I do not know what “ought to have known” means in a legal sense.
The second problem is evidence. Even if you had a clear understanding of what the words “ought to have known” mean, how is that to be established in a court of law when, as I have said before to your Lordships, it is difficult enough to establish in a court of law what somebody did or did not know, let alone what they ought to have known. There is an evidential question here.
The third problem arises from the first two. It will be a decision of this Parliament to adopt this language which throws a huge interpretational burden on the courts. We do not know how the courts are going to interpret or implement this language. I do not want to draw unfair parallels, but when we discussed in Committee and on Report the question of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences for public protection, it was clear that the Home Secretary of the day, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, did not expect the provision to be applied by the courts with the liberality that the judges felt obliged to apply because of how it had been drafted. I hope I have explained that correctly. In other words, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, thought it would be applied only occasionally, but when the judges read what they were expected to do, they felt obliged to apply it more liberally to far more cases, which had never been his intention when he had proposed it. We are potentially in similar circumstances here. We simply have no idea, if we agree this language, how it is going to be applied by the courts in actual cases: with what breadth or how frequently it will be applied to people who were not carrying a knife and did not know that a knife was being carried but it is felt on some basis that they ought to have known.
I am not trying to detract from the other amendments in this group by focusing my remarks on this narrow point, which has been addressed by other noble Lords. I am focusing on these two amendments because I would hope that my noble friend might, after reflecting on it, be willing to come forward at Third Reading with something that rethought this approach. Or at the very least, if it did not rethink it, she would say that she was going to add words or guidance or some other supplement to the Bill which would make the circumstances in which this applied very specific such that we had that level of certainty that we did not impose this burden on the courts. We should have certainty in law but also certainty in our own minds as to how frequently and commonly this penalty would be applied in the event of “ought to have known” cases.
My Lords, I rise to support the general thrust of what the Government are trying to achieve, although I have some sympathy for one or two points that have been raised by previous speakers. I do not speak as a zealot for stop and search. It has dangers, which I hope I can persuade noble Lords I have taken seriously in the past.
The Government seem to be trying to change the culture of people carrying knives, either in public places or sometimes in private. Far too many people have been carrying knives and clearly still are, leading to minor arguments ending up in fatal events. We know that people who are repeat offenders disproportionately account for a disproportionate amount of crime. As few as 10% of offenders, on some occasions, can account for two-thirds of the crime. That applies to victims as well as to the places that they meet, which are repeat locations. Legislation over the years has tried to do something about that and, I think, has generally been well intended.
I agree with many of the things that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, has said. He had a worrying experience, but a lot of it has been London based. For historical reasons, there have been three different types of legislation which have caused real problems in this city, but occasionally in others. The sus law of the 1960s allowed unqualified stop and search. That caused a great many problems and was got rid of.
Then along came Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Section 44 was precisely intended for locations that were likely to be attacked by terrorists—places such as Parliament. It was intended to draw a line around places and, if someone went into this area, they could be searched without cause. In fact, the Metropolitan Police applied that throughout London. Every one of the 32 boroughs was covered by that piece of legislation, so people who live in London have had that experience of stop and search without cause for tens of years. Whether it be people who are now being stopped and searched, or their parents or grandparents, they have that experience. That is the thing that I am afraid has disproportionately affected how they feel about the legislation.
The latest version is Section 60. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, raised this and I have some empathy with part of what he said, for the reason I will explain. Section 60 was intended, again, to circumscribe certain areas where there was to be stop and search without cause—perhaps a park where many people had been stabbed or a location where gangs had been meeting and attacking each other. In that area, everybody was warned, “If you go in this area and carry a knife, you are likely to be stopped and searched without cause”, because the idea was to disrupt their offending pattern. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that often these areas are not well described. People are not told that they are about to enter one, so, therefore, when an officer stops someone, they can be suspicious and ask whether they are in a Section 60 area or have they been stopped and searched for no good reason at all.
As I said, I am not a zealot for stop and search. In 2011, when I took over the Met, we had just had the London riots. We never had a public inquiry into those events, but one of the conclusions I drew for myself when I looked at the figures was that stop and search had been very high. In the two preceding years, 2.6 million people had been stopped and searched in London. At the time, there were only 8.4 million people living in London. If we discount people who were not on the streets because they were older or younger, this was a very high number and that worried me. Over the succeeding three to four years, we reduced stop and search by 60% and we reduced Section 60s by 90% because, frankly, they were like confetti scattered around London. Ironically, the more there were, the less they could be policed.
There was a disproportionate amount of vague stop and search. Within that, we had disproportionality: there were very high figures for people of Asian appearance after 9/11 and that was certainly true of the black community as well. Over three years, we managed to get the stop and search disproportionality for people of Asian appearance down, from over seven times more likely than the white community, to less than one compared to the white community. We did not have as much success with the black community. We got better but nowhere near what I would call a more representative look.
I am only trying to convince your Lordships of two things. A targeted stop and search, even where there is not a cause, can be really helpful, either geographically or targeted on the offender. That is where the serious crime prevention orders can make an impact. Generally, they are targeted only at people who have been convicted already of carrying a knife, or who have been carrying a knife and have not been convicted but a court has been persuaded that there is a good reason.
Of course, people will argue that you have to be careful about this. I can see the sense in which that could be argued, and I agree. I also take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher: what is someone who is with a domestic violence offender to do about them generally carrying a knife? Where it is intended to make some progress is with gangs, usually of young men, but often with young women, who wander the streets—particularly in London but not only London: also in our big cities and sometimes in rural areas—who know that someone in the group carries a knife and yet still hang around with them. Often not just one individual is the problem; it is the fact that there are 10 or 20 people, and everybody is intimidated when the knife comes out. It is about trying to make real progress on that culture of carrying knives or supporting the people who do.
The intentions of the Bill are good. I could support some more questions about the amendments that are being made, but I would not support the removal of Section 60, for the reason I have explained; I can support only the improvement of it. I can see why, with those who are with people who carry knives, we have to be really careful before we impose one of these orders, but that is what courts are for.
Finally, a couple of people have asked how you prove that someone ought to have known. I am not a lawyer, and I cannot therefore define the words—whether it should be “ought to have known” or if a better form of words could be found—but I know that quite often evidence can be discovered that will prove this sort of thing. If someone says that they did not know that he or she was carrying a knife, that is one statement, but you might talk to everybody else in the crowd who say they knew of the knife, or you might have a photograph showing that everybody in the group was carrying a knife or that somebody saw a knife when it was out. I think what is being challenged is somebody turning a blind eye to the fact that somebody is carrying a knife, rather than disproportionately finding a criminal offence for someone who is innocent of any offence at all. It is trying to do something about that crowd support for the person who carries a knife.
Generally, I support the original intention of the legislation. It is not only well intended but well focused. People are carrying knives. They have been convicted already of carrying knives, they have been told, so why are they still carrying knives? Somebody has to do something about that, and not leave officers on the street at 3 am to make all those decisions themselves. They need some support, therefore this legislation is worthy of support.
My Lords, all of us in the Chamber are united by our desire to tackle violent crime, target police resources better and see fewer victims of crime. If we look at the Government’s own statistics with respect to this, it is worth reminding ourselves that to be fair to the Government, this is what they are seeking to try to deal with. In the impact assessment we see that offences involving knives increased by 84% between June 2014 and June 2020, homicides increased by 38% and gun crime rose by 28%. In the year ending June 2020, 262 people were stabbed to death, with 4,800 admissions for assault by a sharp object. Just recently, we have seen the horrific figure of 30 young people murdered on the streets of London. You can see why the Government are seeking to do something.
Any Government would want to do something, but what is being said to the Government is: are the serious violence prevention orders and the way in which they are set up the way to deal with that? That is the purpose of many of the amendments, many of which we support. The purpose of the amendments today—again, we have heard many arguments from many noble Lords in this House—is to raise those concerns and air those issues about how the orders will be used and the breadth of who they can be applied to. There is some difference of opinion, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, in his view of stop and search without suspicion and its use, and others have very serious concerns about it.
If the measures—these orders—are to go ahead, the crucial thing for this House is to ensure that the pilot that the Government have said they will carry out with respect to these orders is absolutely right, and to make sure that it is not just a tick-box exercise that the Government can use to say, “There you are—that proves what we said in the first place.” In particular, we need to look at whether the issues that have been raised, quite rightly, actually occur, in which case the orders would be inappropriate. Most important of all: do the orders work? Will they actually bring down those horrific figures that I just mentioned in the way that we would all want? Do they reduce and prevent violent crime, are they successful at diverting people away from crime and the criminal justice system, and are they a good use of police resources?
I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Armstrong who, for good reason, cannot be with us today, for her Amendments 90K and 90L, and to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for her support for them. They raise the issue of women and girls who have been exploited in gangs and are likely to be caught up in the provisions of these serious violence prevention orders, in particular where, in the phrase we have heard from many noble Lords, they “ought to have known” that a companion was carrying a knife. Notwithstanding what has been said, my own experience of this is that “ought to have known” ignores the reality of the coercive and abusive nature of many girls’ involvement in those gangs. It is not the “ought to have known” that we would all think about when we talk about the lives we lead. In the chaotic lifestyle of those gang members, “ought to have known” is an unreasonable expectation. It is absolutely vital that the pilot looks at how those provisions impact on violence against women and girls and their impact on vulnerable and exploited women.
Therefore, because of the importance of the pilot, we strongly support the amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick: Amendments 95A, 95B and 95C. Amendment 95B in particular brings all of these debates together in ensuring that Parliament not only gets a report on the pilot but a detailed answer from the Government on any issues that the pilot raises. Not many amendments could be quite as reasonable as that. It would provide simple parliamentary scrutiny and allow Parliament then to make a decision on whether these orders work and should be rolled out and on whether the issues that many noble Lords have raised are right.
Amendment 95C ensures the pilot is a genuine evidence-gathering exercise and considers, as I say, all the important issues raised. I raised the issue of parliamentary scrutiny in Committee, as did others, and I am grateful to the Minister for writing to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in response to the points raised and copying it to other noble Lords. At the moment, the Bill would provide that certain details of the orders are provided in regulations that would be subject to the affirmative procedure, which is welcome. The amendment would take this one step further—quite rightly, which is why we support it. It would ensure that the decision over whether to introduce the orders, once we have genuine evidence on how they have worked following the pilot, is taken by Parliament and not just by the Home Office. I respectfully suggest that that would not be too big an ask. The Government have already accepted that these orders need to be piloted, so if the principle of piloting has been accepted, surely Parliament should be able to scrutinise whether the pilot has been a success and whether the issues raised by noble Lords and indeed others in the other place are right.
All of us are united by a desire to tackle serious and violent crime, but that does not mean that we should just take any action that this Parliament considers necessary without considering the consequences. Stop and search without suspicion is probably one action that highlights that more than any other, but there have certainly been other issues related to women and girls as well. I ask the Minister to consider parliamentary scrutiny and whether these orders should go forward. I would suggest that is a perfectly reasonable response for this Chamber and others to make.
My Lords, as we have heard, these amendments are about two things: serious violence reduction orders and stop and search powers more broadly. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for setting out the case for their amendments, and to other noble Lords for promoting the points of the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, in her absence. We wish her well.
Amendments 90G, 90M and 91C would raise the threshold for the standard of proof required to impose an SVRO from the civil to the criminal standard. SVROs are civil orders introduced to protect communities and deter offenders from future offending. As such, we think that the civil standard is appropriate to enable a court to consider a wide range of evidence from both the offender and the prosecution when considering whether to make an SVRO.
Amendments 90H, 90J, 90K and 90L all seek to limit the circumstances in which an SVRO may be made. As regards Amendment 90H, it is the Government’s view that an SVRO should be available when an adult has been convicted of an offence where a knife or offensive weapon was present, whether it was used in the commission of the offence or not. But this does not mean that an SVRO will be applied for, or made, in all such cases. The prosecution would first need to consider whether it was appropriate to make an application to the court for an SVRO. The court must consider it necessary to make the SVRO in order to protect the public or prevent reoffending, and it would be very difficult to see how a court might consider an SVRO to be necessary if there was no evidence of risk of harm involving a knife or offensive weapon or risk of knife or offensive weapons offending; the bladed article was not relevant to the offence; or the individual was in possession of a bladed article with a reasonable excuse such as for use at work or for religious purposes—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester gave an example of the church picnic.
Amendments 90J, 90K and 90L would remove provisions in the Bill that would allow an order to be made if another person who committed the offence used or had with them a bladed article or offensive weapon in the commission of the offence and the offender knew or ought to have known that this would be the case. I reiterate that, for an SVRO to be made in any circumstances, the individual must have been convicted of an offence where a bladed article or offensive weapon was used in the commission of the offence or was with either the offender or another individual who was also convicted of an offence arising from the same set of facts. This provision would capture a situation where more than one person was convicted of an offence arising from the same set of facts, but not all the individuals used a bladed article or offensive weapon in the commission of the offence, or had such an item with them when the offence was committed.
In these circumstances, an SVRO may still be necessary to protect the public or any particular members of the public, including the offender, from the risk of harm involving a bladed article or offensive weapon, or to prevent the offender from committing an offence involving a bladed article or offensive weapon—for example, a fight or robbery where the offender in possession of a knife and the offender not in possession of the knife are convicted of offences arising from the same facts. In any such case, the prosecution must consider whether to make an application for an SVRO and the court must consider whether to grant that order. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, made that point. Both the prosecution and the court therefore retain discretion to determine the appropriate course of action on a case-by-case basis. On my noble friend Lord Moylan’s point about “ought to have known”, I will undertake to ensure that we address that point in the statutory guidance; it is a good point. I also add that the phrase is used in other legislation, so it is not a new concept that is unknown to the courts, albeit that it is used in different circumstances. I will take that one back.
Amendments 90N, 90P and 90Q seek to amend the evidential requirements for an SVRO to be made. We consider it appropriate for the court to consider a wide range of evidence about the offender that may not have been admissible in the proceedings in which the offender was convicted. For example, the offender may have a history of knife carrying that would be relevant to whether an SVRO would be necessary to protect the public from the risk of harm involving a bladed article or offensive weapon, or to prevent the offender committing an offence involving such an article or weapon.
Amendments 91A and 91B would change provisions for offences relating to an SVRO. We have provided a reasonable excuse defence in relation to failing to comply with any of the requirements of an order or any prohibitions, because it is possible that a person may have a good reason not to comply. However, it is difficult to see any circumstances where it would be reasonable for an offender not to tell an officer that they are subject to an SVRO if they are asked. I am therefore not persuaded of the case for Amendment 91A.
As for amendment 91B, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is quite right that the Police Act 1996 already provides for an offence of wilfully obstructing a constable in the execution of their duty. However, we think that it is clearer to set out in one place what specific behaviours amount to an offence in relation to an SVRO. This would provide clarity to the CPS, police and courts as well as the offenders themselves. Moreover, the obstruction offence in this Bill carries a higher maximum penalty compared with that in the 1996 Act.
Amendment 91D seeks to limit the number of times an SVRO can be renewed to no more than once. We do not expect the police to apply for an order to be renewed indefinitely, and we will clarify this point in the statutory guidance. However, there may be circumstances where it would be necessary to renew the SVRO for further periods of between six months and two years, and it will of course be up to the court to decide if this is both necessary and proportionate.
Amendments 95A, 95B and 95C seek to specify matters to be addressed in the report on the operation of the pilot and to provide for the national rollout of SVROs to be conditional on a parliamentary vote. I hope that noble Lords will be reassured by the fact the SVROs will be introduced on the basis of a targeted pilot. They will be piloted in the Sussex, Thames Valley, Merseyside and West Midlands police forces. On the point from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, I say that the Bill expressly provides that the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament on the operation and outcome of the pilot. I know that noble Lords will be keen to know the detail of the matters to be addressed in the report on the outcome of the pilot and I reassure the House that we want the pilot of SVROs to be robust and its evaluation to be thorough, before any decision is made to roll them out across England and Wales.
I am pleased to announce that we have appointed Ecorys as the independent evaluator of the pilot. It will work with the pilot police forces to monitor and gather data on a number of different measures. These will include the impact of SVROs on serious violence, evidence on reoffending and the outcomes for offenders who are the subject of an SVRO. We will also use the pilot to build our understanding of how we ensure that vulnerable offenders are supported and directed to local intervention schemes, and of community responses to the orders. The pilot report will include basic data on the age, sex and ethnicity of people subject to SVROs. We make no assumption now about the success or otherwise of the pilot, but I do not see any reason to depart from the normal position that commencement regulations are not subject to parliamentary procedure.
Amendment 101 seeks to repeal the Section 60 stop and search provisions. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, for some of the points that he made, and of course the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is right once again to highlight the vital importance of ensuring that officers are using their powers based on intelligence and legitimacy to ensure that the rights of the individual are upheld. The guidance is very clear that the Section 60 powers should only be used proportionately and in an intelligence-led way. I come back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, that perhaps we could do more so that people go into areas knowing that they are Section 60 areas. I will take that point back.
To respond to the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, race or ethnicity should never be a reason to use stop and search powers against individuals, and safeguards exist to prevent that, notwithstanding the awful experience of the right reverend Prelate—I am sorry, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu. He will always be a right reverend Prelate to me. Those safeguards include statutory codes of practice, body-worn video, which we have in place now—that is a fantastic advancement, ensuring that officers are accountable during a search—and extensive data published by the Home Office on the use of stop and search in order to drive transparency. We will always give the police the tools they need to tackle serious violence and other crimes. I therefore do not think it is in the best interests of public safety to repeal those important powers.
I shall deal briefly with the government amendments in this group, on one of which the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked for clarification. New Chapter 1A of Part 11 of the Sentencing Code confers a number of powers and duties on the police in relation to SVROs. On introduction, new Section 342J provides that the Secretary of State may issue guidance to the police on the exercise of those and other functions under that chapter. Amendments 92, 93 and 94 widen the power to issue guidance so that guidance may be introduced on any matter relating to SVROs and provide a non-exhaustive list of the matters that may be covered by the guidance.
On Amendment 93, we expect the pilot forces to work closely with the CPS to identify cases that may benefit from an SVRO. That would be a similar process to how police forces identify now who may benefit from a criminal behaviour order or other relevant order. We want to ensure that SVROs are as effective as possible, benefit the right cohort of individuals and deter criminal offending. We will therefore be working closely with the pilot forces to agree effective processes in order to achieve that aim.
Amendment 91 is a technical amendment that clarifies that if an application for an SVRO is made, the court can adjourn proceedings after sentencing the offender in order to deal with the SVRO at a later date. For the avoidance of doubt, Amendment 96 makes a similar amendment to the provisions in the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 relating to knife crime prevention orders, or KCPOs, to make it explicit that if an application for a KCPO is made, the court may adjourn proceedings on the application after sentencing the offender.
The Government’s firm view is that the stop and search powers provided for through the new serious violence reduction orders and the existing Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act provide an important and effective tool to help the police tackle knife crime and keep our community safe. We think that the circumstances in which an SVRO may be made are appropriate to help protect the public on our streets. However, we are committed to the robust piloting of SVROs before any national rollout, and I hope I have been able to reassure the House of that.
Given that, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to withdraw his amendment. Should either he or the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, wish to test the opinion of the House, I have any hesitation in asking noble Lords to reject their amendments.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate. I particularly thank the right reverend Prelates and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, for their contributions. Unfortunately, I did not hear the Minister adequately address their points or the issues that I raised. I asked specific questions about the Minister’s letter of 6 January, but she appeared just to stand at the Dispatch Box and repeat what was in that letter.
As far as I am concerned, I would not be satisfied about the pilots, but that is a decision for the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, to take shortly. My understanding is that noble Lords are coalescing around a vote on Amendments 95A, 95B and 95C, so I think we should get on with it. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 90G withdrawn.
Amendments 90H to 90Q not moved.
91: Clause 141, page 132, line 20, at end insert—
“(8A) The court may adjourn any proceedings on an application for a serious violence reduction order even after sentencing the offender.(8B) If the offender does not appear for any adjourned proceedings the court may—(a) further adjourn the proceedings,(b) issue a warrant for the offender’s arrest, or(c) hear the proceedings in the offender’s absence.(8C) The court may not act under subsection (8B)(b) unless it is satisfied that the offender has had adequate notice of the time and place of the adjourned proceedings.(8D) The court may not act under subsection (8B)(c) unless it is satisfied that the offender—(a) has had adequate notice of the time and place of the adjourned proceedings, and(b) has been informed that if the offender does not appear for those proceedings the court may hear the proceedings in the offender’s absence.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes it explicit that, if an application for a serious violence reduction order is made, the court may adjourn proceedings on the application after sentencing the offender.
Amendment 91 agreed.
Amendments 91A to 91D not moved.
Amendments 92 to 95
92: Clause 141, page 138, leave out line 6 and insert “in relation to serious violence reduction orders.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment widens the power to issue guidance in new section 342J of the Sentencing Code so that guidance may be issued on any matter relating to serious violence reduction orders.
93: Clause 141, page 138, line 6, at end insert—
“(1A) The guidance may in particular include— (a) guidance about the exercise by constables, chief officers of police and the chief constable of the British Transport Police Force of their functions under this Chapter,(b) guidance about identifying offenders in respect of whom it may be appropriate for applications for serious violence reduction orders to be made, and(c) guidance about providing assistance to prosecutors in connection with applications for serious violence reduction orders.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides a non-exhaustive list of the matters that may be covered by guidance issued under new section 342J of the Sentencing Code.
94: Clause 141, page 138, line 13, leave out from “section” to end
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on Baroness Williams of Trafford's second amendment to Clause 141.
95: Clause 141, page 138, line 13, at end insert—
<strong>“342JA </strong> Guidance: Parliamentary procedure(1) Before issuing guidance under section 342J, the Secretary of State must lay a draft of the guidance before Parliament.(2) If, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve the draft guidance, the guidance may not be issued.(3) If no such resolution is made within that period, the Secretary of State may issue the guidance.(4) In this section “the 40-day period”, in relation to draft guidance, means the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament (or, if it is not laid before each House on the same day, the later of the days on which it is laid).(5) In calculating the 40-day period, no account is to be taken of any period during which—(a) Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or(b) both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment applies a negative resolution procedure to the power to issue guidance under new section 342J of the Sentencing Code.
Amendments 92 to 95 agreed.
Clause 142: Serious violence reduction orders: piloting
95A: Clause 142, page 139, line 1, leave out “and (3)” and insert “to (3A)”
My Lords, I hope the House will forgive me if I say a few words in response to the Minister on Amendment 95A. The fact is that Amendments 95A and 95B would require the Government not only to lay the results of a full pilot before Parliament but to enable Parliament to decide whether SVROs should be rolled out across the country. We know that there is no evidence to suggest the wholesale expansion or extension of stop and search where there is no immediate evidence of potential wrongdoing in the situation. Therefore, all we are asking is that Parliament should be satisfied from the pilot that there is evidence that SVROs will reduce severe violence and protect communities—which we want to happen—and that that can be done without disproportionate detriment, particularly to black communities and to very vulnerable women but also to people in general.
We are asking for the pilot to be presented to Parliament and for Parliament to approve that SVROs should be rolled out. Because the Minister was unable to suggest that there should be any such democratic decision-making on this issue, I would like to test the opinion of the House on both Amendments 95A and 95B —but the vote will be on Amendment 95A, with Amendment 95B as the consequential amendment.
Amendment 95A agreed.
Amendments 95B and 95C are consequential and will therefore be taken en bloc.
Amendments 95B and 95C
95B: Clause 142, page 139, line 10, at end insert—
“(3A) The condition in this subsection is that the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a response addressing any issues identified in the report produced under subsection (3).(3B) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 178(1) for the purposes mentioned in subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would ensure that the section concerning Serious Violence Reduction Orders can only be commenced once a report on the pilot has been laid before Parliament and both Houses have voted on its commencement.
95C: Clause 142, page 139, line 10, at end insert—
“(3A) Before making the report under subsection (3), the Secretary of State must obtain, record and publish all reasonably available data, which is relevant to the effect of the operation of Chapter 1A of Part 11 of the Sentencing Code (inserted by section 141) under subsection (2) over a period of no less than 12 months, including—(a) its impact on the extent to which knives or weapons are carried;(b) its impact on the rate of serious violence;(c) the age, race, and sex (within the meaning of section 5, 9 and 11 of the Equality Act 2010) of each person—(i) in respect of whom an application is made under section 342A(1)(b) of the Sentencing Code;(ii) in respect of whom a serious violence reduction order is made by a court;(iii) in respect of whom an application is made under section 342A(1) of the Sentencing Code and the court has adjourned proceedings pursuant to section 342A(8A) or (8B);(iv) in respect of whom action is taken pursuant to section 342C, 342E, 342F, or 342H of the Sentencing Code; and(v) who is convicted of an offence within section 342G of the Sentencing Code;(d) any action which was taken pursuant to sections 342C, 342E, 342F, or 342H of the Sentencing Code, by reference to the age, race and sex of the offender;(e) the nature of, and reasons recorded for, any such action;(f) any complaint arising from the exercise of powers under section 342E of the Sentencing Code, the nature and outcome of that complaint, and the age, race and sex of the person who made it;(g) the offence within section 342G of the Sentencing Code for which any person was convicted and the sentence imposed, by reference to the age, race and sex of that person;(h) for each serious violence reduction order made— (i) the offence identified under section 342A(1)(a) of the Sentencing Code; (ii) whether the order was imposed under subsection 342A(3)(a), (3)(b), (4)(a) or 4(b) of the Sentencing Code; and(iii) if the order was imposed under subsection 342A(4)(a) or (4)(b), whether the order was made on the basis that the offender knew that a bladed article or offensive weapon was used by another person; or whether the offender ought to have known that this would be the case;(i) whether that operation of Chapter 1A of the Sentencing Code had a discriminatory, disproportionate or other adverse impact on people sharing the protected characteristic of age, race or sex;(j) the number of survivors and victims of domestic abuse, including women who have experienced or are experiencing criminal exploitation, coercive control, or other forms of abuse, who are given such orders, broken down by ethnicity, age, and policing borough.(3B) The report under subsection (3) must include—(a) an analysis of the effect described in subsection (3A), by reference to the data identified in subsection (3A);(b) an equality impact assessment of the operation of Chapter 1A of the Sentencing Code as described in subsection (3A);(c) a description of any guidance or codes of practice, to which the operation of Chapter 1A described in subsection (3A) was subject;(d) analysis of data assessing the extent to which the pilot has reduced serious violent crime and reoffending by comparison with other areas;(e) analysis of what evidence is relied on to justify the imposition of serious violence reduction orders, and whether there is any bias in the decision-making process;(f) analysis of information on the reason for each breach of a serious violence reduction order, any defence pleaded, and the result of the breach proceedings;(g) analysis of any impacts, including equalities impacts, of other positive requirements or conditions imposed on individuals pursuant to section 342C(1) of the Sentencing Code;(h) analysis of any impacts, including equalities impacts, of adjournment of proceedings on individuals where the court adjourns proceedings under section 342A(8A) or (8B); and(i) analysis of any impacts of serious violence reduction orders on survivors and victims of domestic abuse, including women who have experienced or are experiencing criminal exploitation, coercive control, or other forms of abuse, who are given such orders.(3C) Statistical information collected for the purposes of section (3B) from different pilot areas must be collected and presented in a form which enables direct comparison between those areas.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment strengthens the pilot provided for under Clause 142, with particular attention paid to equalities impacts and impacts on survivors and victims of domestic abuse and criminal exploitation.
Amendments 95B and 95C agreed.
96: After Clause 142, insert the following new Clause—
“CHAPTER 1AKNIFE CRIME PREVENTION ORDERSKnife crime prevention order on conviction: adjournment of proceedings
(1) In section 19 of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 (knife crime prevention orders made on conviction), after subsection (9) insert—“(9A) The court may adjourn any proceedings on an application for a knife crime prevention order even after sentencing the defendant.(9B) If the defendant does not appear for any adjourned proceedings the court may—(a) further adjourn the proceedings,(b) issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, or(c) hear the proceedings in the defendant’s absence.(9C) The court may not act under subsection (9B)(b) unless it is satisfied that the defendant has had adequate notice of the time and place of the adjourned proceedings.(9D) The court may not act under subsection (9B)(c) unless it is satisfied that the defendant—(a) has had adequate notice of the time and place of the adjourned proceedings, and(b) has been informed that if the defendant does not appear for those proceedings the court may hear the proceedings in the defendant’s absence.”(2) Regulations under section 178(1) which bring subsection (1) into force only for a specified purpose or in relation to a specified area may—(a) provide for that provision to be in force for that purpose or in relation to that area for a specified period;(b) make transitional or saving provision in relation to that provision ceasing to be in force at the end of the specified period.(3) Regulations containing provision by virtue of subsection (2)(a) may be amended by subsequent regulations under section 178(1) so as to continue subsection (1) in force for the specified purpose or in relation to the specified area for a further specified period.(4) In this section “specified” means specified in regulations under section 178(1).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes it explicit that, if an application for a knife crime prevention order is made following a defendant’s conviction of an offence, the court may adjourn proceedings on the application after sentencing the defendant.
Amendment 96 agreed.
96A: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—
“CHAPTER 4FOOTBALL BANNING ORDERSFootball banning orders: relevant offences
(1) The Football Spectators Act 1989 is amended as follows.(2) Schedule 1 (football banning orders: relevant offences) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) to (7).(3) In paragraph 1(c) (certain offences under the Public Order Act 1986 committed at premises)—(a) after “any offence under section” insert “4,”, and(b) before “harassment” insert “fear or provocation of violence, or”.(4) In paragraph 1(k) (certain offences under the Public Order Act 1986 committed on a journey to or from a football match)—(a) after “any offence under section” insert “4,”, and(b) before “harassment” insert “fear or provocation of violence, or”. (5) In paragraph 1(q) (certain offences under the Public Order Act 1986 which the court declares to be related to a football match)—(a) after “any offence under section” insert “4,”,(b) before “harassment” insert “fear or provocation of violence, or”, and(c) omit “or any provision of Part 3 or 3A of that Act (hatred by reference to race etc)”.(6) In paragraph 1, after paragraph (u) insert—“(v) any offence under any provision of Part 3 or 3A of the Public Order Act 1986 (hatred by reference to race etc)—(i) which does not fall within paragraph (c) or (k), and(ii) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,(w) any offence under section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (racially or religiously aggravated public order offences) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,(x) any offence under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (offence of sending letter, electronic communication or article with intent to cause distress or anxiety)—(i) which does not fall within paragraph (d), (e), (m), (n), (r) or (s),(ii) as respects which the court has stated that the offence is aggravated by hostility of any of the types mentioned in section 66(1) of the Sentencing Code (racial hostility etc), and(iii) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,(y) any offence under section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 (improper use of public telecommunications network)—(i) which does not fall within paragraph (d), (e), (m), (n), (r) or (s),(ii) as respects which the court has stated that the offence is aggravated by hostility of any of the types mentioned in section 66(1) of the Sentencing Code (racial hostility etc), and(iii) as respects which the court makes a declaration that the offence related to a football match, to a football organisation or to a person whom the accused knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation.”(7) In paragraph 4—(a) the words from “In this Schedule” to “Part II of this Act.” become sub-paragraph (1), (b) after sub-paragraph (1) insert—“(1A) In this Schedule “football organisation” means an organisation which is a regulated football organisation for the purposes of Part 2 of this Act.”, and(c) after sub-paragraph (2) insert—“(3) The provision that may be made by an order made by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Schedule includes provision that a person has a prescribed connection with a football organisation where— (a) the person has had a connection of a prescribed kind with a football organisation in the past, or(b) the person will or may have a connection of a prescribed kind with a football organisation in the future.”(8) In section 14 (main definitions), after subsection (2) insert—“(2A) “Regulated football organisation” means an organisation (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) which—(a) relates to association football, and(b) is a prescribed organisation or an organisation of a prescribed description.”(9) Section 23 (further provision about, and appeals against, declarations of relevance) is amended in accordance with subsections (10) and (11).(10) In subsection (1), for the words from “related to football matches” to the end of the subsection substitute “—(a) related to football matches,(b) related to a particular football match or to particular football matches,(c) related to a football organisation, or(d) related to a person whom the defendant knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation,as the case may be.”(11) In subsection (5), for the words from “related to football matches” to the end of the subsection substitute “—(a) related to football matches,(b) related to one or more particular football matches,(c) related to a football organisation, or(d) related to a person whom the defendant knew or believed to have a prescribed connection with a football organisation.”(12) This section does not apply in relation to an offence committed before the day appointed by regulations under section 178(1) for its coming into force (so far as it has not previously been commenced by section 178(4)(ta)).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment modifies the list of relevant offences in Schedule 1 to the Football Spectators Act 1989 which trigger the making of a football banning order to include, in particular, certain offences relating to race or religion and certain online hate offences.
My Lords, I beg to move the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford.
These amendments give effect to a commitment made by the Prime Minister in the immediate aftermath of the final of Euro 2020. The whole of England was disappointed by the outcome, and that is understandable. What was not excusable or acceptable was the racist abuse directed at certain England players. Your Lordships will also be aware of the ubiquitous slow drip of hateful online abuse many high-profile footballers are subjected to. In the light of that behaviour, the Prime Minister announced that we would legislate to extend the football banning order regime to cover online abuse, and that is the purpose of these amendments. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, tabled an amendment directed to the same end. In response, I said that the Government would look to legislate as soon as possible, and that is what we are doing. I hope the noble Lord will feel that his objectives have now been met and will welcome these amendments.
Football banning orders were first introduced in 1989. The intention of these new clauses is to amend the operation of the football banning order regime to enable a court to impose a football banning order against persons convicted of online hate offences connected to football. The amendments will also enable a court to impose a football banning order for other race, religious or sexual orientation hate offences against persons with a prescribed connection to a football organisation where the incident would not fall under the existing coverage. This will prevent such offenders propagating their criminal, hateful views at football matches. I sincerely hope that this measure will also deter others from engaging in similar behaviour that is so harmful to the victims and our national game.
Amendment 96B will amend the Football Spectators Act 1989 to enable the list of relevant offences in Schedule 1 to that Act to be amended by regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. A person can receive a football banning order following conviction for a relevant offence. There is no intention to use the new regulation-making power to add to the schedule offences that do not involve violence, disorderly behaviour or harm to others, or a risk or threat of such, nor to add offences which are not football-related. Rather, this will enable the Secretary of State to ensure that the list of relevant offences for the purposes of football banning order proceedings can be kept up to date and relevant in the event of amendment to the Acts listed in the schedule or developing trends of harm or disorder relating to football, such as online hate offences.
Finally, Amendment 96C will amend the consideration that a court undertakes in deciding whether to impose a football banning order against a person convicted of a football-related offence under the 1989 Act. It will remove the requirement that the convicted person must pose an identifiable risk of violence or disorder at or in connection with football matches. I must again reference the vile online racist abuse of England players after the Euro 2020 final. Under the current test, courts may not be convinced that offenders convicted of racist online offences pose an identifiable risk of violence and disorder at matches. However, I believe that it is imperative to ensure that such offenders can be prevented from spreading their hateful words at football matches. Courts will retain their powers of discretion if there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or the offender which would make it unjust to impose a football banning order, with a requirement that they state in open court their reasons for not doing so.
We can all agree that there is no place for racist abuse in football—or more widely—and it is right that we should send a strong signal that those convicted of racist abuse or other unconscionable hatred connected to football should not be allowed to attend football matches to spread their poisonous prejudices. This is a sensible and much-needed change to the legislation governing football and I ask your Lordships to endorse it.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm the impact these amendments will have on homophobic abuse of soccer players? I think he mentioned it once. Tom Daley on Channel 4’s “Alternative Christmas Message” talked about the fact that no professional footballers in the UK have publicly said they are gay: fear of public reaction is probably a big part of the reason why. In fact, globally, it is my understanding that only one professional soccer player has come out as gay, and he plays in Australia.
People have shied away from a hierarchy of diversity, but I have always believed that racism is a bigger problem than homophobia: some people can hide their sexuality, but few people of colour can hide their race. Having said that, people can hide their religious beliefs; there are many white Muslims, for example. These amendments cover religion but not, at least immediately obviously, sexuality. Racism is still a huge problem, and these amendments are welcome, but where is the clear and unambiguous message in these amendments that homophobic abuse directed at football players is just as unacceptable as racism and Islamophobia? It is not clear to me.
Even the Government’s explanatory statement for these amendments refers to
“certain offences relating to race or religion and certain online hate offences.”
If I am having to search the many and various pieces of legislation mentioned in these amendments to satisfy myself that people like me are covered, then these amendments do not send a clear and unambiguous message that homophobic abuse is as unacceptable as racism and Islamophobia. The Law Commission in its recent report on hate crime identifies the need to place sexual and gender diversity hatred on the same footing as race hatred, so what assurances can the Minister give in this case? I do not want perfection to be the enemy of the good, and there will still be an opportunity to provide clarification at Third Reading, but I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, it would be remiss of me not to thank the Government for bringing forward these amendments. They very much fulfil the objectives that I set out in moving my amendments in Committee. Imagine my slight surprise when I received an email shortly before Christmas from one of the officials telling me about this, though it had been suggested to me, and that the announcement was going to be made on Boxing Day—not a day traditionally used for parliamentary consideration. But I was pleased to hear that the Government were going to bring forward the amendments. I offered at one stage to co-sign them, but that seems to have got lost in the mists.
I am not entirely convinced that we would have seen these amendments if we had not brought them forward in Committee and threatened the Government with, I suspect, the possibility of a defeat on them. It has taken the Government too long to get to this point. Boris Johnson himself mentioned it back in July, but we have been campaigning on this issue for some years, and these amendments are long overdue.
Turning to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I too would like to see some clarification as to whether these amendments will cover homophobic abuse. It is fair to say that many of the football clubs are well ahead of the Government on this already. I know that my own football club, Brighton & Hove Albion, has long taken the view that homophobic abuse is unacceptable and made that very clear, not just in its programmes and publicity but in its action. That is to be welcomed. Many clubs have adopted that approach and now take pride in supporting gay footballers and ensuring that people do not get abused in that way at games. That is to be welcomed, but we need some legislative clarity.
I have one further point that I wish to pursue with the Government. The Bill is an opportunity to cover online abuse wherever it manifests. Although football understandably is a natural focus for this because, let us face it, that is where a lot of racist abuse has been channelled over the last few years, particularly last summer, I challenge the Government to bring forward a further amendment which covers other sports. We are all very conscious and aware of the racism that is there in other sports and sporting activities, and the abuse that many black and minority-ethnic cricketers, in particular, have suffered.
We should try to deal with the whole package, and it would be a good challenge for the Government to meet to bring forward amendments that we and, I am sure, other Members of your Lordships’ House would support at Third Reading. We would be more than happy to use our drafting talents to make sure it happened. It would clarify once and for all the position for all sports men and women across the UK, and it would send a strong and important message that this is just not acceptable behaviour in any shape or form in any sporting arena or in any sport.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in seeking clarity about homophobic abuse; that is really important. I would like the Government to bring forward further amendments to cover other sports at Third Reading. I do not think that it is beyond the wit of the Government they have clever and cunning draftspeople at their beck and call and there are plenty of us in this House who would want to support that and sign up to that agenda.
I place on record my thanks to the Minister and Ministers generally, to the Home Office staff who have supported them, and to our own staff in our Labour Lords team who did the original drafting, because this is an important step forward and we should recognise that.
My Lords, I too support these amendments and thank the Government for their clarity; there were some other sections about which we were not sure in terms of their language. Again, sorry to sound as though I am stuck in a groove: in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and its recommendations there is a definition of a racist incident and a homophobic incident. Parliament, in the other place, accepted all 70 recommendations. If you want to find how to phrase what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is talking about, it is already there in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report and the recommendations that we made.
The thing about the law is that it must be predictable, easy to understand and not shrouded in mystery. I support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The Government need to be clear about this and the language because the other place accepted all 70 recommendations. It is in there, and it would be a mistake not to be very clear about the whole question of these homophobic incidents and the abuse that some people have suffered. I would support the Government in finding that language. They could put in similar words about what they have actually done about racism.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that it is very important to have clarity that homophobic abuse is here covered. For my part, I understand—I ask the Minister to confirm whether he agrees—that the substance of these amendments does cover homophobic abuse, in particular proposed new subsection (6) of the new clause, which refers to Part 3A of the Public Order Act 1986, which, as I understand it, specifically covers homophobic abuse, as does proposed new subsection (6)(x)(ii), which refers to Section 66(1) of the Sentencing Code, which, again, I understand covers homophobic hostility as well as racial hostility. But clarity is absolutely essential here.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. In answer to the noble Lords, Lord Paddick, Lord Bassam and Lord Pannick, I can happily clarify that this includes homophobic and misogynistic hate speech, and all other forms of hate speech. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is absolutely right: it is under Section 3A of the Public Order Act 1986. I am afraid I do not have the Sentencing Code so I will have to look into that for him.
The core amendments apply to online hate speech where the court has found on sentencing that the offence was aggravated by racial or religious hostility, or hostility related to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity. This reflects the five types of hate crime recognised by the law, which I think is the Sentencing Code.
I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, about other sports. I have heard the DCMS Minister answer questions on this, and there will of course be other opportunities in other Bills coming up, which I suspect will also have something to say on the subject, but I will take it back to both departments.
Before the Minister sits down, could I clarify what he just said? It threw another confusion at me. He said it covers misogynistic hate speech. I am not sure misogyny is a hate crime. Therefore, I am not sure the Minister is correct on that point. Perhaps he could clarify.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his comments and his agreement to take that away. For our part, we would very much welcome a discussion on that with him and his officials, if that is at all possible. We are some way off from the Third Reading, and, clearly, we would be in a position to bring forward an amendment if that would help.
It would be for the good if we could have some cross-party agreement on this, because it is an issue on which we can have a shared view. That shared view adds extra emphasis and import to the progress that we make. We would very much welcome the Minister facilitating that discussion, and obviously we would be delighted if the Government were to concede and bring forward amendments which cover all other sports as well.
Amendment 96A agreed.
Amendments 96B and 96C
96B: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—
“Football banning orders: power to amend list of relevant offences
(1) In section 14 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 (main definitions), after subsection (8) insert—“(9) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 so as to add, modify or remove a reference to an offence or a description of offence.(10) Regulations under subsection (9) may make consequential amendments to this Act.(11) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (9) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”(2) Section 22A of that Act (other interpretation, etc) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) and (4).(3) In subsection (3), after “order” insert “or regulations”.(4) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) An order or regulations under this Part—(a) may make different provision for different purposes;(b) may make consequential, supplementary, incidental, transitional, transitory or saving provision.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment amends the Football Spectators Act 1989 to enable the list of relevant offences in Schedule 1 to that Act to be amended by regulations.
96C: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—
“Football banning orders: requirement to make order on conviction etc
(1) In section 14A of the Football Spectators Act 1989 (banning order made on conviction of an offence), for subsections (2) and (3) substitute—“(2) The court must make a banning order in respect of the offender unless the court considers that there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so.(3) Where the court does not make a banning order it must state in open court the reasons for not doing so.”(2) Section 22 of that Act (banning orders arising out of offences outside England and Wales) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) and (4).(3) In subsection (4), for the words following paragraph (b) substitute—“must make a banning order in relation to the person, unless subsection (5) applies.” (4) For subsections (5) and (5A) substitute—“(5) This subsection applies if—(a) it appears to the court that the conviction of the corresponding offence in a country outside England and Wales is the subject of proceedings in a court of law in that country questioning the conviction, or(b) the court considers that there are particular circumstances relating to the corresponding offence or to the person which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to make a banning order.(5A) Where the court does not make a banning order on the ground mentioned in subsection (5)(b) it must state in open court the reasons for not doing so.”(5) This section does not apply in relation to an offence committed before the day appointed by regulations under section 178(1) for its coming into force.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment amends the Football Spectators Act 1989 so that a court is required to make a football banning order on a person’s conviction of a relevant offence unless there are particular circumstances which would make it unjust to do so. It also makes equivalent provision in relation to a person convicted of a corresponding offence overseas.
Amendments 96B and 96C agreed.
97: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—
“Women’s Justice Board
(1) There is to be a body corporate known as the Women’s Justice Board for England and Wales.(2) The Board is not to be regarded as the servant or agent of the Crown or as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown; and the Board’s property is not to be regarded as property of, or held on behalf of, the Crown.(3) The Board must consist of 10, 11 or 12 members appointed by the Secretary of State.(4) The members of the Board must include persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have extensive recent experience with women in the criminal justice system.(5) The Board has the following functions, namely—(a) to meet the particular needs of women in the criminal justice system;(b) to monitor the provision of services for women in the criminal justice system;(c) to advise the Secretary of State on—(i) how the aim in subsection (5)(a) might most effectively be pursued;(ii) the provision of services for women in the criminal justice system;(iii) the content of any national standards the Secretary of State may see fit to set with respect to the provision of such services, or the accommodation in which women are kept in custody; and(iv) the steps that might be taken to prevent offending by women;(d) to monitor the extent to which the aim in subsection (5)(a) is being achieved and any standards met;(e) for the purposes of paragraphs (a) to (d) above, to obtain information from relevant authorities;(f) to publish information so obtained;(g) to identify, make known and promote good practice in— (i) meeting the particular needs of women in the criminal justice system;(ii) the provision of services for women in the criminal justice system;(iii) the prevention of offending by women;(iv) working with women who are, or are at risk of becoming, offenders;(h) to commission research in connection with such practice;(i) with the approval of the Secretary of State, to make grants to local authorities and other persons for the purposes of meeting the aim in subsection (5)(a) and the provision of services to women in the criminal justice system, subject to such conditions as the Board considers appropriate, incl uding conditions as to repayment;(j) to provide assistance to local authorities and other persons in connection with information technology systems and equipment used or to be used for the purposes of the aim in subsection (5)(a) and the provision of services to women in the criminal justice system;(k) to enter into agreements for the provision of accommodation for women in the criminal justice system, but no agreement may be made under this paragraph in relation to accommodation for women in the criminal justice system unless it appears to the Board that it is expedient to enter into such an agreement for the purposes of subsection (5)(a);(l) to facilitate agreements between the Secretary of State and any persons providing accommodation for women in the criminal justice system;(m) at the request of the Secretary of State, to assist in carrying out the Secretary of State’s functions in relation to the release of offenders detained in accommodation for women in the criminal justice system; and(n) annually—(i) to assess future demand for accommodation for women in the criminal justice system;(ii) to prepare a plan setting out how they intend to exercise, in the following three years, the functions described in paragraphs (k) to (m) above, and any function for the time being exercisable by the Board concurrently with the Secretary of State by virtue of subsection (6)(b) below which relates to securing the provision of such accommodation, and(iii) to submit the plan to the Secretary of State for approval.(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument—(a) amend subsection (5) above so as to add to, subtract from or alter any of the functions of the Board for the time being specified in that subsection; or(b) provide that any function of the Secretary of State which is exercisable in relation to women in the criminal justice system is exercisable concurrently with the Board.(7) The power of the Secretary of State under subsection (6)(b) includes power—(a) to provide that, in relation to any function that is exercisable by the Secretary of State in respect of particular cases, the function is exercisable by the Board only—(i) where it proposes to exercise the function in a particular manner, or(ii) in respect of a class of case specified in the order, and (b) to make any supplementary, incidental or consequential provision (including provision for any enactment to apply subject to modifications).(8) No regulations under subsection (6) may be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(9) In carrying out their functions, the Board must comply with any directions given by the Secretary of State and act in accordance with any guidance given by the Secretary of State.(10) A relevant authority—(a) must furnish the Board with any information required for the purposes of subsection (5)(b), (c) or (d) above; and(b) whenever so required by the Board, must submit to the Board a report on such matters connected with the discharge of their duties as may be specified in the requirement.A requirement under paragraph (b) above may specify the form in which a report is to be given.(11) The Board may arrange, or require the relevant authority to arrange, for a report under subsection (10)(b) above to be published in such a manner as appears to the Board to be appropriate.(12) In this section “relevant authority” means a local authority, a chief officer of police, a local policing body, a local probation board, a provider of probation services, a clinical commissioning group and a local health board.(13) Schedule (Women’s Justice Board: further provisions) has effect.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause makes provision for the establishment of a “Women’s Justice Board”, along the lines of the Youth Justice Board. The drafting closely follows the form of the provisions establishing the YJB in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
My Lords, the amendments in this group propose the establishment of a women’s justice board, along the lines of the Youth Justice Board. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for adding their names.
The drafting of the two amendments remains as it was in Committee, and closely reflects the wording of the provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 establishing the Youth Justice Board. When we debated these amendments in Committee, on 17 November, they enjoyed widespread support from everyone, except the Minister. The diversity and unanimity of the support we received, I suggest, speaks volumes. Indeed, the support from the Labour Party was unqualified. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said:
“We on this side of the Committee strongly support these excellent amendments”.—[Official Report, 17/11/21; col. 327.]
He spoke of the need to give real drive to the movement to further the needs of women within the criminal justice system.
No one disputes that the Youth Justice Board has been a resounding success. It has concentrated effort on recognising and addressing the special needs of young people within the criminal justice system. It has diverted many away from involvement with the system, and offered help and support to those who have been convicted and sentenced, both with community sentences and in custodial settings. The figures speak for themselves: in the last 15 years, the number of under-18s in custody in this jurisdiction fell by about three-quarters, to well under 800 now.
The establishment of a women’s justice board could, we believe, achieve similar success for women, by concentrating effort and resources on helping women who come into contact with the criminal justice system, diverting them from custody, improving the effectiveness of community sentences for women, increasing their use in consequence, and building ways of offering women offenders specialist support with the special issues and difficulties that they face. In Committee we debated those at length.
We also considered the appalling effect of custody on women and their children. The harsh truth is that 19 out of 20 children whose mothers are imprisoned are forced to leave their homes. All the evidence is that those children are themselves more likely to become involved in crime, more likely to suffer from mental ill health and to fail at school, and less likely to find stable employment as young adults—all to the detriment of society at large. The Minister, replying in Committee, disagreed with the proposition that there is a crisis of confidence in women’s justice. That is not the view of the overwhelming majority of experts and those working in this area, who are all deeply troubled by the lack of specialist support and consideration for women in the system.
It is true that, as the Minister said, we have the female offenders strategy, which started in 2018, and the Advisory Board on Female Offenders. The Ministry of Justice is doing work in this area, but it was working in the area of youth justice before 1998, and that did not obviate the need for the Youth Justice Board.
The Minister said in Committee, and repeated when we met the other day—I am grateful to him for the time and care that he has taken, as he always does, to consider the arguments on this issue—that the key point, from the Government’s point of view, was that we do not have a separate criminal justice system for women and girls, as we do for young offenders. As he put it, there is no separate legal framework; women are dealt with as part of the adult offender population. He drew a distinction, for that reason, between women’s position in the criminal justice system and that of young offenders, whom the law treats differently from adults.
I am afraid I do not follow that logic. It seems to me that it contains a non sequitur. The Government accept that women, like young offenders, have special needs in the criminal justice system. The Minister himself spoke of women having particular needs which we needed to identify. I say we need to do more than to identify them; we need to address them. He spoke of the prevalence of mental health issues, of the number of women survivors of abuse—I took it that he was referring to both sexual and physical abuse—and of the closer link among women offenders between drug and alcohol abuse and reoffending than exists for male offenders.
The Minister did not speak in Committee about the particular family issues faced by women in the system—but the effects of custody on the children and families of women offenders are devastating. We have heard about them, in particular, in the debates on the amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester on primary carers. It is no answer to the need for special attention to women’s needs in the criminal justice system to say that women are subject to the same criminal law as men. That fact, of itself, does nothing to address those special needs.
The Minister raised in Committee the issue of the time needed to establish a women’s justice board, but if we could achieve, in 23 years, anything like the same improvements as the Youth Justice Board has achieved in that time, that would be swift progress indeed. He also spoke of the cost implications of establishing a women’s justice board. That does not allow for the substantial savings that would follow from keeping even a few women out of custody, with the knock-on social costs of taking children into care, and the social costs that follow from women’s involvement in the criminal justice system, particularly when they receive custodial sentences.
There is simply no genuine and convincing answer to this proposal. I urge the Government simply to accept that establishing a women’s justice board would be the most effective, and the most promising, way to achieve all that they themselves say that they wish to do for women who find themselves entangled in a system that lamentably fails to address their particular difficulties. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment, because there is a real problem at the heart of criminal justice, which leads to the dissatisfaction that women feel about the justice system. We have created our system around a notion of gender equality that followed on from many years of using the male pronoun, “he”, with the person at the heart of the criminal justice system being a male agent. We then decided that we could not have that any longer, and that the way forward was gender neutrality. But of course gender neutrality is to a large extent a fiction. We know that that neutrality—creating some sort of supposed equality in criminal justice—actually creates further inequality. To treat as equal those who are not yet equal creates only further inequality. I want to emphasise that: it creates further inequality to pretend that we now have equality between the sexes. That is why I feel—although I know it is never comfortable for Governments to take ideas from elsewhere—that having such a board is a necessary part of addressing the great public discontent about the system and the way it deals with women.
I support the idea of a board that looks specifically at women in prison. We know that the majority of them have mental health issues and that their dependency on drugs and drink often derives from backgrounds of abuse: having been brought up in families where abuse was prevalent, or having themselves been at the receiving end of abuse. Understanding women in prison, how they themselves almost invariably have been victims of crime, is one of the ways in which we will progress the system. The Government should adopt this idea.
We need to concentrate on addressing what happens when women go to prison, because often they lose their accommodation and their children are taken into care. The disruption of everything that matters to them is so great that it is very difficult to repair. I therefore support the amendment. It is worthy of this House’s consideration and it is regrettable that it has been dismissed out of hand. There is a problem at the heart of this: you cannot move from inequality to equality simply by saying that there is equality now.
My Lords, I strongly support this amendment. Noting the success of the Youth Justice Board, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks, did, I venture to suggest that many of the problems of women in the criminal justice system would disappear if there was such a board, and the establishment of women’s offending teams.
My Lords, I add my wholehearted support to this amendment. I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for their continued commitment to women in the criminal justice system. As bishop to prisons and president of the Nelson Trust, I am acutely aware, as I have said so often, of the need for a gendered approach to justice. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, has just put that very powerfully.
While men and women need to be treated with equal justice, equality is not about sameness. Women are caught up in a criminal justice system that has been designed around men, and there needs to be a gendered lens. As we have heard already, many, many women are more likely than men to be primary carers or victims of abuse or exploitation. When they are given a prison sentence, they are more likely to be given a very short one, often far from home. I do not want to repeat things that have been said so many times in Committee and on Report but, having lost the amendment on primary carers earlier on during Report, I am very grateful to noble Lords for bringing forward these amendments, which will go a long way towards ensuring that we get the same outcomes. I am therefore wholeheartedly glad to support these amendments.
I rise briefly to add my voice in support of the amendments. I accept that the Youth Justice Board has been an enormous success, and that is primarily because it addresses two separate problems to deal with youths. One is the causes and reasons why they offend and the other is the need for their rehabilitation into society. Although, for reasons that are necessary for the trial of youths, they need a separate system, the underlying reason for the Youth Justice Board applies equally to women, in that there are specific causes of offending, the particular vulnerability, the particular issues they have with mental capacity in certain areas, the specific crimes to which they have been subjected and, above all, domestic abuse.
Moreover, it is plain that the kind of rehabilitation that women need is different. They need much more support in integrating them into the community, but they also need not to be treated or dealt with at centres. I warmly welcome what the Ministry of Justice has done and set forth in its strategy. The difficulty is that although there have been numerous reports about what is required—the report of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for example, and the many reports of the Prison Reform Trust—what is needed is delivery. Delivery is key to this, and that is why I warmly support this amendment.
In considering the issues relating to women’s justice and the commission I chaired on justice in Wales, it was plain that the Welsh Government were taking a separate and distinctive strategy towards female offending. The difficulty there, however, was delivery. It is delivery that has been the success of the Youth Justice Board and would, I believe, be the success of a women’s justice board. I therefore warmly support the amendment.
My Lords, I too warmly support this amendment. Like most criminal lawyers, I have often visited women’s prisons and I must tell your Lordships that they are shattering and disturbing places. The sheer amount of human damage that one encounters in women’s prisons is very disturbing. My main reason for supporting this amendment as strongly as I do is precisely the delivery aspect to which my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas has just referred. Something has to be done to persuade the Government, and all of us, I suppose, to focus on the processes that are leading women—mostly damaged women, with children, who themselves are victims of serious crime—into these places. Without a way to focus on this as a public policy that can deliver some change, nothing will change. I strongly believe that the proposal in this amendment, if adopted by the Government, could lead to some desperately needed change.
My Lords, I too support this amendment. It seems to me that the case for the amendment is made plain by the functions of the proposed board, as set out in subsection (5). The functions include meeting the particular needs of women in the criminal justice system; monitoring the provision of services for women; obtaining information from relevant authorities; publishing information; identifying, making known and promoting good practice; commissioning research in connection with such practice; and providing assistance to local authorities and other associated purposes. Is the Minister really disputing that there is a vital need for all of that to be done, and by a body dedicated to that purpose?
My Lords, I was pleased to attach my name to these two amendments, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, for leading on them. The case has already been clearly made and I will not speak for long, given the hour, but it is worth looking back at the history of this. I looked it up and found a House of Lords Library note from 25 January 2008, referring to a debate drawing attention to the case for setting up a women’s justice board. In 2014, there was an amendment to the legal aid and sentencing Bill seeking to do the same thing. We are often accused of proposing novel ideas that, we are told, we need to go away and think about, but that argument simply does not apply in this case.
The noble Baroness, Lady Corston, produced an enormously important report well over a decade ago that made a huge number of recommendations, most of which have not been implemented. This really is another way, as several noble Lords, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, have said, of getting at the problem of implementation. We have been talking about how the criminal justice system is failing women for a very long time, and it really is now time to take action. I will finish with a quote from Baroness Howe of Idlicote, who has now retired from your Lordships’ House. She said, back in 2008:
“I must say that I have become tired of seeing this matter brought to debate again and again”.—[Official Report, 31/1/08; col. 805.]
Surely it is time for action.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate because I have been making speeches on this topic for 12 years. I believe, if memory serves, that I was the Front-Bench speaker in the other place who proposed the amendment to the LASPO Bill. It is quite extraordinary. I think it is now 22 years since this was first suggested and, as others have said, we have had the Corston report. We cannot have a debate on women in prison without reference to my noble friend Lady Corston—Jean Corston—and the work that she has done. The idea of a women’s justice board has been around for so long because it is such a good idea. There is so much evidence of the impact, and probably the savings, that it would make, should we take that path.
There is a long-accepted problem—and I know the Minister accepts that there is a problem—with the failure of the criminal justice system properly to address the needs of female offenders. This leads to poor reoffending rates and devastation for families, with children often bearing the brunt. The social and economic cost is enormous. Women make up only 4% of the prison population and are still too easily overlooked in policy, planning and investment decisions for the reasons that my noble friend Lady Kennedy outlined so well. Female offenders are different from male offenders: they have different health needs, including pregnancy, miscarriage, breastfeeding and menopause. We know that these issues are neglected, and we know the failure to tailor provision for women affects reoffending rates.
The frustration is that the Government agree with all this, yet they seem constantly to fail to move the dial. Unfortunately, according to the excellent work done by the Prison Reform Trust, fewer than half, I think, of the commitments made in the Government’s Female Offender Strategy, which was published in 2018, have been met so far. We know that community sentences can be more effective than short prison sentences, yet the use of community sentences is dropping—it has dropped by two-thirds since 2010. Community provision for women needs to be so much better, and the quality everywhere needs to improve. There are many excellent projects, but provision is way too patchy. One of the functions of a women’s justice board, like the Youth Justice Board, would be completely to transform that.
The Government’s Female Offender Strategy is not being delivered quickly enough. This leads many of us to conclude that a new lead organisation for female offenders would make the difference. Since my noble friend Lady Corston’s report, understanding of female offending has improved so much—this is a real positive—and the Government have played their part in this. I believe Ministers want to act and want female offending to improve. I hope the Minister is not just going to stand up and say “We are making progress—bear with us”, because we can all see that it is inadequate. Nothing that has been done so far is making a sufficient difference. Interventions in this space are too often short-term. They leave the fundamentals of substance misuse, mental health, housing, financial literacy and domestic violence unaddressed. We know that self-harm in women’s prisons has reached record levels. The situation is getting worse, not better. More than 20% of self-harm incidents involve women, with 12,000 incidents in 2020 compared to around 7,500 in 2016. A strategy is great, and we need a strategy, but we need leadership to ensure that delivery takes place. A women’s justice board would provide the strategic framework to identify and prioritise the specific needs of women within the criminal justice system.
Having been around this a few times now, the Government have previously argued that this can be achieved through ministerial working groups or strategies, and it could have been done, but the truth is that so far it has not. Many of us will have visited women’s prisons and seen what happens. One of the most upsetting things I have ever seen was when I was present for visits where women were interacting with their preschool children. The response of the women and the children was difficult for prison staff as well. That was an annual thing in that prison—once a year that happened. There is no central co-ordinating body able to identify best practice and make sure it happens everywhere. We fail on that because the Government do not have that central body. Women are going out; they are not making progress—reoffending is as bad as it has ever been. I feel we have come to a point where it is time to bite the bullet and accept the idea of a women’s justice board.
My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, we debated these amendments in Committee. At that time, they were withdrawn without a vote, although I acknowledge that, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, fairly said, those who spoke in Committee overwhelmingly supported the amendment.
I have of course listened very carefully to the various speeches and points made around the House this evening. I think it is fair to say that the arguments in support can perhaps be distilled in four points. I set them out not to make the case against me stronger but perhaps at least to reassure the House that I have understood it. First, the Youth Justice board model has been a success in reducing the number of children entering the youth justice system or custody and, therefore, it is an appropriate model to follow as the needs of women are distinct. Secondly, sometimes their needs are similar, for different reasons, to the needs of children. Thirdly, women are often victims as well as offenders and largely commit non-violent and low-level crime. Fourthly, a women’s justice board would provide the effective leadership and drive to address the particular needs of women in the criminal justice system and divert them before they come into contact with that system by preventing offending in the first place. The House should therefore be reassured that the Government and I have understood and considered carefully the case. As the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said, we have had a number of very helpful discussions about it.
The Government recognise that women who are in or at risk of contact with the criminal justice system have distinct needs that require a distinct approach, and we have acted in a practical sense on that recognition. We published the Female Offender Strategy, which sets out a comprehensive programme of work to respond to those needs, and we remain committed to its delivery. The Advisory Board on Female Offenders provides external and independent oversight of the strategy, but my ministerial colleague in the other place, Minister Atkins, has also asked officials to review the wider governance arrangements for the strategy to ensure that they are fully fit for purpose to support the work across government which is vital to deliver the strategy.
I explained in Committee why the Government are not persuaded that the Youth Justice Board is the right model for addressing the needs of women. To take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and others, I again underline that I agree and accept that the Youth Justice Board has done extremely good work in its area. There is a short point here, but I suggest it is very important. We have a separate youth justice system. The Youth Justice Board is a reflection of that different system. It is a specialised justice board for a specialised and separate justice system. That is not just to make the physical point that children are still maturing, so the justice system applies to them differently. It is to make the point that the youth justice system is significantly different from the adult justice system in a number of respects.
Let me set out a number of them. First, with youth justice, there is a statutory aim
“to prevent offending by children and young persons”.
That is from the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. There is a greater focus on prevention and diversion. Custody is used as a last resort, as it is in the adult system, but there is greater focus in the youth justice system because there are separate community services provided by youth offending teams, which are part of local authorities. There is a separate youth court with specially trained magistrates with different sentencing powers. There is a separate sentencing framework for children that does not apply to adults. Of course, there is also an entirely separate custodial estate, which is managed in an entirely different way.
That is before one gets to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we ratified. Article 40 covers children and justice, and expects states that are party to the convention
“to promote the establishment of laws, procedures, authorities and institutions specifically applicable to children alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law”.
So it is not just that children have different requirements; there is an entirely separate justice system for them.
However, unlike children in the criminal justice system, there is no separate legal framework for women. Women are managed as part of the adult criminal justice system. We have one unitary adult criminal justice system, which is gender-neutral. To pick up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, gender-neutral does not mean gender-blind. The system is gender-neutral and applies equally to all offenders while—this is the important point—recognising their specific individual circumstances.
I assure the noble Baroness that I am entirely relaxed about taking ideas from elsewhere; when it comes to that, I am an unabashed Maimonidean. However, the fact is that the criminal justice system does look at the circumstances of women. We have far fewer women in prison. We had a very interesting debate on the amendment put down by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester on primary carers, in which I set out our position—and I shall not repeat it now. I absolutely accept the right reverend Prelate’s proposition that equality is not about sameness. I also accept the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, that women have specific requirements because often they have been abused, and have specific requirements for rehabilitation. I agree with the noble and learned Lord and other speakers that the touchstone is delivery. However, I suggest to the House that the female offender strategy put in place by the Government takes full and proper account of the existing legal framework while setting out a comprehensive programme of work to respond to the needs of women in, or at risk of, contact with the criminal justice system.
To pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, we do not disagree that the matters set out in the amendment and the work that the proposed board would do are important; the question here is how we will deliver that work. The Government believe that the matters set out there, many of which are very important, are part of and will be delivered by the female offender strategy. The question is not whether the work ought to be done; it is whether we need a new body to do it. I suggest that we do not. We have in place a comprehensive female offender strategy, which is the best vehicle to deliver that work. That is the right way to approach this, rather than going to the expense—and, yes, the time—of setting up a separate statutory body from scratch. I therefore respectfully agree with a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, said. We agree broadly about the aims; this is really about the method of delivering them.
The underlying point is that we have a single adult criminal justice system. We should not, therefore, have a separate women’s justice board. The Youth Justice Board is for a separate justice system. Essentially, for that reason, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Marks, to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I am reassured by the fact that he says that he understands the case, of course, but I am not reassured by the logic that drives him still to oppose these amendments.
I did not hear in what he said anything that answers the unanimous speeches around the House, which made two important points. The first is that women’s needs are different and special. As I said in my opening speech, that does not seem to me to be answered by the fact that there are different justice systems applicable to youths and to women. The second point is that this is about delivery. It is not just about a philosophy that says that we recognise those needs, or even that we identify them; it is about addressing those needs and bringing some drive to that effort. Those points were made powerfully by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, and many others. The question put to the Minister by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, as to what it is that the Government do not want delivered, was not answered by the Minister saying that the Government want to see this delivered, unless they are prepared to do something to achieve that delivery.
I am grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, whose speech can perhaps be summarised by her question: so far, has it been done? The answer is no. Delivery has not been achieved. We believe—the speeches from around the House show that noble Lords also believe this—that a women’s justice board is needed to achieve that delivery. For that reason, and in the hope that sufficient Members from the noble Baroness’s party will support her and us on this issue, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
97ZA: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—
“Sex-specific incarceration for offenders
(1) Where a person who has undergone gender reassignment is serving a custodial sentence, that person is to be ordinarily treated with respect to housing on the prison estate by reference to their sex registered at birth.(2) Where a person who has undergone gender reassignment is remanded in custody on suspicion of committing an offence, that person is to be ordinarily treated with respect to housing on the prison estate by reference to their sex registered at birth.(3) Where the case-by-case assessment of a prisoner who has undergone gender reassignment determines that the prisoner should not be accommodated with prisoners of the same sex as registered at birth, separate accommodation must be provided to ensure that there is no access to or association with prisoners of the opposite sex as registered at birth.(4) This section applies whether or not the person has a gender recognition certificate.(5) Within 12 months of the passing of this Act the Secretary of State must ensure accommodation is available for the purposes of this section.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide that all prisoners should live in accommodation provided in consideration of both their sex registered at birth and their gender identity. Prisoners with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment will ordinarily be housed according to their sex as registered at birth. On a case-by-case basis, prisoners may be allocated to a specialist transgender unit, with no contact with prisoners whose sex registered at birth was the opposite of their own.