My Lords, it may be helpful for me to say a few words about Third Reading amendments. In line with the procedure agreed by the House, yesterday evening the Public Bill Office advised the usual channels that Amendment 1 on the Marshalled List for Third Reading today falls outside the guidance in the Companion on Third Reading amendments. The Clerk of Legislation advised as follows:
“In my view, this amendment falls clearly outside the guidance. The issue was fully debated and decided on a vote at Report. The Minister was asked to reconsider and come back at Third Reading; he clearly and repeatedly declined (see cols 1947-50). In my view, the amendment is not addressing an uncertainty; it would reopen the issue and significantly change what the House decided.”
On the basis of that advice, the usual channels and the Convener of the Cross-Bench Peers are recommending to the House that Amendment 1, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, should not be moved. I therefore invite the noble and learned Lord, when the time comes, not to move his amendment.
My Lords, before we move on to the amendments, I want to put on record a few remarks about the position of the Bill in relation to devolution. The great majority of the provisions in the Bill apply to England and Wales; a number also apply to Scotland and/or Northern Ireland. Throughout the preparation and passage of the Bill we have been working closely with each of the devolved Administrations and I pay tribute to officials and Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for their constructive engagement and support.
There are provisions in the Bill which engage the legislative consent process in the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament has issued legislative consent on the advice of the Scottish Government in respect of those provisions which relate to devolved matters in Scotland. Just last week, Senedd Cymru considered two legislative consent Motions and, on the recommendation of the Welsh Government, agreed to legislative consent to one of these Motions but rejected the other Motion. I am pleased to say that the LCM agreed by the Senedd gave legislative consent to all the measures in the Bill which, in the view of the UK Government, engaged the LCM process in the Senedd itself. In addition, the LCM passed by the Senedd also covered the measures in the Bill relating to the increase in the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker and the extraction of information from electronic devices. In the view of the UK Government, these measures related strictly to reserved matters and therefore did not engage the LCM process or, indeed, require legislative consent.
Turning to the second Motion put forward by the Welsh Government, the Senedd declined to give its legislative consent to certain provisions in the Bill relating to criminal damage to memorials, public order and unauthorised encampments. I therefore want to put on record that, in the view of the UK Government, these measures again relate to reserved matters and therefore did not engage the LCM process, or indeed require legislative consent.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has already agreed to a legislative consent Motion in respect of certain measures in the Bill that engage the LCM process. That Motion did not, however, cover the Bill’s provisions relating to the extraction of information from electronic devices, which, in part, also engage the LCM process. I understand that the Northern Ireland Executive have now agreed to bring forward a supplementary LCM in respect of these measures, and that is due to be considered by the Assembly shortly.
Clause 3: Required life sentence for manslaughter of emergency worker
1: Clause 3, page 4, line 39, at end insert—
“(c) manslaughter in circumstances where—(i) the death was not caused by dangerous driving or driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, and(ii) but for causing death or serious injury to the emergency worker, the unlawful act would have attracted a maximum sentence of less than five years imprisonment.”
My Lords, on 24 November 2021, the Government announced in a press release that they were introducing into the Bill a provision that imposed a mandatory life sentence where a key emergency worker dies as a result of manslaughter. The introduction of that provision into the Bill was not the product of any debate in this House or the other place.
On 1 December 2021, the relevant amendment giving effect to the provision that there was a mandatory life sentence for manslaughter was tabled with the Table Office. On 8 December 2021, the matter was debated in this House. A large number of Peers spoke in the debate, including the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Baronesses, Lady Fox, Lady Hamwee and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the noble Lords, Lord Beith, Lord Pannick, Lord Carlile and Lord Marks, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. They gave a variety of reasons why the provision had particular defects; there was a range of detailed complaints about it. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, spoke on behalf of the Labour Front Bench and indicated that Labour accepted the amendment in principle but that there were problems with the detail.
Before there was a vote on the amendment itself, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, suggested an adjournment to discuss the detail. There was a vote on that and it was rejected. There was then a vote on the amendment. Anybody fairly reading that debate would conclude that the principle of the amendment was agreed to—that this House agreed to the principle of a mandatory life sentence where an emergency worker dies as a result of manslaughter. However, nobody reading that debate could possibly conclude that the detail was treated as being resolved in relation to that.
One detail that affected many noble Lords was the consequence of having a mandatory life sentence for manslaughter if, for example, in a demonstration about, say, HS2, a demonstrator pushed over a police officer acting in the execution of his or her duty, who bumped their head—which would be common assault at worst—and died. That demonstrator would end up with a mandatory life sentence. They would not be saved from the mandatory life sentence by the exceptional circumstances defence.
This caused many people in the House considerable concern. I completely accept that the principle of the mandatory life sentence is no longer up for debate; that has been resolved. However, in conjunction with my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti—to whom I pay tribute for her work on this issue—I have crafted an amendment that does not touch the detail of the provision, in the sense that it leaves in place the principle agreed but says that, where the offence you would otherwise be charged with does not attract a sentence of more than five years, you will not be susceptible to it. This is to deal with the one-knock manslaughter case. It leads to justice and reflects where the House is coming from. I strongly commend the amendment to the House and very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, will address the detail.
I should deal with the point that the Chief Whip made to start with. He has left, sadly, but there you are. On amendments at Third Reading, the rules say:
“The practice of the House is normally to resolve major points of difference by the end of report stage, and to use third reading for tidying up the bill … The principal purposes of amendments on third reading are … to clarify any remaining uncertainties … to improve the drafting; and … to enable the Government to fulfil undertakings given at earlier stages of the bill.”
I accept that this amendment does not come within any of those three identified bullet points, but it is under the chapeau of this phrase:
“The practice of the House is normally to resolve major points of difference by the end of report stage”.
How can we do that when the first we heard of this amendment was on Report? Read the Report debate. Noble Lords will see that it was a Second Reading-type debate, as they would understand it. Of course that rule does not apply; it is not normal.
This is the second point made in the rules:
“Where the Legislation Office considers that amendments fall clearly outside the guidance, including, for example, amendments which are identical, or very similar, to ones tabled and withdrawn at Committee and Report … or amendments raising completely new major issues, it will advise the Lords Member concerned.”
The guidance deals with the normal circumstance whereby, if you have not resolved the major issues by the time you get to Report, it is too late to raise them at Third Reading. That is not the case here. I completely respect the Public Bill Office for giving me the advice it did because I am not acting within one of the three bullet points, but I strongly urge this House to recognise that, where a major change is introduced this late, the guidance does not prevent an amendment of this sort going through at Third Reading.
We exist to be an effective scrutinising House. After this, we will come to an IPP amendment. We went so badly wrong on that after full scrutiny. This is such an important measure. It is about a mandatory life sentence. Therefore, although I have thought earnestly about the advice I have been given, I have not thought it appropriate to withdraw my amendment. In those circumstances, I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise in support of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who is, as your Lordships will appreciate, a former Lord Chancellor and law officer.
I reiterate that the Government came here on 8 December to commend Harper’s law to your Lordships’ House. However, in the course of that debate, to which I listened with great care, concerns were raised by every single group in your Lordships’ House about the potential unintended consequences that went beyond the Harper’s law case—a case of severe criminality that included dangerous driving that led to manslaughter. In particular, one-punch manslaughter was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and many other noble Lords; as my noble and learned friend said, there was huge concern.
The reason why my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer is right to ventilate this today goes beyond what we believe about Harper’s law, mandatory sentences, or even judicial discretion. All of these should be of particular concern to this second, revising Chamber. The reason he is right to ventilate this issue is that where significant, potentially controversial and rights-impacting measures are to be introduced, it seems to me—and I believe to other Members of your Lordships’ House—that there should at least be two bites at the cherry. The measures should at least be looked at twice.
Without the aid of my noble and learned friend, what will happen is this: it is presented and debated once in the second Chamber—not even in the first Chamber and then the second Chamber. The vote is on the same day and that is it—because, let us be honest, this is not going to have detailed consideration when your Lordships’ amendments go back to the other place. Whatever my noble and learned friend decides—and with the greatest of respect, I totally agree with the clerk about the irregularity of his amendment in terms of procedure at Third Reading—we are forced into a gentlemen’s agreement that is not reciprocated in the other direction. There must be adequate time, and it seems to me that, going forward, any significant and controversial measure must at least be looked at twice, so that there can be an opportunity to ventilate, study it, and correct any potential glaring, unintended consequences.
My Lords, I came cold to this debate, as it were, to hear what was to be said. I am certainly not an expert on the law, but I have had quite a bit to do with the Companion over the years, and I remember vividly a time when it was quite routine, on Third Reading, to present amendments that clearly should have been debated earlier. The authorities of the House at the time—and I may have been part of that—decided that we needed to tighten up the circumstances in which amendments could be laid at Third Reading. But—and this is a huge “but”, which my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer has already dealt with—it was always assumed that there would be flexibility in the decision about the admissibility of amendments at Third Reading.
There were occasions—I would have come armed with them if I had anticipated this debate—when the usual channels would get together, during or after Report, and say, “Look we really can’t resolve this now, we need to put down an amendment at Third Reading”. Had it been challenged by either Front Bench or by anyone among the usual channels, that would have been resolved at that point. But nearly always, there was such a common-sense argument about, “Well, we’ll let this one go at Third Reading, the air needs to be cleared with this at Third Reading”, that it was agreed among the usual channels; it was never seen as completely Stalinist rule. Indeed, as my noble and learned friend has said, there is flexibility actually written into it. But I can say with confidence that this issue has been addressed in the past. It seems to me overwhelmingly the case, in the way my noble and learned friend described it, that quite clearly it should come within the auspices of the Companion, with the agreement of the usual channels, to be able to debate this hugely important issue at Third Reading.
My Lords, I deeply regret the deformity to our law which results from the Harper amendment, made, as your Lordships know, for Third Reading. A mandatory life sentence for murder is one thing—indeed, one must recognise that, although entirely understandable, even that is questionable—but a mandatory life sentence for the manslaughter cases now spotlighted by the Harper amendment is really quite another.
I will content myself today by saying that not only may it cause a great injustice but it may be that, if one were a defence counsel in one of these cases, one would positively welcome Harper’s law and emphasise to the jury the awesome consequences of a conviction—consequences from which juries might well shrink. If this matter now goes back unamended to the House of Commons, I suggest that the other place may wish to reflect on those consequences. To pass as potentially unjust a law as this may prove to be counterproductive and a disaster for long-term justice.
My Lords, I came into the debate late on the day we voted. I was really quite shocked to find what was being debated, and I listened very carefully to the contributions. Because I had not heard the Minister speak from the Dispatch Box, I did not take part in the debate; I felt that I would be criticised for coming in without having heard the full discussion. But I have practised in the criminal courts for 50 years—I was called to the Bar 50 years ago—so I can tell noble Lords that I was very alarmed at the content, and I echo what has just been said by one of our distinguished judges.
I really was concerned at the absence of discretion here. You could have such a range with this kind of manslaughter charge, and it is a shocking idea that a mandatory life sentence might be passed on someone very youthful in circumstances such as were described—you can never completely cover every possibility—by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, where the consequence of a tragedy could also lead to the double tragedy of somebody spending their life in prison because the sentence is mandatory. So I really do think we have to think twice here. Of course, we have to protect our public servants, but it is vital that we keep true to the idea that different cases require different responses, and that there have to be some exceptions.
My Lords, relatively new as I am to this House, I try to follow procedure and often fail to do so, and I am rightly reprimanded by fellow Peers when that happens and when mistakes are made. I am also very conscious of the democratic deficit of this House as unelected legislators. But, in relation to this issue, I was shocked by what I saw as an abuse of procedure by the introduction of this very important Harper’s law at such a late stage. I felt that that was bending the stick, to say the least, in terms of taking this House and its procedures seriously.
So, from my point of view, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has explained very well that this is a modest amendment that does not try to overturn the spirit of what was passed earlier on but is trying to deal with what I think are unintended consequences that the Government themselves do not want to see—that is not their intention. But Harper’s law is not a minor matter. Since that bit of a mess by which it was passed last time, I have had some sleepless nights imagining that I might in any way be responsible for the unintended consequences that I really do not think the Minister wants to happen, but which could happen unless the Bill is unamended—which is why I support this amendment in these unusual circumstances.
My Lords, as I understand the position, the amendment, without qualification, was pressed to and supported in a Division. The normal situation to deal with the kind of question that the noble and learned Lord mentioned would be to modify that amendment by another, but that, for reasons that may be quite understandable, did not happen. Therefore, the amendment that was passed was unqualified and accordingly, strictly speaking, the rule would be as the clerk has said.
However, this House has discretion in these matters. The rules that are laid down are the best we can think of for every circumstance, but not even we can think of all the possible circumstances. Therefore, the clerk is perfectly right in this case, but justice suggests that it would be wise for the House to realise that, in this particular situation, a modification of the original amendment was certainly raised in the debate, although it was not put formally into the procedure. Therefore, to do justice in this sort of case, it would be right for the House as a whole to agree, in this very special circumstance, that this matter should be dealt with.
I want to throw my considerable Green weight behind the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. The Members opposite must realise in their hearts that this is unfair. I came into politics to make things fairer and this is not fair. It is unjust, as we have heard. Please let us debate it properly. I would vote for it—anyone can move it to a vote—and I hope it would pass.
My Lords, I support my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. He put this with beautiful simplicity and total clarity. He underlined the fact that, at the end of the day, we are answerable for what we decide. I deplore bringing in important things at the late stage of a Bill, which is why I withheld my vote when we were voting and not debating last week, because it made a mockery of Parliament. This is not making a mockery of Parliament; it is underlining the humanity of Parliament. I believe we should follow the sage advice of my noble and learned friend.
My Lords, I apologise and feel rather guilty about the fact that I have neglected this Bill during its passage through the House because I was simply unable to attend and I decided not to participate. I came to listen to this debate to find out what was being put on the statute book, having followed it a little from a distance. This issue therefore took me completely by surprise. I have listened to the exchanges, but I thought I should add the voice of a third former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice to the very eloquent case that has been made on both sides by the two others who share that position.
Personally, I do not approve very much of mandatory sentences, which have spread on to the statute book far too frequently in recent years in response to dramatic and publicised cases. I do accept the mandatory life sentence for murder; that is a very long-standing practice. We should deal with considerable care when we add new mandatory sentences in response to understandably emotional and dramatic cases that appear in the media but, unfortunately, responding to the media has become a feature of criminal justice Bills rather too frequently.
I rose simply to do what my noble friend Lord Cormack did: to add my voice, in so far as it helps at all, to those that have been put forward. This House would be letting itself down if it just let this go through by overstrict adherence to the normal procedures, which of course we should normally follow.
My Lords, this amendment has been tabled—in haste, it appears, as I will explain in a moment—at a very late stage in proceedings. It is not clear in its intention and appears to relate to an important category of people who I do not think any of the speakers in support of the amendment referred to. I will come back to that point.
I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, who said that he came cold to this matter. Far from being cold, I have had a number of warm meetings with Members from all sides of this House on all matters relating to Ministry of Justice provisions in the Bill. I regret to say that until this amendment dropped without warning, half way through my dinner last night, none of its proposers had found the time to engage with me or approach me in any way on this matter since it was debated in your Lordships’ House. That is a matter of regret, because in my relatively short time here I have found that discussions before matters are raised in the Chamber can be very useful. Had the matter been raised with me, I would have had the opportunity—and I would have availed myself of it—of pointing out some of the confusion behind the amendment and asking the noble and learned Lord whether the amendment he has tabled is in fact the amendment he wanted to table. I will come back to that point.
Having heard the words of my noble and learned friends Lord Mackay of Clashfern and Lord Clarke and my noble friend Lord Cormack, I will not get into the propriety or otherwise but will deal with the substance of the point. Harper’s law, which is the focus of the amendment, requires the imposition of a life sentence in cases where an emergency worker is the victim of unlawful act manslaughter. The intention of the amendment appears to be to restrict this to cases that involve an underlying unlawful act that is of a certain level of seriousness. My understanding is that it seeks to do so by excluding from the scope of Harper’s law those cases in which the unlawful act that underpins the unlawful act manslaughter of the emergency worker is one that, had the offender been convicted of that as a stand-alone offence, would have carried
“a maximum sentence of less than five years imprisonment.”
There is, I am afraid, real confusion as to what the amendment seeks to do. Noble Lords who enjoy it really ought to turn to page 4, line 39 of the Bill and remind themselves that this seeks to include an exception into Harper’s law. That is very important when one sees that in proposed new paragraph (c)(i) of the amendment there is a “not”, so it ends up with a double negative.
It seems to me that there are two interpretations of this paragraph and, from what the noble and learned Lord said, I am really not sure which interpretation he seeks to put forward. The first is—bear with me here—that it appears to except from that five-year maximum category, and therefore include within Harper’s law, cases in which the death was
“caused by dangerous driving or driving when under the influence of drink or drugs,”
even if the maximum penalty for the unlawful act offence was less than five years. If that is the case, it is not clear why that should be if the main thrust of the noble and learned Lord’s argument is that Harper’s law should not apply if the underlying offence carried a sentence of less than five years.
I also point out, as I am sure the noble and learned Lord knows all too well, that dangerous driving and the other driving offences here do not and cannot themselves form a basis for unlawful act manslaughter in any case, because that is the result of the decision in Andrews v DPP.
The alternative explanation of this form of words put forward by the noble and learned Lord is that the amendment appears to intend that where the unlawful act underlying the unlawful act manslaughter is one that in and of itself would attract a maximum penalty of less than five years’ imprisonment, that will be outside Harper’s law unless that act is accompanied by
“dangerous driving or driving when under the influence”,
which in the context of unlawful act manslaughter would be the circumstances that render the unlawful act dangerous.
I apologise to the House for subjecting it to a disquisition on unlawful act manslaughter but this is precisely the sort of point I would have discussed with the noble and learned Lord, had it been brought to my attention before I was halfway through my main course last night. More to the point, this would be an insertion at page 4, line 39 of the Bill; it would therefore go into proposed new Section 258A, which applies where
“(a) a person aged under 18 is convicted of a relevant offence, (b) the offence was committed … when the person was aged 16 or over”.
So, this amendment to Harper’s law, which is put forward on the basis of general principle, applies only to 16 and 17 year-olds. I did not understand from any of the speeches in favour of the amendment that the principle underlying those speeches was limited to 16 and 17 year-olds. The point was put on the basis that it ought to be of general application.
Why, I ask rhetorically, since the point has not been made, is this limited to 16 and 17 year-olds? Of course, the answer is obvious: it is not intended to be limited to 16 and 17 year-olds. Again, had this amendment been shown to me before halfway through my main course last night, I would have pointed this out, with respect, to the noble and learned Lord. What we have, therefore, is a late amendment, brought without any discussion with me or my colleagues, which fundamentally seeks to uproot the position taken by this House in Committee and on Report. It also suffers from fundamental uncertainty as to what it actually does, and the fundamental problem that it seems to apply only to 16 and 17 year-olds.
Quite apart from all of that, I simply do not see any merit in restricting Harper’s law in this way. We have already taken care to ensure that the provisions inserted by Clause 3 will apply only in cases of unlawful act manslaughter of an emergency worker who is acting in exercise of their functions as such a worker. Unlawful act manslaughter, as noble Lords certainly know by now, captures those cases where an unlawful act has been intentionally performed in circumstances rendering it dangerous, and that has caused death. It is the Government’s position that the unlawful act manslaughter of an emergency worker merits a mandatory life sentence. The seriousness of such conduct and the harm it causes both to the emergency worker—obviously—and to our wider society are evident. I respectfully see no reason to limit the sentence in the way this amendment appears to intend.
I come to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws—I respectfully congratulate her on 50 years in the criminal justice system—about discretion. There is, of course, a judicial discretion built in here; we have had this debate on several occasions during consideration of the Bill. Where the court considers that there are exceptional circumstances relating either to the offence or the offender that justify the imposition of a sentence other than life imprisonment, this could be done. I accept that some people want the exception to be broader, while some people may not want an exception at all, but that has been the Government’s consistent position throughout the Bill. I find it a little surprising that, at Third Reading, such a fundamental point is apparently up for discussion again.
Before I sit down—and I apologise to the House for delaying it—I come to the “one knock” case that the noble and learned Lord has put. If a person at a protest or demonstration were to hit a police officer who was then, for example, to fall over, hit their head and, God forbid, die, that could be captured under Harper’s law if it amounted to unlawful act manslaughter. Why is that? The reason is that what has happened here is not a simple case of battery. Under the offences made out here, the offence for which the offender would be sentenced is unlawful act manslaughter, and the Government believe that that crime, when done against an emergency worker acting as such, merits a mandatory life sentence other than where there are exceptional circumstances.
For those reasons—and, frankly, with renewed regret that I am having to deal with this on the floor of the House when I could have had conversations about it in good time previously—I respectfully beg the noble and learned Lord to withdraw the amendment.
I am incredibly grateful for the support from all around the House. I am particularly grateful to my noble and learned predecessor and my noble and learned successor for supporting me in this matter.
The response from the Minister was incredibly disappointing. It was bombastic and technical and failed to address the essential issue, which is: what about the “one knock” manslaughter case? The answer that came in the end appeared to be, “Actually, we intend to cover that.”
The Minister made one good point on the drafting. He is absolutely right that my draft covers only 17 year-olds because it refers only to page 4. I would have had to submit the same draft in relation to pages 5 and 6 as well, which, if I had got page 4 in, I am sure would not have made much difference.
This is such an important issue that I would have been tempted to obtain the opinion of the House. All around the House there has been support for it, but the only encouragement I get is the technical point the Minister made. It may be that when this comes to the House of Commons, the Government will consider that they could improve my drafting and get to the same result. In those circumstances, with regret, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 80: Key national infrastructure
Amendment 2: leave out Clause 80
Member’s explanatory statement
This clause is consequential on a clause which was not added to the bill, as it was defeated by a vote of the House. This clause therefore provides background detail for a power and a clause that do not exist. This amendment would remove this non-operational clause from the bill.
My Lords, my amendment would leave out Clause 80. The clause is consequential on a new clause from the Government that this House declined by a Division last week to add to the Bill. That new clause introduced the offence of “interference with use or operation of key national infrastructure”. What is now Clause 80 should surely not have been moved following that vote; it provides background detail for a power and a clause that do not exist. It starts off, for example, by saying:
“This section has effect for the purposes of section (Interference with use or operation of key national infrastructure)”,
and goes on to define types of national infrastructure for the purpose of the Government’s new clause to which this House disagreed. My amendment would thus remove that non-operational clause from the Bill. I understand that the Government will not be opposing this necessary tidying-up amendment, and I thank the noble Baroness the Minister for that. I beg to move.
My Lords, I want to make the very simple point that even if the Government were not going to accept the amendment, the clause would be pretty nonsensical due to the very strange way in which it defines “national infrastructure”. It has a unique set of definitions that includes some things that would not normally be regarded as infrastructure and excludes other things that are critical to the nation and the way it operates.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who has explained that the amendment would remove Clause 80 from the Bill. It defines “key national infrastructure” for the purposes of the Government’s proposed offence of interfering with the operation or use of key national infrastructure. Of course, I was extremely disappointed that the House voted not to add this new offence to the Bill on Report. The proposed offence would help protect the British public from the misery that certain individuals targeting our key national infrastructure have been able to cause.
The Government fully defend the right to peaceful protest, but we stand behind the British public in protecting them from the serious disruption caused by some who think their right to protest trumps the rights of the public to go about their daily lives. That said, the fact remains that as your Lordships did not support the introduction of the new offence, we are not going to play games: what is now Clause 80 of the Bill is redundant, and, consequently, the Government will not oppose this amendment.
Amendment 2 agreed.
3: After Clause 136, insert the following new Clause—
“Imprisonment for public protection etc: duty to refer person released on licence to Parole Board
(1) Section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (imprisonment or detention for public protection: termination of licences) is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (6).(2) In subsection (2)(a), after “Chapter” insert “(whether or not the prisoner has subsequently been recalled to prison under section 32)”.(3) For subsection (3) substitute—“(3) Where—(a) the prisoner has been released on licence under this Chapter (whether or not the prisoner has subsequently been recalled to prison under section 32);(b) the qualifying period has expired; and(c) if the Secretary of State has made a previous reference of the prisoner’s case under this subsection, the period of twelve months beginning with the day of the disposal of that reference has expired,the Secretary of State must refer the prisoner’s case to the Parole Board under this subsection.”(4) In subsection (4)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for “an application” substitute “a reference”, and(b) in paragraph (b), for “application” substitute “reference”.(5) After subsection (4) insert—“(4A) A reference under subsection (3) must be made, and a reference under that subsection must be determined by the Parole Board under subsection (4), even if at the time of the reference or determination the prisoner is in prison having been recalled under section 32.(4B) If at the time of the determination the prisoner is in prison having been recalled under section 32—(a) subsection (2) does not apply, and(b) subsection (4)(a) has effect as if it required the Parole Board—(i) to determine whether it is satisfied that it is not necessary for the protection of the public for the prisoner, when released, to be released on licence in respect of the preventative sentence or sentences, and (ii) if it is so satisfied, to direct the Secretary of State accordingly.(4C) Where the Parole Board gives a direction under subsection (4B)(b)(ii)—(a) if at any time the Board directs the prisoner’s release under section 28, that section has effect in relation to the prisoner as if, in subsection (5), for “to release him on licence” there were substituted “to release the prisoner unconditionally”, and(b) if at any time the Board directs the prisoner’s release under section 32, that section has effect in relation to the prisoner as if, in subsection (5), for “immediate release on licence” there were substituted “immediate unconditional release”.”(6) In subsection (5), in the definition of “the qualifying period”, after “on licence” insert “(whether or not the prisoner has subsequently been recalled to prison under section 32)”.(7) Subsection (8) applies to an application made by a person under section 31A(3) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 before this section comes into force.(8) If the application has not been determined when this section comes into force, subsections (4) to (4C) of section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 apply in relation to it as if it were a reference of the person’s case by the Secretary of State to the Parole Board under subsection (3) of that section.(9) Subsection (10) applies if a person remains on licence under Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, or remains subject to release on licence under that Chapter, following—(a) the disposal before this section comes into force of the person’s application to the Parole Board under section 31A(3) of that Act, or(b) the disposal under subsection (4) of section 31A of that Act, as it has effect by virtue of subsection (8) of this section, of the person’s application to the Parole Board under subsection (3) of that section.(10) Subsection (3) of section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 applies in relation to the person as if the application had been a reference of the person’s case by the Secretary of State to the Parole Board under that subsection.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendments in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar at page 133, line 13, page 135, line 13 and page 233, line 33 give effect to an undertaking given by Lord Wolfson on 15th December 2021 (Hansard col. 359). This amendment imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to refer the case of a person who is serving a sentence of imprisonment for public protection (or the equivalent youth sentence), and has been released on licence, to the Parole Board after ten years and annually after that.
My Lords, following my commitment and undertaking to the House on Report, I am pleased to be able to bring this package of amendments relating to imprisonment for public protection—IPP—before the House this afternoon. I thank sincerely the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett—and I understand why he is unable to be in his place today—the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Judge, and my noble friend Lord Moylan for their commitment to this cause and continued engagement with me on this matter. We have had a series of meetings and calls, which have been invaluable. They offered me their considerable wisdom and experience both of this subject and of this House in order to get this amendment—if I may put it this way—across the table and over the line.
It was made very clear at all stages in this House that there was enormous strength of feeling that some beneficial change for IPP offenders was both right and necessary. I am pleased that we have cross-party support for this sensible, proportionate and effective change that will provide such benefit but at no risk to public protection.
I committed on Report to bringing forward an amendment which puts the Secretary of State’s policy of automatic referral of applications to terminate the IPP licence on to a statutory footing. This would enable all eligible IPP offenders to be referred to the Parole Board for consideration for licence termination at the appropriate time. The new clause that I have tabled delivers on this commitment.
The position is that Section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 sets out how IPP offenders are currently able to apply for licence termination. Once the qualifying period of 10 years has elapsed—that is, 10 years from the offender’s first release by the Parole Board—this section provides that offenders can apply to the Parole Board to be considered for licence termination. In practice, the Secretary of State has made it policy to do this on the offender’s behalf, but first had to obtain consent from the offender.
The principal change in the first of the amendments in my name is in new subsection (2), which amends the wording of Section 31A so that the Secretary of State will be legally required to automatically refer the offender where the 10-year qualifying period has expired. Where the offender has previously been referred to the Parole Board for licence termination, they will automatically be referred if 12 months have elapsed since the previous reference. That removes the need for the offender to give permission for the Secretary of State to make applications on their behalf, and will enable the IPP licence to be brought to a definitive end for more offenders.
The clause also adds a new subsection to Section 31A which deals with offenders who are in custody following recall under the IPP licence. When an offender is recalled to prison, their licence is automatically revoked, so they cannot have their licence terminated while they are in prison following recall because they are no longer on licence. But, in these cases, the Secretary of State will still be required to refer the offenders to the Parole Board on the point of eligibility and every 12 months thereafter. The Parole Board will then determine whether the licence should remain in force following any subsequent release decision. It will be up to the Parole Board whether to terminate the licence of an IPP offender in custody—but these provisions are specifically intended to ensure that all eligible IPP offenders, who are either on licence or have been recalled and had their licence revoked, have the opportunity to have their licence terminated.
The remaining subsections are technical, transitional and clarificatory to ensure that the clause works correctly. But I make it absolutely clear from the Dispatch Box that time spent in custody on recall does not affect the running of the 10-year qualifying period. There are two further amendments in my name, both of which are consequential. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for joining me in them. The second amendment ensures that this clause operates correctly with other subsections that might prevent a referral, and the third sets the commencement date at two months following Royal Assent.
Taken as a package, these amendments appropriately balance the need to protect the public with ensuring that IPP offenders who are assessed by the Parole Board as no longer posing a risk to the public are given every opportunity to have their IPP licence, and the IPP sentence as a whole, terminated. So, with renewed thanks to those noble and learned Lords who joined me, particularly in supporting the first amendment, for their sustained engagement, I beg to move Amendment 3.
My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Judge has asked that I go next. I have indeed added my name to the first substantive government amendment, but I indicated that I would—and I do—make it plain that I do so without any great enthusiasm. Rather, it is on the basis that one must be grateful for small mercies—here, alas, I put the emphasis on the “small”.
I am grateful to the Minister for doing what he could for us, and, so far as it goes, I welcome the small change brought about by the amendment. But, in my respectful view, it does not go remotely far enough. It is difficult to overemphasise how small a concession this is in relation to the overall problem of the remaining IPP prisoners. Even in respect of the recall prisoners, we had hoped that the maximum term for which a licence should remain in force would be reduced from 10 years to five.
Beyond that, I fervently hoped to do something for the 1,700-odd cohort of IPP prisoners who have never been released and who remain incarcerated 10 years after this whole sentencing regime was abolished by LASPO in 2012. Many of the 1,700 are substantially more than 10 years beyond their tariff term—but there it is. We now have to—and we do—put our faith in the House of Commons Justice Committee, which has taken evidence and listened to many, including me, and is shortly to report on the whole question of this remaining regime. One hopes that it will do something to meet this grave, continuing and, indeed, growing injustice. In the meantime, I make it plain that I support this most modest of amendments.
My Lords, with the agreement of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I rise to thank my noble friend the Minister. I know from conversations with him that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who cannot be in his place today would join me in expressing our appreciation to my noble friend the Minister for the integrity, openness and engagement—and consequently the trust—he has engendered since Report. This is an example of government and the House working constructively to improve the operation of the criminal justice system and those affected by it.
The amendment moved by my noble friend addresses one limb of the amendment in my name in Committee and again on Report. It puts into effect the Government’s own previously announced policy of making the termination of licences automatic. I welcome that, but I still hope that soon the Government will also adopt the second limb of that amendment to reduce the qualifying period from 10 years to five. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said, the Justice Select Committee in the other place is considering this whole case.
I hope that when my noble friend replies he will be able to say that, if that committee recommends a reduction in the qualifying period from 10 years to five, the Government will be quick to adopt that amendment and put it into effect. Both measures—the automaticity of the referral and the potential reduction of the qualifying period from 10 years to five—are primarily aimed at IPP prisoners out on licence, not those in prison, though I appreciate that my noble friend has pointed out that those on recall may gain some benefit from this.
This is the first crack in the wall of this regime made in the last 10 years. It would be very easy for noble Lords to think that now is a moment when we could perhaps relax; the Government, having made a concession and implicitly recognised an injustice, will move, quietly perhaps, to resolve the whole matter quickly. But that is not what the Ministry of Justice is expecting to see happen.
In a Written Answer given in the other place by my right honourable friend Kit Malthouse on 3 December last year, the Ministry of Justice set out in round numbers how many IPP prisoners it expected to see released on licence in each of the next five years. It came to 800. But when asked how many of those out on licence it expected to see recalled to prison over the same period, the total came to a staggering 3,400. The Ministry of Justice expects 2,600 more IPP prisoners, net, to be in jail over the next five years than there are today. That is nearly a doubling of the number of IPP prisoners in prison today. This problem is not resolved; we have not even begun to resolve it. This problem is going to get worse and the Government are obliged to take it seriously.
My noble friend referred on Report to the existence of an action plan. He said that the ministry had an action plan for dealing with the problem. Requests to see the action plan have been met with a response from my noble friend to the effect that it will be available shortly, or it is not currently available, but we may look forward to it. I do look forward to it; we might all look forward to it, but we would like to see it soon. We would like to see it address this problem and put this scandal properly behind us as soon as possible.
My Lords, I thank the Minister, who has found himself wallowing in a misery of injustice and has done a great deal at least for the issue to be recorded in statute. For me, that is the only advantage of this amendment, but I respect very much the efforts he has made to produce an amendment at all.
Beyond that, I entirely agree with the observations from my noble and learned friend Lord Brown and the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. We have not got to the end of the beginning of this, but the end of the beginning has possibly come into sight. For me, after the shambles of this dreadful piece of statutory—I could get carried away and then I would be speaking unparliamentary language, but noble Lords all know what I mean; I shall just stick to shambles—we can begin to make up for what has gone on over too many years.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the amendment. He has followed through on a commitment he made on Report, which is greatly appreciated. However, like all the other noble Lords who have spoken, I wish the Government had gone further. Indeed, our little cross-party team put several other amendments forward, a number of which have been alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan.
This is one small improvement to a system that needs to be abolished for this group of prisoners caught on the wrong side of history. It is, however, a movement in the right direction. When the Minister spoke to me on the day that he made the commitment to bring the amendment forward, he quoted Newton’s second law. For noble Lords who, like me, do not have a clue what Newton’s second law is, it says that it is easier to move an object already in motion than one at rest. Well, the object is in motion and we—and, I believe, he—will try to push it along as far and as fast as we can whenever the opportunity arises. The ball is rolling and we will keep on pushing for justice and fairness for those whom the law has left behind.
My Lords, I appreciate that Third Reading is not the time for long and ponderous speeches, but I wanted to place on record—as someone who tabled amendments on Report and in Committee to deal with IPPs and the injustice that remains—that I wholeheartedly support the remarks of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown and Lord Judge, my noble friend Lord Moylan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Burt.
This is just the beginning and must be seen as something that will continue to be looked at, both by the Select Committee in the other place and the Ministry of Justice. I also place on record my personal thanks to my noble friend the Minister, who has dealt with this question with sensitivity and within the bounds of possibility that being a Minister in this House places on him. I thank him for what he has done and look forward to hearing more that will undo the injustice that the IPP regime is still visiting on a number of people.
My Lords, I feel very guilty that I was unable to arrange my diary to take any part in the Bill as it went through because this is the part of the Bill in which I would otherwise have taken an active part. I have already apologised to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, outside this House for the fact that in the end I was not able to offer him any assistance.
I add only, as my noble and learned friend just has, my support and simply record that I was the Lord Chancellor who abolished indeterminate sentences in 2011 with the wholehearted support of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who was then in the House of Commons with me and defused any attempts to preserve this stain on the statute book, which he had accidentally introduced without any expectation that it would be used as it was and resolve into a problem.
If you had told me when we abolished this sentence that there would be thousands of people in the position that they are now, 11 years after abolition, because they were left over to be dealt with, I would not have believed it. What I proposed was simply a change to the burden of proof that the Parole Board had to apply when deciding whether it was safe to release somebody, but that was never implemented. The fact that all these years later we face these problems is something of a disgrace. I thank the Minister for making this modest move, but I certainly agree with what everybody has said about the modesty of it. It needs urgently to be addressed by the Select Committee in the other place.
My Lords, I too would like to echo the thanks for the Minister. He has, in a sense, been a lobbyist within the Ministry of Justice to get this modest amendment over the line. The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, summed up the position very well when he described it as the first crack in the wall. I was alarmed by the figures he quoted from his Written Question, where he seemed to indicate that there would be more prisoners in jail because of recalls, so the problem is likely to get worse and not better.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, referred to the Minister’s reference to Newton’s second law—that it is easier to move an object that is already in motion. My first degree was in physics, and I would phrase that slightly differently, in a way that is relevant to the politics: the rate of change of movement is proportional to the impressed force. We on this side are certainly interested in increasing the impressed force on this object which is currently under way.
My Lords, I am grateful for the kind words a number of noble Lords have said. This may be a modest start, but it is a start, and I am sure that the conversation will continue. In particular, as I said when we discussed this matter substantively, I am well aware that the Justice Select Committee is looking at this matter. It will be reporting soon and, while I cannot go quite as far as my noble friend Lord Moylan would want me to by saying that, if the committee recommends, for example, changing the qualifying period from 10 years to five years, the Government will adopt it, I can say—which I hope would be obvious anyway—that we will take anything that comes out of the Justice Select Committee extremely seriously and look at it with very great care.
The action plan has been provided to the Justice Select Committee. We will review it again following the publication of its report to take account of our consideration following its recommendations. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not respond to everybody who contributed. I am conscious that we are at Third Reading and there is other business before the House. But I thank everybody who has contributed to this short debate. In particular, I respectfully thank the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, for our conversations and the correspondence we have had, which she knows I have been dealing with.
I am conscious that Newton has now been invoked on a number of occasions. I am not altogether sure whether Newtonian physics applies to government action, but I will proceed on the basis that it does. I will try to push things as far as I can, but for present purposes, the only things I will immediately seek to move are these amendments.
Amendment 3 agreed.
Clause 142: Calculation of period before release or Parole Board referral where multiple sentences being served
Amendments 4 and 5
4: Clause 142, page 133, line 13, at end insert—
“(3A) Subsection (3) does not apply to a reference by the Secretary of State under section 31A(3).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the new Clause in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar to be inserted after Clause 136. It disapplies section 33A(3) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (inserted by Clause 142) in relation to a reference by the Secretary of State under section 31A(3) of that Act.
5: Clause 142, page 135, line 13, at end insert—
“(3A) The reference in subsection (3)(a) to a requirement of the Secretary of State to refer a prisoner’s case to the Board does not include a requirement to do so under section 31A(3) of the 1997 Act.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the new Clause in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar to be inserted after Clause 136. It disapplies section 267C(3) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (inserted by Clause 142) in relation to a reference by the Secretary of State under section 31A(3) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997.
Amendments 4 and 5 agreed.
Clause 209: Commencement
6: Clause 209, page 233, line 33, at end insert—
“(ma) section (Imprisonment for public protection etc: duty to refer person released on licence to Parole Board);”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the new Clause in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar to be inserted after Clause 136. It provides for that Clause to come into force two months after Royal Assent.
Amendment 6 agreed.
My Lords, perhaps I may just detain the House a little longer to mark the end of this Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House. It has been a big Bill, with much scrutiny across no fewer than 11 days of Committee; and six days on Report has added to its size. During this time, we have added some important new measures to the Bill, including to further tackle violence against women and girls. Noble Lords have also made a few changes to the Bill, against the advice of the Government. It will now be for the House of Commons to consider those amendments, and we will no doubt be debating them again soon.
I reiterate the Government’s disappointment at the removal of some very important measures, the aim of which was to prevent a repeat of the scenes we saw last year, with people blocking roads, preventing those going about their daily lives from doing so and—yes—preventing essential services such as ambulances getting through to hospitals. The public demanded that the Government act to stop this serious disruption. We did so, but noble Lords on the Benches opposite decided to block these measures. That will not go unnoticed by the public.
Notwithstanding that, I want to take this opportunity to recognise the contributions of those who have supported me in steering this Bill through the House. I pay particular tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton and my noble friends Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, Lord Sharpe of Epsom and Lady Scott of Bybrook for sharing the load on the Front Bench. We have been ably supported by the joint Bill team in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, and by numerous officials and lawyers not only in those two departments but in the Department for Transport, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Education and Defra. On behalf of myself and my ministerial colleagues, I extend our thanks and appreciation to all of them for their professionalism and understanding over these past months.
I single out for particular thanks Charles Goldie, who is well known in the Home Office parish; I have almost lost count of the number of Bills that he has supported me on to date. I also thank Katie Dougal, Alice Harrison, Becky Martin and, of course, our private officers, who sit day and night while we debate these matters.
I also thank the Front Bench opposite for their engagement on the Bill, accepting that there have been some areas of disagreement between us. The noble Lords, Lord Rosser, Lord Coaker, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Kennedy of Southwark—and, in the early stages, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman of Darlington—have at times, including today, made points and have been open to helpful discussions to resolve issues where we can.
I single out the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for praise for being able to articulate in a sentence some very complex points.
Similarly, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, who have been very active during the course of the many weeks we have been engaged on this Bill. Again, I recognise that there have been, and continue to be, some areas of disagreement between us.
Given its wide scope, many other noble Lords have also contributed to the many hours of debate on this Bill. There are too many to mention now but, again, I extend my thanks to all noble Lords for their scrutiny of this important Bill. There should be no doubt about the merits of this Bill’s ultimate objective, namely keeping the public and our communities safe. On that note, I beg to move that the pill—pill? I think maybe I need a pill at this stage—the Bill do now pass.
I say to my noble friends behind me that I will resist the temptation to make political comments on the Bill. After all the days we have had in Committee and on Report, I am sure they will understand why I do not wish to go down that road.
I thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and the noble Lords, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Sharpe of Epsom, for all the work that they have so obviously done on this Bill. I also thank them for the meetings we have held and the changes that have been secured through government amendments or government support for amendments.
I also thank my noble friends Lord Coaker, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lady Chapman of Darlington. As the Minister reminded us, my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark has also been involved, as has been my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton. We seem to have had a fairly large Front Bench on this side of the House, and I am extremely grateful to all of them for the work that they have done.
I too thank the Bill team. Everything that the Minister said about them we would certainly endorse and wish to be associated with. They have been extremely helpful, and we have appreciated that. I also thank the many outside organisations with an interest in the terms of this Bill for the briefings that they have given us, both written and verbal. That has been extremely helpful too.
Talking of help, I would like to thank for the vital and invaluable work they do colleagues in our office here in the Lords, particularly Grace Wright, who has been a key figure and has certainly kept me on the straight and narrow. I am quite sure that any mistakes I have made have been nothing to do with her; she has prevented me making an awful lot as it is.
The Bill has been improved by amendments that this House has made and, in some cases, by resisting amendments to which this House has not agreed. As the Minister said, it now goes back to the Commons. Like her, I too wait to see what the Commons will now make of this Bill as amended by your Lordships.
I again thank everybody whom I have mentioned, and I am quite sure that there are others whom I should have mentioned but have not done so. For that, I apologise.
My Lords, I remember looking at this 307-page Bill—or at least it was 307 pages to begin with—in August and wondering how on earth to tackle it. I was reminded that the way to eat an elephant is one piece at a time, which is the approach we took. This was about five Bills stapled together, except the PPO could not staple them together because it was too big. The Bill returns to the other place considerably improved, although you cannot make a silk purse out a sow’s ear—these are separate metaphors; I am not mixing them—or should I say a boar’s ear in these days?
I shall not resist what the Minister has said about the Bill. As far as we on these Benches are concerned, the existing legislation to control protest was adequate, and the measures that we have removed from the Bill were not necessary in the first place. The majority of the police consider that a lack of police officers is the limiting factor when it comes to policing of protests rather than a lack of legislation.
I would normally thank the Minister and the Bill team for their engagement, but, certainly, I am not alone on these Benches, at least as far as the home affairs side of things is concerned, in feeling that the Government have not reached out to us as much as they could or should have done. None the less, we have all been in this together over a considerable period, and I am grateful for the time that the Government have given in allowing us to debate these issues.
I thank the Official Opposition, both the leadership and Back-Benchers, the Cross- Benchers, non-affiliated Peers and the Greens for their support and co-operation. In particular, I thank Elizabeth Plummer and Grace Wright for their invaluable help on the Bill, as well as all the outside organisations which helpfully provided us with briefings. We would not have done any of this without that help, and we hope that the Government will see the improvements that we have made to the Bill as improvements when it is considered by the other place.
My Lords, as other noble Lords have said, the Bill has been much improved. I pay particular thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, for working over six years with me and my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, in widening the pardons and the disregards for historical homosexual offences, including in the Armed Forces. It is truly historic when a state apologises for what it has done and reaches back over 500 years. It is the end of a six-year campaign that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has been an active part of. I cannot thank her and the Bill team enough, and indeed colleagues and the team in the Armed Forces. I also put on record our thanks to Professor Paul Johnson, the country’s leading expert on this. Finally, it might have been a six-year campaign, but some of us have campaigned for more than 33 years, not for ourselves but so that injustices can at last be put right.
My Lords, I will try not to repeat too much of what my noble friend Lord Paddick said. He pointed out—it is not a new point—that this has been a long and difficult Bill. I am bound to say that we must all hope that such a mammoth Bill, with such a wide range of diverse topics shoehorned into a single piece of legislation, will never be put before Parliament again. It has taken too many days, with too little time for the content involved and too much pressure, not just on MPs and Peers but on parliamentary staff, officials and those many organisations that seek to brief us about legislation. For us here, there have been too many early starts and too many late nights. It has been a very difficult experience.
None the less, I completely agree that the House has done its job well. We are very grateful to the ministerial team and their officials. On justice issues, I am, of course, particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, for the care, courtesy, approachability and engagement, not to say humour, that he has shown in our discussions. We have had some significant successes, from our point of view, on breastfeeding voyeurism and common assault in the context of domestic abuse. We have had some limited progress—my goodness, it is limited—on IPPs. That is clearly not the end of the story.
On Home Office issues, we are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her care and the comprehensively courteous way she has dealt with the House, although I am bound to say that I share my noble friend Lord Paddick’s view that we have felt that she has not been able, on behalf of the Government, to make the concessions she perhaps might have liked to have made in some areas.
These Ministers illustrate the pressure there has been on all of us. In this context, I mention the tireless and efficient work of my noble friend Lord Paddick, who has borne the brunt of days and weeks of debate over many hours and days of sitting, and there have been many more days of preparation.
Before the Bill finally passes, we on these Benches regard it as largely profoundly regressive. On human rights issues, the House must expect Liberal Democrats and others in the Opposition to continue robustly to defend individual liberty in a way that we do not believe the Bill does. On justice, we will keep the pressure up for a humane sentencing system dedicated to rehabilitation and reform, combined with increasing use of community sentences. We will continue to work on women’s justice, where it seems that we are accepting very slow progress when we should be looking for dramatic improvement.
I realise that I ought to be gracious, but I have hated almost every minute we spent on this Bill over the days, weeks and months. I deeply regret that it will pass. I wish it had not been presented in the first place and I wish we had not been forced to let it through, but it has been historic. One of the things that has been historic is the united opposition to some of its worst parts. That is something the House can be proud of. I look forward to many more days, weeks and months of arguing with the noble Baroness and the noble Lord on the Benches opposite.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.