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Lords Chamber

Volume 838: debated on Tuesday 21 May 2024

House of Lords

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

Water Companies: Failure


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether they have a plan for Thames Water and other water companies if they fail.

My Lords, I declare my interests as in the register. As set out in statute, if a water company became insolvent or were in serious breach of its principal statutory duties or an enforcement order, it would enter special administration. The statutory purpose of special administration is to ensure that the company continues to operate and that customers continue to receive their water and wastewater services.

I thank the Minister for his Answer, but it does not sound like much of a plan—there is not much detail there. I declare an interest as a member of the advisory board of River Action. I will put a plan forward; I am happy to share it with the Government because it is better than that one. The plan is that, as soon as any water company fails—and several are looking as if they are on that path now—we take it back into public ownership. We do not make taxpayers and bill payers pay extortionate amounts—we would keep it very cheap; I can explain how—and we stop the pollution as soon as possible, because we have all had enough.

I thank the noble Baroness for her very comprehensive plan and look forward to talking to her in detail. In the meantime, I assure her that the Government and Ofwat, the financial regulator of the water sector, carefully monitor the situation. Ofwat continues to engage with Thames Water to support it in improving its resilience within the context of its licence and broader statutory obligations. Fundamentally, it is the companies’ responsibility to continue to raise capital, and they should continue to explore this while fulfilling their statutory obligations of providing water and wastewater services to their customers.

My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the statutory instrument that sets out the action to be taken when water companies are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, which was debated on 19 February and subsequently passed in the Chamber. The mechanisms are there, so why are the Government havering over implementation and allowing inadequate management of this vital asset to degenerate on a daily basis?

My Lords, there is a high bar for the imposition of a special administration regime. A variety of options remain available to Thames Water in securing additional finance and it is vital that all of them are fully explored. The Government are prepared for a range of scenarios across our regulated sectors. If it becomes clear that any company will become insolvent or can no longer fulfil its statutory duties, we will not hesitate to use our powers to request the court to place it into special administration.

My Lords, the wording of the Question is “if they fail”. Does the Minister agree that on seeing on our television sets the excrement coming into our streams and rivers so frequently, most people in the country would say that the water companies had already failed?

I do not actually agree with the noble Lord fully. I accept that a number of the water companies are not performing to the right standard. The Government have been very clear that what is going on is unacceptable, but there is a huge legacy issue here. Simply renationalising water companies or stopping their chief executives from getting their pay, bonuses and all the other things—as is now in place—is not going to solve that problem straightaway. It is a long-term legacy issue which the Government have a fully funded plan to address.

My Lords, in 1990, Thames Water had net assets of £1,329 million. By 2023, they had increased to £1,435 million, which is a paltry increase of 8%, or a total of £106 million, mostly due to accounting abuses. This means that, over 33 years, Thames Water shareholders have provided little or no new equity at all, which is a major reason for its financial instability. Everyone knows that Ofwat is negligent and incompetent; what is the Government’s excuse?

The noble Lord cited a number of very detailed figures, which I know he is prone to doing, so forgive me if I do not know the detail on that. Since privatisation, the private water sector model has unlocked about £215 billion of investment. This is the equivalent of around £6 billion annually in investment—almost double the pre-privatisation level. This has delivered a range of benefits. Our bathing waters continue to improve—in 2023, almost 90% were classified as good or excellent. Water companies have invested £25 billion to reduce pollution from sewage and water company investment in environmental improvements has been scaled up to over £7 billion since 2020.

My Lords, could the Minister reassure the House that should any of the water companies fail, the ongoing monitoring of, for example, run-off from agricultural land—which is devastating many of our rivers, including the important chalk streams in Hertfordshire in my diocese—will continue, that we will continue to seek to find improvements, and that no momentum will be lost?

I absolutely assure the right reverend Prelate that this would be the case. If a water company were to go into administration, the special administrator would take control of the company and it would be regulated in exactly the same way as any other water company and subject to all the same environmental rules and regulations.

My Lords, we have reached the end of a long period of very low interest rates, during which the regulated utilities have taken on a great deal of debt. That was not a problem when interest rates were so low but, now that interest rates have risen, does the Minister think it time that the regulators of those industries took a keener interest in the balance sheets of the regulated utilities?

The noble Lord raises a very good point. Undoubtedly, mistakes were made in how water companies reacted over the past 10 or so years, when interest rates were very low. Now that interest rates have risen, so have the costs of the borrowings, which have created a number of difficult financial implications for them. However, we all hope that interest rates are falling.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dubs mentioned contaminated water, and there is now evidence that faeces-contaminated water has been detected in 10 areas of England and Wales. Is the Minister absolutely certain that nobody here today has drunk contaminated water?

I will just drink this glass of water—bottled water. I assure the noble Baroness that it is very good.

The noble Baroness raises a very serious point, despite all the laughter. One recent example of contaminated water has been extremely challenging, but the water company has responded pretty well. The Defra team went down there, and we have been in constant contact with South West Water. As noble Lords might expect, we have launched an investigation into the cause, and I hope that we will have the answers soon.

My Lords, the Minister cited a number of figures, but one he did not cite is that, since privatisation, the shareholders of 10 water companies have withdrawn £85 billion that could and should have been invested in the water industry. Whatever happens, can he undertake that those shareholders will not benefit further from the catastrophe happening to our waterways across the country?

The noble Lord makes a very good point, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Grade, on the behaviour of some of the previous shareholders and owners of water companies. I apologise for their behaviour—as do the Government—because I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Fox, that it was not well done. I very much hope that the controls put in place since then, and the lessons learned, will satisfy him going forward.

Carer’s Allowance


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether they plan to review their policy of fining carers who inadvertently break the earnings limit rule when claiming Carer’s Allowance.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and draw attention to my interests as set out in the register.

My Lords, while fully recognising and valuing the vital contributions made by carers every day in providing significant care and support, claimants have a responsibility to ensure that they are entitled to benefits and to inform DWP of any changes in their circumstances that could impact their award. Where benefits are overpaid, it is our policy to recover that money, where reasonable, and to set affordable and sustainable repayment plans that do not cause undue hardship.

My Lords, talking of undue hardship, I hope the Minister will now confirm the figures, which were finally released last week, that more than £250 million is being clawed back from more than 134,000 carers. In 2019, the DWP promised that its new automated system would stop overpayments and warn carers in time. Does he agree that it is unacceptable that carers are being prosecuted in this way? Does he also agree that what is needed is, first, an amnesty for carers who have been overpaid through no fault of their own and, secondly, a thorough review of carer’s allowance, so that carers are neither prosecuted nor persecuted for trying their best to combine paid work with their caring responsibilities, thus propping up the whole social care system on behalf of us all?

I think I should just reiterate that the Government thoroughly recognise and value the vital contribution made by carers, but it is also the case that, if a claimant incurs an overpayment due to payment error or fraud, this overpayment will need to be repaid and, in some cases, as the noble Baroness will know, a penalty will be charged. However, we carefully balance our duty to the taxpayer to recover overpayments and safeguards are in place to manage repayments fairly. Some overpayments will attract no penalty at all, and I can certainly expand on the safe- guards that we have in place.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee has written to the comptroller of the National Audit Office asking the NAO to conduct a second inquiry into carer’s allowance overpayment, five years after the initial investigation in 2019? Would the Government welcome such an investigation and how quickly could it be set up?

I have to say that the gist of the argument that came from the noble Baroness’s question is, “What is going on?” I can tell her that around 1 million people are in receipt of carer’s allowance and that the vast majority of them—around 95%—were paid correctly. I do not entirely accept the statistics that the noble Baroness mentioned: the total overpayment rate for carer’s allowance was 5.2%, which represents about 60,000 people. About half of them ended up being given a penalty of £50—the basic civil penalty.

My Lords, on the statistics, can the noble Viscount tell us how many people owe more than £20,000? When he talks about responsibility, will he agree that the problem is that we have another instance where the information technology system has got away from human judgment? The IT system does not trigger action, so carers may wait months and months to be told that they owe significant amounts. The evidence now suggests that one of the effects of this is that some carers are not going to claim carer’s allowance because it is too risky. They are facing so much stress and this is one element of stress that they simply cannot handle.

Although I do not have the figure to pass on to the noble Baroness, I can say that the other main category for overpayments comes under the title of “conditions of entitlement”. That represents 2.8% of the total. This is when claimants have stopped caring and neglected to tell us, or when the claim has been fraudulent from the outset. I am aware of some extreme cases highlighted in the press—which, by the way, have been building up over many years—where the amount of repayment is particularly high. That amount is not particularly high, but I will certainly get the figure to the noble Baroness.

My Lords, let me give an example. Carer’s allowance is a cliff-edge benefit. If you are caring for 35 hours a week and you earn £151 a week or less, you get the lot. If you earn £1 more, you get nothing. So the people the Minister is talking about include someone like Helen, who cared for her parents for 10 years. She breached the earnings rule because she worked in a hospital. They used to dock her wages automatically to pay for her parking. When they stopped doing that, her net pay went up. She was over the earnings limit by an average of £2 a month for two years, and she was told to pay back £1,700. DWP has known about this for years. Why is it not telling carers before they get into this kind of debt?

I think the noble Baroness will know that, each year, there is an uprating letter, so the communication is there for individuals. However, it is fair to say that we are looking at what more we can do to help our customers. I say again that it is their responsibility to tell us whether they exceed the earnings limit. Equally, we are looking to see whether, for example, under the RTI, the information that we receive instantaneously from the HMRC can be utilised so that we can send a text to customers. This is something that we are looking at very seriously— so her point is well made.

My Lords, I have great sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, has said in terms of communication. Every department can always do better in that and use every form of technology and so on to make sure that people know where they stand. However, would my noble friend not agree, and in support of what my noble friend is saying, that the Government have to be vigilant? We will get an income tax take in this country this year of only around £279 billion, and the bill just for the Department for Work and Pensions will be £300 billion. That is one department. It is vital, is it not, that the Government are vigilant and really crack down on those people who genuinely should not receive—

No, I am sorry, I am talking about those who should not receive. I did not say “carers”; I am saying those who should not be in receipt of benefits.

Indeed. I think I have made it clear already that we need to be fair. We need to balance carefully our duty to the taxpayer to recover the overpayments with safeguards in place to manage the repayments fairly. I am the first to say that some carers are among the most vulnerable people in society. Where they have got themselves into difficulty and gone over the limits, it is their duty to tell us and we have an important job to do in these situations to help them with their repayments. We have made some very good progress on that, but I have made the point that in terms of communications there is more to be done.

My Lords, I myself was a young carer for my late father and I understand how such additional responsibilities can limit your options for a stable income. Does the Minister acknowledge that unpaid carers are disproportionately affected by poverty? Will he explore longer-term solutions to bring more unpaid carers out of poverty, such as reforming the much-needed carer’s allowance?

The noble Baroness makes a very good point. Each carer has his or her own responsibilities, some of which are very great, involving permanent lack of sleep. However, it is very important that, if they can, they should lead for themselves fulfilling and rewarding lives. That is why we have a number of initiatives to encourage carers to do some work. We think that it is good for them, and they acknowledge that. Clearly, this is a very important part of what we do in our department.

My Lords, we all acknowledge that caring is an extremely stressful occupation and that it is really good if carers can spend some time at external work. We know that it is good for their mental health. The responsibility of paying something like £1,500 back in a short period is more than stressful; it tips some people into becoming so mentally ill that they can no longer go to work. Can the Minister go back to the department and agree the number of people who should have their debt written off and that those not in that category should pay no more than £5 a week?

We certainly do not agree with the idea that any of the debt should be written off; we think that the debt is there to be repaid. However, as I have said, we have a number of plans in place on a one-to-one basis to help each individual who has got into difficulty, to help them to repay that debt. That is a very important point.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley called for a fundamental review of carer’s allowance, as has the Work and Pensions Committee. We need a review that looks not just at the cruel rules but at the purpose of carer’s allowance, all the eligibility rules and the level of carer’s allowance, which is one of the lowest benefits of its kind.

The noble Baroness will know that we keep these matters under constant review and that the carer’s allowance is a non-means-tested benefit, with no capital rules, in England and Wales, which means it does not depend on the payment of national insurance contributions but is funded from general taxation.

I would also say that, for the claimant to be able to earn up to £151 per week, we need to take account of the allowable expenses. So that £151 can be stretched, in effect, by taking account of national insurance, tax and other allowable expenses.

Internal Drainage Boards: Levies


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of increases in internal drainage board levies on local authorities.

The Government are aware of the pressures that certain councils have experienced due to the increasing internal drainage board levies. In 2023-24, we assessed the impact of the levies on local authorities and provided £3 million in additional grant funding to the 15 that are most severely affected. Having listened to local authorities, the Government have announced a further £3 million of support in 2024-25. We are currently assessing the impact of this year’s increase in levies on local authorities and will announce the distribution of funding in due course.

My Lords, the £3 million does not touch the sides. Councils are charged this levy to manage water levels in their area. Since 2016 they have been expected to fund it through council tax. The financial impact shows that it has increased by almost £11 million in two years, beyond the council tax capping limit of 30 authorities involved, such as Boston, where the levy consumes 58% of the council tax, and Great Yarmouth, which saw 91% of its council tax increase consumed. Councils have been told repeatedly that the Government are looking for a long-term solution, so where is that solution, when is it coming, and will the Government meet the representatives to determine a solution before the end of the financial year?

Yes, I am very happy to meet those people with the noble Baroness. If she gets in touch with my office, we will arrange that.

My Lords, I declare my interest as vice-president of the Association of Drainage Authorities. Does my noble friend agree that the drainage boards play a crucial role in low-lying areas to alleviate the flood risk? Given the unprecedented weather events of the past 18 months—the wettest on record since 1836—will she commit the Government to undertaking a comprehensive review of water management and flood risk resilience to ensure that low-lying areas are not placed at greater risk in the future?

DLUHC has already committed to work with the sector and with Defra to implement, as my noble friend quite rightly says, what needs to be a long-term solution. Both departments recognise the importance of the issue and will continue to explore options. I welcome the sector’s views on this and will undertake data gathering as part of the work.

Internal drainage boards perform an essential function in geographically managing flood water—and this comes at a cost. If this is borne locally, other essential services will be depleted. Can the Minister comment on whether the Government would be prepared to spread this cost across all councils, not just those that habitually suffer flooding?

I understand where the noble Baroness is coming from, but that is not what the Government had envisaged. We are looking at the data and those councils that are under the greatest pressure because of the issues of water in their areas. That is how we will continue to do it this year—led by data.

My Lords, I declare my interests on the register. Up until May last year—as some noble Lords and certainly the Minister will be aware—when the electorate unceremoniously but quite wisely decided I should have more time in my diary, I used to lead a council that suffered the unfairness of the way the drainage board levies are currently raised. Over 50% of our council tax increases used to go to pay the drainage board and over 50% of council tax in total used to go to pay the drainage board. In the last two years, over 100% of what we collected in council tax increases went to pay the drainage board. Obviously, I do not blame my noble friend’s department for that, but does she agree that this is cost shunting from Defra to DLUHC and that, perhaps, a joint meeting between Defra and DLUHC to get a resolution would probably be best for the sector?

That is exactly where we are going. As my noble friend said, it is up to DLUHC and Defra—and local authorities—to get together and work out the future of this funding.

Universities: Financial Sustainability


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the financial sustainability of universities in England.

My Lords, the Government recognise that the sector’s financial position has become increasingly challenging. The financial health report from the Office for Students makes clear that the business models for a significant number of providers must change to ensure that they are financially sustainable. Indeed, all providers must continue to adapt to uncertainties and financial risks. Ultimately, providers are independent from government and, as such, it is for them to decide how they manage their finances.

I am grateful to my noble friend. As she says, the universities are independent, but the Government set the framework within which they operate—freezing student fees for seven years and controlling student visas. Government has an overall responsibility to make sure that students get a good-quality education at universities and that they remain competitive internationally. What is my noble friend’s response to the rather worrying report from the Office for Students last week, which basically said that we need to review the business and funding model of universities if they are to continue to maintain their quality?

The Government recognise the importance of having a thriving higher education sector which is responsive to the needs of the economy and funded in a way that is fair to taxpayers. We have demonstrated that commitment via our £1.3 billion of capital funding that was announced in this spending review, which is to support universities with teaching and research in key STEM areas and supporting roles in the NHS. As my noble friend said, the Office for Students was clear that providers need to review their business model and that there are very different business models across the sector.

My Lords, has the Minister seen that even the Foreign Secretary contacted the Prime Minister to say that a curb on graduate visas could be devastating for universities? Next time she bumps into the Foreign Secretary, could she whisper in his ear that it is easier to cross the Floor of this House than it is down there?

If the Minister is not too busy whispering on the Front Bench, could she confirm whether, if a major university—say, one of the Russell group—were to fall over financially, it would be too big to fail, or would the Government bail it out?

If the noble Lord looks at the recent data that has been produced on the financial health of our universities, he will see that larger universities, such as those in the Russell group, are in very good financial health and continue to show significant surpluses. Of course the Government have a role to play in making sure that student interests are protected in the case of a university failing.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that international students have a positive impact on our skills base, future workforce and international influence? Businesses recently said that they agree. If this is the case, why do the Government want to axe the graduate visa programme? Could it be that they are pandering to the right wing of the Conservative Party rather than thinking of the greater good of our country?

The Government recognise the value of international students and are very proud of our international education strategy and what it has achieved. However, the Home Secretary commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to write a report, which it published very recently, and the Government are considering its recommendations with care.

In light of the recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee—itself no pushover—can my noble friend reassure us that the Government will allow recent changes to postgraduate visas to work through the system before they make further changes, such as severely restricting graduate visas to particular subjects or universities, either of which could severely impact the already precarious financial status of some of our universities?

I recognise my noble friend’s concerns. We are committed to retaining the prestige and brand of UK higher education, which has been so successful in attracting international students. I repeat that the Government are reflecting on the findings of the MAC report. However, I point out that it found no widespread abuses of the system but pointed to specific concerns, including the use of recruitment agents.

My Lords, the system is not working for students or universities. The issue with the Office for Students is clear, and the Government have worn down relationships with universities by ignoring this impending crisis. Does the Minister believe that there is a clear duty on the Government to step back and look at the approach that they have been pursuing?

I just cannot agree with the noble Baroness. Our universities are tremendously successful. Student numbers, both domestic and international, have risen year on year and funding has increased—for English universities by 50% since 2015-16. Clearly, the report was very helpful, constructive and nuanced in the way that it set out some of the risks for the sector, which need to be worked through.

My Lords, I declare my interests at Cambridge and the Oxford International Education Group. Could the Minister explain to the House how the Government can say that they feel that higher education and its reputation is very important, and yet the Home Office keeps changing policies? Does that not send mixed messages to potential international students? Could UK plc not be doing a rather better job in terms of international higher education?

I remind the noble Baroness that our international strategy has been incredibly successful and hit its targets several years early, with 679,970 students in 2021-22. We have made some changes to the graduate route, for reasons that I think have been well articulated.

My Lords, does the Minister not think that perhaps the time has come to increase the cap? The £9,250 has been in place now for many years, and the only way that many universities are able to make it work is by charging some extortionate fees at the graduate non-regulated level.

I appreciate that, but the noble Lord will also understand the pressures that students face. We also have a responsibility to students to make sure that university is affordable.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a visiting professor at King’s and chairman of FutureLearn. If the Prime Minister goes ahead with curbs to the graduate visa, would my noble friend the Minister say how we will replace the £12 billion in economic benefits that international students bring to priority category 1 levelling-up areas, including towns such as Stockton, Middlesbrough and Darlington, which receive £240 million of benefits every year from international students at Teesside University?

With respect to my noble friend, he makes a very speculative statement, which makes it pretty hard for me to comment on it.

The Minister is doubtless aware that the pension fund of university lecturers is mainly invested in Thames Water. Traditionally, the munificence of the university pension scheme was regarded as a compensation for penurious academic salaries. Is the Minister aware of how difficult it will now be to attract people of talent into the profession, given the collapse of the pension scheme?

Obviously, the pension scheme is an element, but I am not aware that the entitlement of university lecturers is changing. Clearly, it is up to individual institutions to make themselves as attractive as possible to academic staff.

My Lords, the noble Lord opposite asked a legitimate question—how poorer areas, which are benefiting hugely because they have universities in their midst, are likely to be affected if the number of overseas students drops and the university becomes in a more precarious and even more fragile state. This morning, on the radio, one university was cited as having a drop of 40% in its overseas students over the past year. How will that affect the university and the community it serves?

I think that the noble Baroness, on one level, knows the answer to her question, which is obviously that if there is less money going in, it will have a negative effect. But that is not the real question. The real question is: what are the Government doing to make sure that there is significant investment in those areas? There absolutely has been significant investment in all of the areas the noble Baroness cites, not just in relation to universities but also in colleges and institutes of technology, building the skills pipeline of the future.

Israel and Gaza


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what assessment he has made of Israel’s compliance with the summary order regarding Gaza issued by the International Court of Justice on 26 January, and what assessment he has made of the implications for the United Kingdom’s obligations, particularly with regard to arms exports.

We respect the ICJ’s role and independence; it is up to the court to monitor Israel’s compliance. We have noted our concerns previously about this case, which we do not think is helpful in the goal of achieving a sustainable ceasefire. While there has been some progress in some areas of humanitarian relief, Israel must do more to make good its promises, and I am pressing them on this, directly.

I regularly review advice about the situation in Gaza. Our position on export licences remains unchanged but, of course, we keep this under review.

I thank the Minister for his Answer but of course, events have moved on since my Question was laid. The ICC prosecutor has made applications for five arrest warrants, alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity by senior Hamas leaders, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel’s Minister of Defense. The prosecutor was advised to do so unanimously by an independent panel of experts—our own noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, among them—which has set out why it thinks there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Surely it now obvious that the UK should immediately at least suspend arms exports licences to Israel, given the clear risk that continuing them would put the UK in breach of international law. Surely the Minister will confirm here that the UK accepts the jurisdiction of the court in this case, under the Rome statute that the UK helped to write and, of course, agreed to.

What I would say to the noble Baroness is that the last time I was asked to make a political declaration outside our normal process of reviewing arms export licences, and to simply say that we would not sell any more arms to Israel, just a few days later Iran attacked Israel with a hail of over 140 cruise missiles. That position of acting outside our normal processes would have been completely wrong.

Let me answer very directly on the ICC’s announcement yesterday. I do not believe for one moment that seeking these warrants will help get the hostages out, help get aid in, or help deliver a sustainable ceasefire. As we have said from the outset, because Israel is not a signatory to the Rome statute, and because Palestine is not yet recognised as a state, we do not think that the court has jurisdiction in this area.

I would go beyond that and say that, frankly, this is mistaken in terms of position, timing and effect. To draw a moral equivalence between the Hamas leadership and the democratically elected leader of Israel is just plain wrong. It is not just Britain saying that; countries all over Europe and the world are saying that.

On timing, I point out to your Lordships’ House that the ICC was about to embark on a visit to Israel, which some of us had helped to arrange, and at the last minute decided to cancel that visit and simply go ahead with its announcement. It is not normally for the ICC to think about the effect, but as it clearly thought about the timing, maybe it should also think about the effect. As I have said, it will not help get the hostages out, and it probably makes change in Israel less likely.

I am very pleased with what my noble friend has just said. Does he also agree that if we and the rest of the West were to suspend arms sales, it would allow Hamas to regroup and return to the destructive and ghastly behaviour we witnessed on 7 October?

I thank my noble friend for that question. Britain and America are obviously in completely different situations in terms of arms exports to Israel. Our exports are less than 1% of the total, so not a meaningful amount, whereas the United States is a far bigger provider. As I said, I think acting outside our proper processes and guidelines —we have a process of going through Israel’s commitment, capability and compliance with the rules laid out in our export criteria—would not be the right thing to, for the reasons I have given.

Does the Foreign Secretary recall that in the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, during which there were just over 2,000 Palestinian casualties, he agreed with us on these Benches? As Prime Minister, he decided to pause military equipment licences to Israel on the basis of a disproportionate response by the Israeli military. That was the normal procedure, which he has referred to. Do we take it now that his view is that the current Israeli military response is proportionate?

Will the Foreign Secretary reassure me that, notwithstanding any of his opinions about the ICC, we will honour every obligation that the United Kingdom has signed up to in the Rome statute? These are treaty obligations when it comes to those who would be arraigned by the ICC.

I will tell you why. Today is day 227 of the hostages still being in captivity, including British citizens. All of this relates to what happened on 7 October. There was no “7 October” in 2014, so we are in a different situation. Of course we respect the independence of the ICC, but just as we respect its independence, it should respect the independence of politicians in not suddenly losing their voice and all their opinions about these things. I have a very clear view about what has happened, and I have been happy to share it with your Lordships’ House.

I welcome the fact that the noble Lord is supporting the independence of the ICC, which is vital, but I hope he can truly find his voice. The UK supported UN Security Council Resolution 2417, which states that

“unlawful denial of humanitarian access”

and the act of “wilfully impeding relief supply” should be condemned. The noble Lord said on the BBC that

“Israel has not had a clean bill of health”

on allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Does he accept that Israel is in breach of that resolution, and if he does, does he not think that is a breach of international humanitarian law?

The noble Lord is right: I absolutely did say, and I repeat, that we have far from given Israel a clean bill of health on this issue. Not enough has been done to get aid in. We have had some recent promises, which are encouraging, about 500 trucks a day, about the opening of Ashdod port, and about the new pier adjacent to the beach in Gaza. Some of those promises are being fulfilled: Ashdod is open, the pier is working, and aid is being delivered, including British aid. But some of the promises are not being kept, and no one has been tougher on the Israelis than me in direct call after call and message after message about having to meet their obligations.

We have not given them a clean bill of health, but there is a world of difference between that and issuing arrest warrants at the same time as you are doing so for Hamas, and drawing this moral equivalence. It is not just the UK that takes this view. The Germans have said that simultaneous applications for arrest warrants gives the false impression of an equation. The Americans have called it outrageous. The Italians have called it totally unacceptable. The Austrians have said:

“The fact however that the leader of the terrorist organisation Hamas whose declared goal is the extinction of the State of Israel is being mentioned at the same time as the democratically elected representatives of that very State is non comprehensible”.

The Czechs have said that it is appalling and completely unacceptable. I do not want to get too political in your Lordships’ House, but the odd man out, in many ways, is the party opposite, which seems to be saying that it supports the ICC in every way.

While fully supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and fully supporting its desire to degrade Hamas’ military capacity, would the Foreign Secretary not agree that there is a legitimate worry about the use from the very beginning of the campaign of these 2,000-pound bombs, which, in a very densely populated area, are so difficult to use in a way that is both discriminate and proportionate?

I agree that, while Israel has the right to defend itself, to try to deal with Hamas and to prevent 7 October happening again, it is important, as we have said throughout, that Israel complies with international humanitarian law as it does so.

Does my noble friend the Foreign Secretary share my concern that the continuing withholding of the now $430 million under the Israel-Norway Accord, which is largely from Palestinian tax revenues, fatally undermines the authority of the Palestinian National Authority? What more can he do to ensure that money gets to them, and quickly?

My noble friend is absolutely right. One of the most important things we can do in trying to bring this conflict to a conclusion is to work on the political measures that are going to be necessary to deal with these problems. One of them is to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which needs the money that Israel is holding back from it. We have pressed the Israelis about that again and again. I would still say to the Israelis that you cannot fight something with nothing. You may not think the Palestinian Authority is ideal; you may think that it fails in many respects; but you need to find a partner that is not Hamas that you can work with in Gaza on the West Bank, and that partner should be the new technocratic government run by the Palestinian Authority.

Russia: Sanctions


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of UK sanctions on Russia, and in particular on the number of tankers and other ships trading in Russian oil despite those sanctions.

My Lords, sanctions by the United Kingdom and G7 partners have cost Russia an estimated $400 billion, equivalent to four years of war funding, and contributed to a 30% fall in oil tax revenues in 2023. In many ways, the existence of the shadow fleet is a sign that sanctions are working. They are forcing Russia to spend billions to try to circumvent them. The UK is investing in the Joint Maritime Security Centre to track shadow fleet activity, and we are finalising new powers to sanction individual vessels.

My Lords, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his Answer. There is no doubt that sanctions are having an impact. Indeed, you only need to look at the Russian-flagged tankers languishing in harbour; that is why Russia has to have this shadow fleet. My question relates directly to the shadow fleet. Thousands of these ships are being operated, many of them under flags of convenience. They are not properly insured or maintained, and they are at the bottom end of the spectrum. Many of them are going through the Great Belt without pilots, coming down the North Sea and through the channel and doing transfers in the Atlantic. It is a recipe for a disaster which will not be properly covered. We have huge clout in this country because we run merchant shipping, really: we have the insurance, all of the lawyers who work in this area and the IMO. Is there more that we can do to screw this down to put even more pressure on Russia? The Chinese are careful because of secondary sanctions. Could we do more to try to stop this?

The noble Lord is absolutely right to raise this. As he knows, we have invested money in the Joint Maritime Security Centre, and that is making a difference. We have sanctioned Turkish and Emirati shipping company owners involved in facilitating this shadow fleet. We deploy our diplomatic network to deter third countries where we can, and we are working through the IMO. We are going to have the power to sanction individual vessels and their owners. However, the noble Lord is right to say that there is more we can do. Fundamentally, these are mostly uninsured, leaky, unsafe, environmentally unsound ships, and we should be going after them whenever and wherever we can. It is possible to do more, particularly when they potentially threaten environmental disasters in the countries they are going past. One of the things we want to do at the forthcoming European Political Community meeting is to work with partners to see what more we can do to take this weapon out of Putin’s hands.

My Lords, what assessment have His Majesty’s Government made of the fact that oil is being sold through China and India and then being resold, so in many ways circumventing the sanctions? The fact that other ships having been sanctioned and subject to secondary sanctions does not seem to have stopped those oil sales. Is there a way of further strengthening sanctions so that they really bite?

The noble Baroness makes a good point. There has been an effect on Russian revenue because of the price cap, but a lot of sales are still going through, using shadow tankers, and into other markets. One thing we are trying to do here to make sure that refined product does not leak back into the UK is to make sure that all importers of oil and oil products into the UK provide proof of origin to relevant enforcement authorities to demonstrate that the goods are not of Russian origin. We will do that, but, as I said in my earlier answer, there is probably more we can do with other countries and allies to chase down this shadow fleet wherever we can.

It is of course true that the revenues for Russia from all fossil fuel exports are down considerably. However, against that, crude oil on the high seas is going up, for the simple reason that Russia cannot export processed products and therefore is concentrating on crude oil. Would it be possible to get directly at the swarm of ships on the high seas that the noble Lord, Lord West, pointed out to us by pressing to reduce the price cap from $60 to $30? That would at one stroke reduce Russian revenues and reduce the possibility of these leaky and dangerous ships wandering around the globe.

The noble Lord with all his experience makes a very good point. I will certainly take it away and discuss with colleagues across government whether there is more we can do to bear down on the price and whether that would be effective. It is worth remembering that we are talking about 600 ageing oil tankers transporting predominantly Russian oil around the world. They do not have the support of any G7 services, such as insurance, so whether it is insurance, sanctions, environmental measures or the price cap, we are looking at everything we can.

My Lords, I return to an issue that we have raised before, which slightly leads on from sanctions: the efforts that have been made—I think they have accelerated—to get interest from frozen Russian assets that we can then channel into Ukraine. The Foreign Secretary has pointed on numerous occasions to the importance of international collaboration on this issue. Can he say something in that regard about today’s developments in Brussels and the upcoming meeting of the G7 Finance Ministers? How quickly could this become operational, and will there be any need for primary legislation to ensure that we can implement it?

What I can say to the noble Baroness is that good progress has been made. To be frank, we would perhaps have gone for a more maximalist version of trying to use the frozen assets themselves, but the idea of taking the interest from the assets and using that for Ukraine to pay the interest on a larger loan—which could be as much as £50 billion—is the lead proposal at the moment, and is being discussed by Finance Ministers in the G7. I am confident that we will get there, but, as we do, it is very important to say that we do not rule out taking further action on the frozen assets themselves. We may well get to a time when Russia is, or should be, paying reparations to Ukraine for the damage that has been done. At that point, those underlying assets that we still hold could be very important.

My Lords, last week, in a debate on Ukraine, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and I asked the Minister about the greatest idea produced by the Foreign Secretary, which we felt was very creative, of using the assets that we have seized from Russia and turning them into money to help the war effort in Ukraine. His answer was that he agreed with us but that we would have to ask the Foreign Secretary about it, as it was his idea. Can the Foreign Secretary tell me what he has done about it?

What I have done about it this. We have had discussions with the G7 Foreign Ministers, where I have been talking to all our allies about why we should be doing this—the economic case, the moral case, the political case. I think that is widely accepted, but there is nervousness, particularly in some of the European countries where a lot of the assets reside—a lot of them are held in Euroclear, for instance—about using the underlying assets straight away. That is where this idea comes in, using the windfall interest from these assets to roll into something that is given to Ukraine so that it can pay the interest on a much bigger loan. That is the lead idea. We must not let the best be the enemy of the good; let us try to get the money out of the door and into the hands of Ukrainians so that they can pay for the war effort against Russia at this vital time. As I have said, that will not rule out looking at the underlying assets, which will of course still be frozen and will not be going back to Russia. We can look at those again later.

My Lords, connected to that question, I congratulate my noble friend the Foreign Secretary on his success in getting a long-term British commitment to Ukraine in military aid for its defence against Russia; I think we have committed something like £3 billion per year until 2030. On its own, of course, that will not be enough. We need other countries to make the same sort of long-term commitment. What can this Government do to persuade other Governments to back what we have done?

The best thing we have done is to announce that the £3 billion— the noble Lord is right about that figure—is not just for this year and next year but for as many years as Ukraine needs it. That gives us the ability, just as with the 2.5% spending pledge, to go to other partners in NATO and elsewhere and say, “We have made this pledge. If you make this pledge too, we can give Ukrainians the certainty they need that the money will be there to support not just the munitions but the vital economic measures that they need as well”.

My Lords, in previous debates on sanctions I have raised questions about the ability of Ministers to exempt British Overseas Territories from the shipping components of our sanctions. Can the Foreign Secretary reassure me that not one single member of the shadow fleet will be able to get a landing licence into a British Overseas Territory?

That is an excellent question. I will double check, but my understanding is that we are trying to track this shadow fleet wherever it goes, and use that information so that countries can use environmental legislation, insurance legislation and other legislation to confiscate shipments and stop them moving. That must be the case in our overseas territories, but I will double check that it is so.

The Secretary of State is quite wrong that it is in other capitals that the Russians have the greatest investment. The greatest Russian investment is here in London; it is in property, and in Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea FC—all that money is here. The Secretary of State said at the previous Question Time, as he has said before, that he wants to do something about this, but he is doing nothing about it. The European Union is calling for action; at the last meeting of the Council of Europe, I took part in a debate where the Council of Europe almost unanimously asked the United Kingdom to do something about it. Why is he not doing it? What legal obstructions or impediments are stopping him taking real action?

We have taken real action: we have sanctioned 2,000 individuals and entities under the Russia sanctions regime, over 1,700 of which were sanctioned since the full-scale invasion. We have taken huge steps. The point I would make is that there is a difference in scale, even with the riches of Abramovich—and we will come on to that—between the individuals who we have sanctioned and the Russian sovereign assets that are invested in things such as Euroclear and central banks in Europe and elsewhere. There is a difference in scale, and that is why the windfall interest from them is so important. On the issue of Abramovich, we are doing everything we can to try to make sure that this massive amount of money, which is in trust, can start flowing into Ukraine for the benefit of Ukrainian people and Ukrainian charities. It is a complicated issue—I can go into more detail if the noble Lord would like—but we are working very hard on it.

South Africa


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what are his priorities for working with the government of South Africa after their forthcoming general election.

The United Kingdom enjoys a long-standing and close partnership with South Africa. In November 2022, His Majesty the King welcomed the President of South Africa to London for the first state visit of his reign. We look forward to continuing this relationship after South Africa’s elections on 29 May. Priorities would include boosting trade links, which are already worth £10.4 billion; tackling climate change and energy security; and working together to promote democracy and peace as South Africa looks forward to its G20 presidency in 2025.

I thank the Secretary of State for his Answer. In recognising South Africa’s significant role and potential as a global partner, does he agree that with a new Government there is an opportunity to renew momentum and engagement through existing aid programmes in supporting NGO and important strategic church partnerships, particularly as they further their endeavours in ongoing reconciliation and bridge-building? Is it also an opportunity for His Majesty’s Government to find additional ways to support South African aspirations for economic equality, especially in light of the extreme hardship arising from financial disparities in the country?

Every new Government is an opportunity to start the partnership afresh and see what more can be done. We have to wait for the outcome of the elections in South Africa. The most promising avenues are in trade and, particularly, climate change and energy, where the Just Energy Transition Partnership is in place with South Africa. Having been to South Africa relatively recently, I think the other area where we need to help it is in the fight against corruption and state capture and the problems in its energy system that have led to the blackouts and difficulties that it has been having.

My Lords, at the United Nations, in stark contrast to South Africa politics under Nelson Mandela, South Africa has increasingly voted with the so-called axis of resistance as it relates to the wars either in Ukraine or in Gaza. The signing of the co-operation deal between South Africa and Iran last year shows a clear shift towards Russia, Iran and China. Will the Foreign Secretary ensure that HMG make it clear to the South African Government that this shift is both undesirable and unhelpful?

As I say frequently in speeches, we are living in a competitive and contested world, so it is even more important than ever that Foreign Ministers and our diplomats get out there and compete and make the arguments for why Ukraine is in the right and Russia is in the wrong, and why investment in South Africa and elsewhere from the United Kingdom and western partners should be an alternative to that from China. I agree with the noble Lord about some of the recent South African stances. Any comparison between the liberation movement in South Africa and what Hamas represents in Israel is well wide of the mark. I cannot believe that Nelson Mandela would ever have supported anything like what Hamas did on 7 October. When he is prayed in aid, it makes me wonder.

My Lords, 30 years ago when South Africa had its first free democratic elections, most of us watched those scenes on TV with huge emotion as people queued for hours outside polling stations to exercise their democratic vote. Many of us are quite envious that they have elections in May this year and we may have to wait a little longer. Can I put it to the Foreign Secretary that the relationship between the two countries—whether we agree or disagree—transcends elections and Governments and we should have in place a framework that allows for honest, genuine dialogue whichever Governments are in power?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. We have a framework of co-operation and a close partnership, and I met my South African opposite number in February this year. The point I was making was that when we think about how we try to build those partnerships, it is often more difficult to build them in the run-up to an election. Obviously, the South Africans are very close to their election. Waiting for that election and the new Government—whatever it may be—would be a good opportunity to re-engage on our shared agenda.

My Lords, does the Foreign Secretary share my regret that, notwithstanding the state visit by President Ramaphosa, over recent years the relationship between the UK and South Africa, both politically and economically, has declined significantly, with the value of UK exports less than a third of what it was when he was Prime Minister? Will he take steps to show that we value the relationship with South Africa by urging the Prime Minister to visit South Africa following its elections and by accepting the invitation himself to attend the service of thanksgiving and commemoration for 30 years of democracy in Westminster Abbey on 16 July?

I will certainly look at my diary for 16 July. However, that might be the week of the EPC so I think we will be extremely busy welcoming about 50 Heads of State and Foreign Ministers to the UK. We work hard at this relationship. Obviously, where it went into reverse in some regards was during the period of President Zuma and the problems of state capture when, quite rightly, Britain sanctioned a series of individuals involved in that episode. President Ramaphosa has been trying to recover from that. That is why I said in my answer to the right reverend Prelate that we should try to help South Africa deal with some of the things that took it backwards under President Zuma.

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary will no doubt have noted with concern the growing relationship between South Africa and Iran. What is his assessment of the potential threat from that axis?

When we look in Iran’s region, it is obvious that it supports Hamas, the Houthis, Hezbollah and a whole series of malign actors that are responsible for terrorist attacks or attacks on navigation for destabilisation. While it is important that we try to have a dialogue with Iran and deliver some very tough messages to it, it is quite clear that its influence in the region is malign, and we make that clear at every opportunity.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to address the former MP for Witney. I taught in South Africa, in Witwatersrand, and I think that one of the important aspects of this is not so much diplomatic or political but our soft power. The links between South African universities and British universities were very powerful and people were well aware of them when I was there. For reasons we heard in an earlier debate, the number of graduate and undergraduate students from South Africa has declined and I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary has thought about how this could be improved.

The noble Lord is right that soft power and people-to-people links are incredibly important. I caught the end of the previous debate. The point I would always make, even before the introduction of the graduate route with the ability to stay on for two years, is that Britain has an incredibly clear offer to international students from around the world. If students have an English language qualification and a place at a British university, there is no limit on the numbers that can come. While we have important debates in this House about the rules we should put in place, that message needs to go out loud and clear to every country, including South Africa, with which we have so many great links.

My Lords, soft power is a very important aspect of how Britain projects its power across the world. We have mentioned the remembrance service at Westminster Abbey and the links between South African and British universities. This may sound like a superficial point, but it is not. When I went to the Chelsea Flower Show yesterday, I asked a gardening expert which garden was the best to visit. She said, “It’s the South African garden. It’s the first time they’ve been here for four years”. It may sound odd for me to say it, but I suspect that the Foreign Secretary would get the best headlines in South Africa this year if he went to visit that garden with the South African high commissioner. Is this not an example of how, while there are hard issues we have to debate with our friends and allies across the world, soft power also goes a long way in enabling those conversations?

I am embarrassed to admit to my noble friend that I have already been. Indeed, I enjoyed a very nice glass of South African white wine while looking around it.

My Lords, the noble Lord was right when he said that we are living in a contested world. In Africa—I come from Uganda—Russia and China are the greatest investors; they build hospitals, schools and roads. A lot of money used to be spent by people in this country, but I am afraid that Russia and China are taking over. I suspect the reason is that some of the new Governments and their politics find it easier to deal with the two new colonial powers. What do we need to do to reawaken ourselves? “Made in Britain” used to be great when I was growing up as a little boy in a village in Uganda.

That is a very important question. In fact, I discussed this with the Gambian Foreign Minister this morning, who made the point about how much more democratic and equal the Commonwealth was than the Francophonie, and how much he enjoyed the Gambia being back in the Commonwealth. That is one of the frameworks we can use.

Larry Summers famously quoted an African leader saying, “The trouble is that when you come, you give us a lecture and when the Chinese come, they build us a road”. I think there is sense in that; we have to demonstrate that we are a willing and effective partner. Perhaps particularly on the Russian threat, we need to show that the UK can be a very effective security partner in helping to build capacity in countries that want it. Particularly in the Sahel, that could be an approach we can give some attention to.

Conflict-induced Food Insecurity


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what diplomatic steps he is taking to address conflict-induced food insecurity, and to hold accountable those violating international humanitarian law through the deliberate use of hunger as a weapon of war.

We use all our levers to address the issue of hunger during conflict. We use our diplomatic efforts, including in countries such as Sudan and in Gaza, where we push for humanitarian access. We use our funding and expertise as a development superpower, with £365 million of bilateral overseas aid spent on food security-related sectors. We also work through multilateral organisations, including at the United Nations under Resolution 2417, to call out the perpetrators of conflict-induced food insecurity.

My Lords, most conflict-related starvation occurs in internal and not international conflicts—most recently in South Sudan and Gaza. On 15 April, warning of famine in Sudan, the Foreign Secretary wrote that anyone

“supporting those responsible … must be held to account”.

What mechanism of accountability was he referring to? Given the ICC prosecutor’s action in seeking warrants, partly on the grounds of causing starvation as a weapon of war, that question is pertinent. In 2019, Article 8 of the Rome statute was unanimously amended to include deliberate starvation as a war crime, even in internal conflicts. Why, given the increasing prevalence of such acts and the UK’s support for the amendment five years ago, have we not yet ratified it?

The noble Lord is absolutely right that we supported the Article 8 amendment but have not yet put it in place. It is still under discussion, and we want to get it right. That does not prevent us from taking action, including in Sudan, where we are trying to restart the Jeddah process between the combatants and make sure that we get aid in. Those are steps we can take now.

Does my noble friend agree that the reality is not just conflict-induced starvation? The world faces an increasing shortage of food, which will become an increasing challenge with the interaction between population explosion and climate change. Just look at one continent: Africa, in part of which crops are totally destroyed by drought and in another part of which they are totally destroyed by floods. That is replicated on other continents. Is it not clear that hunger and starvation will now be a major issue as the population increases and the weather becomes more erratic?

My noble friend is completely right about that. We can see from the statistics that acute food insecurity is at a five-year high. The Global Report on Food Crises this year indicated that over 281 million people worldwide faced high levels of food insecurity. I agree that climate change has an impact and population can have an impact, but what is driving this insecurity at the moment across Africa and elsewhere is conflict. Trying to unlock some of the peace processes in those conflicts is where we could have the biggest influence.

My Lords, the ICC chief prosecutor has said that there are reasonable grounds to accuse the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel of a potential war crime, as we have heard. That war crime is the:

“Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”.

I note that the noble Lord said that he will respect the ICC process. Does he agree that 90 trucks via the sea bridge hardly matches up to the 4,500 trucks prevented from entering via Rafah? Does he agree that, as a first step, funding must be restored to UNRWA, on which the aid agencies heavily depend for logistics and delivery capacity?

I will answer both parts of that question. On the entry of aid into Gaza, it is absolutely right that Israel has not met some of its promises, like the 500 trucks a day, but there are other areas, like having this new pier on the beach in Gaza, from which aid, including British aid, has been distributed. That is a step forward, as is opening Ashdod port, where flour for bakeries has been delivered. Those do not look to me like acts of a nation embarked on genocide and war crimes, but of course we must keep up the pressure elsewhere.

I totally understand and respect the fact that UNRWA is vital for the onward distribution of aid—I discussed this with the head of the World Food Programme just last week—but we have to be cognisant that reports that UNRWA staff were involved in 7 October need to be properly investigated and properly dealt with. Two reports have been commissioned, but we have had only one. I want to see that second report and I want really strong undertakings from UNRWA so that we know our money is going to the right cause.

My noble friend mentioned Sudan, and the Secretary of State is absolutely right to talk about conflict and food insecurity. One area is Tigray in Ethiopia: that conflict has spread much wider than Tigray, and food insecurity is running extremely high in Ethiopia. Certainly from the figures I have seen, 60% to 70% of pregnant and breastfeeding women in the north are experiencing malnutrition, which will affect those children for many years. Can the Secretary of State tell us exactly what we are doing with the Ethiopian Government to halt that extension of something as evil as malnutrition, which is affecting women, girls and children?

We co-hosted a humanitarian pledging conference in April in response to the rapidly escalating needs in Ethiopia. The conference mobilised $610 million towards the $1 billion we think is needed. At that conference, the Deputy Foreign Secretary announced £100 million in humanitarian funding. He has travelled to the region and meets and speaks regularly with President Abiy.

My Lords, I will follow on from what the Foreign Secretary said about Sudan. This is truly a forgotten crisis, with 25 million people displaced, 25 million needing humanitarian aid, and 1.8 million fleeing into surrounding countries. Does he share my concern that the crisis moving from Darfur to Sudan’s arable farming area in the al-Jazirah province will lead to even more food insecurity and refugees? With Europe facing its own refugee crisis, including the channel crossing disasters, does he agree that this underlines the need for these migrant crises to be dealt with upstream and at source? Will he redouble our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts?

The noble Lord makes an extremely good point. Something like 9 million people have been displaced in the Sudan conflict, the scale of which puts other refugee crises into perspective. Eighteen million people are acutely food insecure, 5 million of whom we believe to be in an emergency situation. We need the Jeddah political process to get going; the SAF and the RSF are both at fault in their attacks on each other and the destruction they are bringing to that country. He is completely right to say that all our efforts to stabilise these situations, to provide aid and to help are good and right in themselves —they are moral acts by a country that believes in playing a moral role—but also help our own security by preventing large-scale movements of people. It is very important that we frame this in both contexts.

My Lords, does the Foreign Secretary agree that the other countries that initially blocked funding for UNRWA have now restored it, with the exception of the United States? Why will the UK not restore funding as well, given the urgency to get UNRWA working again and delivering the aid so desperately needed by starving members of the Gazan population?

Our past pledges to UNRWA already take us up to something like the end of May, so it is not short of money on our account and has had additional funding from other countries. I want us to be meticulous on behalf of our taxpayers and all those—including myself—who are concerned about the fact that UNRWA staff took part on 7 October. We have seen the Colonna report, but we have not seen the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services report. I want to see that, and I want Philippe Lazzarini, who runs UNRWA, to make very clear statements about how that organisation will be run in future so that we can have confidence that our funding will not just deliver aid but help to deliver an organisation that is truly impartial.

My Lords, the noble Lord talked about food entering Gaza. Month after month from that Dispatch Box, he has said that Israel must do more. We have seen that it has not done more. He referred to the temporary port that has been built and there have been droppings by sea. We have seen that they are not fit for purpose; people have been killed trying to access food dropped from the air. The Rafah crossing, which is vital for the majority of aid to get through, has now been closed for 17 days. There are thousands of trucks just kilometres away waiting to deliver food. What pressure is he putting on and what diplomatic efforts are taking place to ensure that some of these crossings happen, so that people do not starve to death waiting for food that is on the other side of the crossing?

I say two things to the noble Baroness. First, the Rafah crossing closed when the Israelis took over the Gazan side of it. There is a dispute now between the Egyptians, who have closed it on the other side, and the Israelis on the Gazan side. I do not want to apportion blame; all I know is that they are talking to each other and that the Americans are working extremely hard to bring them together to get a solution. We need Rafah open.

On the second point, I take issue with the noble Baroness. Yes, I am the first to say that Israel has not done as much as is needed, but it is not true that it has never responded to pressure. We asked it to open Kerem Shalom; it opened Kerem Shalom. We asked it to open a crossing in the north; Erez is now open. We pushed it again and again on the opening of Ashdod port; that is now open. There are not as many ships as I would like, but we have UK involvement in the Cyprus maritime corridor. Also, the Americans, others, and ourselves said that if it would accept a pier on the beach, we do not think it is necessarily the best way of doing things but it means that the aid goes directly into Gaza. That is now there. It is not true or fair to say that action has not been taken. It just has not been enough, and we will keep pushing. I am speaking to Minister Gantz in about half an hour, and I will have another good go then.

Procurement Regulations 2024

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 25 March be approved.

Relevant document: 21st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 20 May.

Motion agreed.

Securitisation (Amendment) Regulations 2024

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 18 April be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 20 May.

Motion agreed.

Agriculture (Delinked Payments) (Reductions) (England) Regulations 2024

Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024

Motions to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 16 April be approved.

Relevant document: 23rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 20 May.

Motions agreed.

Contracts for Difference (Sustainable Industry Rewards) Regulations 2024

Carbon Dioxide Transport and Storage Revenue Support (Directions and Counterparty) Regulations 2024

Carbon Capture Revenue Support (Directions, Eligibility and Counterparty) Regulations 2024

Motions to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 21 March and 15 April be approved.

Relevant document: 21st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 13 May.

Motions agreed.

Victims and Prisoners Bill

Report (4th Day)

Scottish Legislative Consent granted. Welsh Legislative Consent granted in part.

Clause 41: Public protection decisions: life prisoners

Amendment 119YD

Moved by

119YD: Clause 41, page 39, line 12, leave out from second “the” to end of line 13 and insert “High Court.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

My Lords, as noble Lords will recall, there is a power created in Clauses 44 and 45 of the Bill that will allow the Secretary of State to refer release decisions made by the Parole Board to the Upper Tribunal. When we debated this issue in Committee, I said that we were satisfied at that time that the Upper Tribunal has the necessary skills and powers to deal with these referral cases, having consulted the Judicial Office on that matter last summer.

However, the Government have listened carefully to the arguments put forward for this amendment by noble Peers in Committee, including by two former Lord Justices, and, in the light of that debate, I asked the judiciary to reconsider this matter. The unanimous view put forward was that, given how the intervention power in the Bill has evolved over the time, the High Court is the most appropriate venue to hear referred parole cases. I therefore tabled amendments that will make that change.

I take this opportunity to put on record my thanks to the members of the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber for their work with my officials on the measures in the Bill and to make it clear that this decision does not, in any way, reflect on the important work of that chamber; it is simply a matter of deciding where this power should best reside within the upper judiciary system.

There are two other technical amendments related to the referral power—my Amendments 122E and 122F —which will ensure that there is clear, lawful authority to detain a prisoner while the Secretary of State decides whether to refer their case to the High Court. As the decision-making process cannot be fully undertaken until the board has directed the Secretary of State to release the prisoner, it is essential to have these interim protections, so that there is a proper authority to detain the prisoner in the meantime. I beg to move.

I am very grateful to the Minister for what he said and the amendments he has put forward. For reasons that would be boring to explain, they achieve exactly the same result in practice as the amendments put forward by myself and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Burnett of Maldon. I am delighted that the Government have accepted this and I concede that their amendments are simpler.

My Lords, I simply say that we support these amendments; we argued for them in Committee. A view I expressed then was that it was bizarre that the Bill provided for the Upper Tribunal to determine Secretary of State referrals from the Parole Board of release decisions, with the High Court involved only in cases with sensitive material.

We also agree that releases should be suspended pending decisions on such referrals by both the Secretary of State and the divisional court. The only further point I will make is that I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate from the Dispatch Box that such referrals should generally be dealt with as expeditiously as possible, to minimise the anguish of people waiting and the risk of prisoners having their time in custody unjustly extended by the delay.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for the government amendments in this group. The Government have listened carefully to the two previous Lord Chief Justices and decided that the High Court is the most appropriate place to hear parole referrals. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, said that the Government’s amendments in this group were better than his, which has circumscribed the debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Marks, raised an interesting point about how the courts should deal expeditiously with parole-type matters, and I will listen with interest to what the Minister has to say on that.

My Lords, on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, once referred to the court, the timetable and listing will be a matter for the court, but I am sure that it will take account of the need for expedition and the remarks made in the Chamber just now.

Amendment 119YD agreed.

Amendment 120 not moved.

Amendment 120A

Moved by

120A: Clause 41, page 39, line 32, at end insert—

“(5) In section 32ZZA (imprisonment or detention for public protection: powers in relation to release of recalled prisoners) (inserted by section 48 of this Act), after subsection (3) insert—(3A)The Secretary of State must not be satisfied as mentioned in subsection (3) unless the Secretary of State considers that there is no more than a minimal risk that, were the prisoner no longer confined, the prisoner would commit a further offence the commission of which would cause serious harm (and section 28ZA(4) applies for the purposes of that assessment).”The Secretary of State must not be satisfied as mentioned in subsection (3) unless the Secretary of State considers that there is no more than a minimal risk that, were the prisoner no longer confined, the prisoner would commit a further offence the commission of which would cause serious harm (and section 28ZA(4) applies for the purposes of that assessment).””Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 48, page 52, line 27, inserting new section 32ZZA of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997.

My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who spoke in Committee to these matters affecting IPP prisoners and to all those who have continued to engage in constructive debate with us in preparation for Report. I fully share the desire to use this opportunity to do all that we reasonably can to help offenders serving the IPP sentence to progress towards release, where that is safe to do so. To that end, we have brought forward four substantive government amendments and are taking other important measures as well. Indeed, progressing IPP licence termination and swiftly considering cases for release remain one of the top priorities for HMPPS and this Government, and I emphasise that.

The first amendment, Amendment 139A, applies where the Parole Board directs the re-release of an IPP prisoner. The amendment grants the Secretary of State the power to decide that the recall should have no effect for the purpose of the two-year automatic period, which is the period before the licence automatically terminates. Under the current measures in the Bill, the two-year clock will be reset when an offender recalled during the automatic period is subsequently re-released by the Parole Board. This would mean they would be required to serve a further two years in the community before the licence would be terminated automatically.

However, the Government’s amendment would enable the Secretary of State to decide that the recall should have no effect on the automatic period if he considers it to be in the interests of justice, much as the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Haslemere, has proposed in his amendments to introduce a power of executive re-release, which I will come on to shortly. In these circumstances, if the recall is disregarded for the purposes of the automatic period, the clock will not reset on their release from prison and the offender would then be required only to remain on licence for whatever time remained of the two-year automatic period. I must stress, however, that this discretionary power would not apply to all IPP recalls in the qualifying period; it would be a matter for the decision of the Secretary of State in the light of all the circumstances.

The Government’s second amendment concerns the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Carter—Amendments 137 and 146—to grant the Secretary of State the power to re-release a recalled IPP offender without the need to go through the Parole Board process at all and for the offender to benefit from the automatic period as if the recall had not occurred. Our Amendment 139B will permit the Secretary of State to re-release recalled IPP prisoners and mirrors a power that the Secretary of State currently has to re-release offenders serving determinate sentences—now referred to as risk-assessed recall review, known colloquially as RARR. This is an executive power, and it will be for the Secretary of State to decide if and when to use it. We have also included an amendment to enable the Secretary of State to impose licence conditions in a recalled IPP offender’s licence if the Secretary of State uses this power to re-release them on licence.

This amendment also, again, includes a parallel power for the Secretary of State to decide that the recall of an IPP offender should have no effect for the purposes of the two-year automatic period, again where it is considered in the interests of justice. This will ensure that the Secretary of State has the same discretionary power regardless of whether the decision to release a recalled IPP offender is taken by the Parole Board or by the Secretary of State using the RARR power. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, made a compelling case for his amendments in Committee. I hope that he will agree that the amendment introduced by the Government achieves the objectives of his amendments and that he will not press Amendments 137 and 146.

The Government’s third amendment concerns the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett—Amendment 141—to put the IPP action plan on a statutory basis and require the Secretary of State to lay an annual report before Parliament. I fully recognise the noble Lord’s intention and I am particularly grateful for his significant engagement on this and other matters relating to this part of the Bill. We have therefore tabled Amendment 139C to require the Secretary of State to lay an annual report before Parliament about the steps taken by the Secretary of State in the reporting period to support the rehabilitation of IPP and DPP prisoners and their progress towards release from prison on licence termination.

The Bill includes a non-exhaustive list of the issues that it should address, including support for female offenders, those sentenced to detention for public protection and the engagement undertaken in the reporting period. The Government are committed to ensuring that the IPP action plan delivers tangible change by safely reducing over time the IPP population in custody and in the community, while still prioritising public protection. Through the IPP action plan, HMPPS is putting in place further measures to boost the support of those serving IPP sentences in custody and in the community, including a new policy to deliver multi-disciplinary progression panels to oversee cases at critical points, such as that early period following release or the period following a recall to custody. Delivery of the action plan is overseen by a senior IPP progression board chaired at a senior level which meets quarterly. I have asked that quarterly reports be supplied to Ministers, to ensure that the action plan is effective.

Amendment 139C requires the Secretary of State to lay a report annually on the steps taken to support the rehabilitation of offenders serving an IPP or DPP sentence. I hope that this further demonstrates to the House our commitment to the delivery of activity to support those serving IPP and DPP sentences towards prospective safe and sustainable release, and to ensuring that the Government remain accountable to Parliament. We have also agreed to publish the IPP action plan. I hope that in due course, in these circumstances, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, will feel able to withdraw Amendment 141.

In addition to the senior IPP progression board, an external stakeholder challenge group has been set up to ensure that independent bodies, campaign groups and other organisations can scrutinise and hold HMPPS to account for the work that it is delivering to support IPP prisoners to progress successfully through their sentences. The external stakeholder challenge group will have representation, including UNGRIPP—an association of represented prisoners—the Prison Reform Trust, the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, the independent monitoring board and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I make particularly mention of UNGRIPP, which fights independently for the interests of IPP prisoners with great tenacity and determination. This highly effective challenge group does, I trust, meet the thrust of Amendment 142, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett.

As a further reassurance, the Parole Board is in the course of setting up a specific IPP taskforce which it is hoped will be operational to coincide with Royal Assent of this Bill, to ensure a coherent and specific approach to IPP prisoners to reduce delay and bring to bear particular experience in the treatment of these prisoners. That is in itself supported by a liaison group working hard between HMPPS, the Ministry of Justice and the Parole Board to reduce delays and to ensure that these cases flow smoothly through the system.

Lastly, our fourth amendment, Amendment 138ZB, focuses directly on those serving a DPP sentence and is prompted by Amendment 138A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, to halve the qualifying period for those sentenced as children to 18 months. We recognise the specific challenges faced by this cohort. Our amendment will therefore reduce the qualifying period for those serving the DPP sentence to two years, which I hope the noble Lord will support and accept.

I will at this point deal further with DPP prisoners, since I know that the noble Lord has tabled further amendments which aim to support the progress of those serving the DPP sentence. As already indicated, the annual report to Parliament will include a specific focus on how HMPPS has supported the needs of those sentenced as DPPs and their sentence progression. The noble Lord’s Amendment 144 would require the Secretary of State to refer DPP cases annually to the Parole Board. While we understand the reasoning behind this amendment, such an annual referral could have a detrimental effect if it simply leads to increased instances of the Parole Board refusing release, as it undoubtedly would in some cases. We do not want to have a statutory commitment which could set people up to fail.

We do, however, recognise the intent behind this amendment and so we will update HMPPS operational policy so that there is a presumed annual referral of DPP cases to the board unless there is a clear reason why this would not be beneficial to the individual concerned. Moreover, the published policy of the Parole Board is to prioritise DPP cases. I also thank the noble Lord for his further DPP Amendment 143, which would require the Secretary of State to provide six-monthly sentence planning meetings for anyone serving a DPP sentence who has not been previously released by the Parole Board, setting out steps to enable release.

The noble Lord is entirely right that effective sentence planning and reviews are key to giving those serving IPP or DPP sentences the best prospect of progressing towards a safe and sustainable release. However, we see this primarily as an operational rather than a statutory matter. That said, as I have already affirmed, we recognise the need to provide tailored support for DPP offenders. So, in addition to reducing the qualifying period to two years to help those who have been released, we have extended the scope of the psychology case review initiative so that now every DPP prisoner, whether never released or recalled, has had a case review and, importantly, will be subject to quarterly reviews of their progress from now on.

Further, senior operational leaders across HMPPS have been commissioned to produce operational delivery plans, within which there must be a specific focus on supporting and progressing DPP prisoners. This means expediting any required prison transfers, or access to required services or interventions. There is now a clear expectation that senior leaders know how all the DPP prisoners in their areas are progressing and that prisons and probation are being held to account for their work with them.

Introducing a statutory requirement for six-monthly reviews to take place would remove the flexibility to deliver an approach best suited to the needs of the individual. I thank the noble Lord again for his contribution to the debate on this matter in his amendments. I hope my response and the operational changes made by HMPPS have reassured him and that he will not feel the need to press his Amendment 143. I commend the Government’s amendments to the House. I beg to move.

My Lords, I rise to address the amendments that stand in my name. The purpose of these amendments can be briefly stated. It is to try to achieve a measure of justice for those on whom IPPs were imposed during the limited period 2005 to 2012. It is important to bear in mind what Lord Lloyd of Berwick, then Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, and then Lord Judge all did to try to right the problems that had been caused by this sentence. It was a sentence that Lord Judge described as the most draconian on the statute book, apart from a discretionary life sentence. I am extremely grateful for all that the Lord Chancellor and the Minister have done to try to deal with these issues, but we are side- stepping a fundamental issue: the way in which we release those who are subject to this sentence. We should not do that, and this House has a responsibility.

Of the amendments that stand in my name, in the time available, I wish to speak to only one: Amendment 149A. It is an attempt to compromise; to do at least something to give hope and provide justice. It leaves the release test as it stands but requires the Parole Board to take into account the concept of proportionality and other factors in making its determination. It is designed to give hope and a sense of justice to those who are behind bars under IPPs, and their families. There are three reasons I wish to highlight.

First, although a few were given IPPs who might have been given the most draconian sentence—a discretionary life sentence, under pre-2003 legislation, as a result of decisions of the Court of Appeal in the Kehoe and Wilkinson cases—the vast majority would have been given determinate sentences if the IPP sentence had not been put on to the statute book, or would have been released long ago without any risk assessment. The way our system worked historically and works today is what would have happened to them. Given that the vast majority of those under IPPs would have had that, how can it be just that, eight years later, we have done nothing—that is, in effect, what has happened —to revise this and put the Parole Board in a position to permit their release?

Secondly, if one looks at those who were sentenced in the period up to 2008, some were imprisoned who would have received a sentence of under four years. It is incredible to think that we are now releasing prisoners who have been sentenced to under four years because the prisons are overcrowded. Why can we not have regard to that? Again, this is unjust.

The third reason is that there can be little doubt— I referred to the evidence when I spoke in Committee—that the mental health of many of those who are still detained or have been recalled has suffered as a result of this sentence. The evidence is very strong and the effect on them is a matter on which we ought to reflect. The vital factor here is state responsibility—and, fortunately, we are beginning to live up to our responsibilities as a state. The position can be very briefly explained.

There is significant agreement that, if you do not know when you are going to be released, a long period of detention causes huge mental health problems. It is quite different for those who receive discretionary life sentences for the most serious crimes, described by Lord Bingham as sentences of a

“‘denunciatory’ value, reflective of public abhorrence of the offence, and where, because of its seriousness, the notional determinate sentence would be very long, measured in very many years”.

Such sentences are deserved in those cases—you can understand why people receive them—but how can it be just to keep in prison those who, during this specific eight-year period, committed something for which, before and today, they would have had a determinate term? It is no wonder that they and their families feel injustice.

I am sure that, if this point were put properly to the British public, as it is now being put in the media, they would understand. Therefore, I find it difficult to follow why people cannot go along with a measure of reform.

The crux of this amendment is to require the Parole Board to take into account proportionality—that is, looking at the length of term served as proportionate to the original offence, and some of these offences were not that serious—together with other factors, when determining whether the test of public safety has been met. It is vital to appreciate that the overwhelming majority of these people would have been released without any risk assessment. Looking at the position today, how can it be just that they should be kept there?

Now, the Minister might say that there is a provision in the Act that could be relied on. It is difficult to know precisely what the Minister will say, because he has not said it, but I am sure that is no answer to what I have said, because the difficulty is that what is in the current Bill does not require the Parole Board to do what this amendment requires it to do, which is to have regard to proportionality and other factors that affect the position. To my mind, there is a very simple question. It is 11 years after the abolition and I pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who has led on, and accepted responsibility for, dealing with this. It is a great shame that others will not do the same. We should, as a state, accept responsibility and bring about at least one step towards reform. It is not what I believe we should do, but I put this forward and support it as a measure of compromise.

If you were to ask the British public whether they believe in justice, the answer would be yes. Do they believe in being protected? The answer is yes. But should you balance protection against other factors, such as proportionality? The British public are wiser than to think that they won a one-horse race; they believe in justice as well. You can see that from what we have always had as our system—a determinate sentence for anything but the most serious offences—and most prisoners who are detained did not commit the most serious offences. Therefore, it seems clear to my mind that this proposal is one that would command the support of the public, properly explained and properly understood.

That is all I think I can say at this stage, except to say that it seems to me that this is an issue of such fundamental importance that I wish, in due course, to test the opinion of the House on the matter, as a matter of justice and of reflecting our values in the United Kingdom—or should I more technically say in England and Wales?—and also to remove a stain from our statute book. We can do no less and we must accept the state’s responsibility.

I do not wish to take up more than the few seconds that are left to me on the other amendments standing in my name, so I will simply say this. First, it seems to me that I need say nothing about Amendment 138; what the Government propose deals with it. I have left Amendments 134 to 136, which stand in my name, requiring an annual review; from what I have been able to gather, there is no resource impediment to an annual review. It is plainly just that the prisoners should have an annual review; they had one and it was taken away. It seems to me incredible that the Government will not accept that, but that is their position. I hope we can find salvation in the Parole Board adopting this as I believe, from what I understand, that it is not unsympathetic and feels that it has the resources to be able to do it.

The last of my amendments, Amendment 139, is a simple, technical amendment. I hope there is no risk that anyone will try to do it, but it is to stop the statutory power to alter the minimum period of the licence being moved up as opposed to down. But those are not the critical amendments: Amendment 149A is, and on that, as I have said, I will wish to seek the opinion of the House in due course.

My Lords, I know that we have had extensive debates on the range of issues on IPP and DPP. I will try to be brief, because everyone will want to reach the Statement on the infected blood scandal.

I want to pay tribute to those on my own Front Bench for their support in some difficult and tricky issues, and for their understanding, and to Peers from every corner of this House who have worked tirelessly together to work out how we can make progress and how we can help both those caught up in prison, those on licence and in fear of recall, and of course the families and campaigners. I too pay tribute to UNGRIPP and those who have been campaigning tirelessly alongside them. It has at last reached the public ear—in broadcast, print and online media there is now real attention to this issue, and a sympathetic hearing. That is a very good thing.

I want to say thank you to the Minister. Thank you for being prepared to engage with those committed, and for the concessions that have been outlined this afternoon in terms of my amendments. Government Amendments 133B, 138ZB, 139A, 139B and 139C deal substantially with my Amendments 41, 42, 134, 138A and 144. I am very grateful for both the sensitivity and understanding, and the ability to give, in a period leading up to a General Election, which is difficult for any Government to do on issues such as these, which are often toxic in the public arena. Together with the current Under-Secretary of State and his equivalent in the Commons, some progress—not as much as we, or those campaigning, would like, but some—has now been made on the Bill.

My Amendment 149—I have agreed with the Minister that we might come back to this when we debate the Criminal Justice Bill—is about a technical readjustment of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act so that IPP and DPP prisoners are not disadvantaged. This afternoon we have made progress on the action plan and how it will be updated and implemented; the progression board and its transparency and reporting; the challenge group that will be overseeing and, as it says, challenging what is happening administratively; and the commitments in relation to parole.

I just want to make one comment about probation. There is a new head of Probation—Martin Jones—who was the chief executive of the Parole Board. He understands these issues very well. I have real confidence in him, as I do in the head of the progression board, Chris Jennings; they get what we have been talking about and will move heaven and earth to make the system work. But the Probation Service has to change its outlook and risk aversion, because we have a situation at the moment, because of the enormous pressure on the Prison Service and the lack of rehabilitation that that brings, where the Government have felt it right to release people early and to slow down prosecutions, while the Probation Service recalls people on licence all the time, filling the places that the Government are unfilling. It is like having a washbasin with the tap on and the plug out.

We have to make urgent progress in both getting release, making those spaces available, and not returning people to prison—not least because Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who has been working with the Government over a number of years, said recently that 50% of those currently in prison are taking illegal substances. When they are adjudged to have taken an illegal substance, their likelihood of being able to get parole is immediately reduced. Should they revert when they are on licence, having been subject to illegal substances while they were in prison, they are brought back into a place where illegal substances are readily available. We have got to stop the cycle and we can do it only with the good will of Ministers, future Ministers and those working in the service, who need to be brave —so thank you for what has been done so far.

I turn to Amendment 149A, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, who has just spoken. I want to draw attention to a court case that took place on 9 May this year, overseen by Lord Justice Popplewell. This was the case of Leighton Williams, who was sentenced in 2008 and who, until 9 May, was in prison under an IPP because he was at the time 19, not 18 or younger. It was judged in that case—and these are all technically difficult cases—that the original judge had misunderstood and applied an IPP inappropriately when the sentence should have been for five years in a young offender institution. That having been decided, Lord Justice Popplewell released Leighton Williams immediately. This cannot be a precedent, but it indicates that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, is right in relation to the test of what is appropriate and proportionate in the work of the Parole Board. I hope that the task force that is now going to be established within the Parole Board will help provide focus. While understanding entirely the position of my own Front Bench and Whips, I feel obliged to vote for this amendment, having added my name to it, believing that it is right that there should be a better proportional test.

I repeat that the campaigns have made a difference to the work that has gone on in relation to worries about mental health and who deals with mental health provision in the service. Is it the provider or the NHS? How do we get it right for individual prisoners who really need intensive support? The campaigners have raised all those issues with all of us, and they deserve credit for it. We are not entirely there yet, but we have made some progress. I am very grateful to the Minister for his understanding and collaboration in making that possible.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and in particular to follow him in expressing a very large degree of gratitude to the Government. Although one is going to end up disagreeing with them on certain narrow points in the course of this short debate, the Government have introduced amendments in the Commons which are extremely helpful to IPP prisoners who are out on licence, and today amendments have been introduced which deal with the very good points made by the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Carter of Haslemere, allowing them to withdraw their amendments.

I do not think it is at all an exaggeration to say that more has been achieved, both operationally and legally, for IPP prisoners in the past few months than in the preceding 12 years. I am sure that a great deal of that is due to the personal efforts of the Lord Chancellor and my noble and learned friend Lord Bellamy on the Front Bench. I wish to express my gratitude and a degree of congratulation.

I also want to say—here I find myself again echoing the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett—that I am very impressed with the effort and determination of the officials charged with taking responsibility for clearing up this scandal; they really wish to do something. I wish them well, and I hope that that continues for as long as it needs to, whatever the character of the Government in power.

Before I turn to Amendment 145 in my name, I wish to say that there are some amendments in this group tabled by Back-Bench Peers which have not found favour with the Government. My Amendment 145 is one of them, and so is Amendment 140, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, and Amendment 147, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blower. It is not for me to make their speeches advocating their amendments; I simply wish to say in advance of their doing so that I am very supportive of what they are trying to do in those amendments and of their aims.

Amendment 145 in my name was not actually drafted by me. As noble Lords who were present in Committee will remember, it was in fact drafted by the late Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, who felt passionately about this and, coincidentally, whose memorial service is happening later this week. On social media, it has been dubbed the “Simon Brown Memorial Amendment”, as testament to the passion that he brought to this topic and the efforts that he made.

I am not going to divide the House on this for two reasons. The first is that, despite indications otherwise, perhaps, in Committee, I understand that the Labour Party would abstain on this amendment if it were pressed to a Division. However, I wish to make a few remarks about it. First, I remind noble Lords what it seeks to do. There are two things, really. It would reverse —here I am going to use the words in a non-technical sense, not being a lawyer—the burden of proof in front of the Parole Board so that, instead of the prisoner having to demonstrate that he or she is safe, it would be for the Parole Board to demonstrate that they are dangerous. There is nothing radical about this proposal because the power to make that change was given to the Secretary of State in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. All that this part of the amendment seeks to do is, so to speak, trigger that and oblige the Secretary of State to make a change that he is already empowered to make. The second thing that the amendment would do is introduce a test of proportionality which the Parole Board can apply. I will turn to that in just a moment.

I am not going to repeat the arguments I made in Committee in favour of the amendment, but, while the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, could not anticipate what the Minister was going to say at the end of the debate, I can refer to what he did say in Committee specifically on this question of proportionality, because it is in Hansard for 12 March, at col. 1965.

My noble and learned friend Lord Bellamy on the Front Bench said:

“The Government’s position, frankly, is that the word ‘proportionate’ causes more difficulties than it solves”.

The crucial words are:

“It suggests that the test should be some sort of balance between the risk that this prisoner may present to the public and some sort of fairness or other consideration of the particular interests of that prisoner”.

My noble and learned friend has put it exactly as I would put it, but there is a huge difference between prisoners who have been given a determinate sentence and who, if they are refused parole, will nonetheless be released at the end of their sentence, whatever the risk, and IPP prisoners who, if they are refused parole, are returned to an indefinite sentence. Fairness is a consideration and justice is a consideration, and I think many noble Lords understand that completely. It may be the case, as my noble and learned friend went on to say, that

“the public protection test is a public protection test: that is the only criterion”—[Official Report, 12/3/24; col. 1965.]

as far as this Bill is concerned. While it might be appropriate for prisoners with determinate sentences to have that as the only criterion, it is not appropriate for IPP prisoners, and some sense of fairness and justice needs to be brought in to play.

The second reason that I will not be dividing the House is that, as he has already explained, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, has tabled Amendment 149A, which drops the issue of burden of proof, as I had, and focuses solely on this point about proportionality. I am persuaded by his arguments that that is the key point. It also might be easier for noble Lords to vote for a trimmed-down amendment that focuses on that very narrow point. So, if the noble and learned Lord does, as he has indicated, divide the House on Amendment 149A, while I will not be pressing Amendment 145 to a vote, I will join him in the Lobbies on Amendment 149A.

I would like to say a few words about Amendment 141 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, to which I have put my name, and also, briefly, about Amendment 145 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, to which, again, I have put my name.

Before making those remarks, I join both noble Lords in paying tribute to the noble and learned Lord the Minister for all the work that he has been doing to find a way of progressing this deeply damaged group of prisoners towards safe release. I use the words “deeply damaged” because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, has reminded us, there is a grave effect on them of being detained for so long under preventative sentences with no prospect of release. This has had the result that many of them suffer from a variety of conditions that make the process of releasing them so much more difficult than might have been expected to be the case when they were sentenced. They have faced the trauma of detention in overcrowded prisons without the support they needed, mental health problems, substance issues and various other points that the Minister himself told us about in Committee.

It is impossible for us, who have not seen and studied the files that have been kept on the cases of each of these prisoners, to appreciate the magnitude of the problem that the prisoners themselves face and that faces the Parole Board too. All we have are the numbers: the number of those in the various groups who have never been released, the time they have remained there in comparison with the tariff which they would have faced had they been given a determinate sentence, and the number of those who have been recalled to prison because their licences have been terminated.

The bare statistics are as depressing as ever, with no end in sight for so many of them. That is why so many of your Lordships, including the two noble and learned Lords who are no longer with us, have been pressing for so long for things to be done to enable the situation to be reformed. The various amendments that the Minister has introduced have gone a long way towards mitigating the problem that these preventive-sentence prisoners have been facing for so many years. The changes that have been made to the process for the review and termination of their release from prison on licence are also especially welcome.

Amendment 141 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, seeks to put the Government’s existing action plan for this group of prisoners on to a statutory basis. I will not go over the details, but I draw attention to the wording of one provision in the opening subsection of the proposed new clause, which sets out in clear language the purpose of the action plan proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. It says that its purpose is

“to ensure that all possible steps are taken to ensure the earliest possible safe release and progression”

of this group of prisoners, so it flags up at the outset what this action plan is designed to do.

When we were in Committee on 12 March, I asked the Minister whether there was some way of getting that purpose clearly identified in the existing IPP action plan and of communicating that purpose to the prisoners who are subject to the system, so that they know what the plan is designed to do. The Minister was kind enough to say that this was certainly something that he would take away when considering the Government’s position. The amendment to which I was referring then was about review—not the action plan that Amendment 141 is now talking about—but the need for a stated purpose is the same point. So I would be grateful if the Minister could say whether the Government’s plan as now proposed states what its purpose is, and, if not, whether he would be willing to include a purpose to that effect before the plan is finalised.

As far as Amendment 145 is concerned, I really do not need to say very much, in view of the very thorough way in which the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, has discussed the subject and plainly explained his reason for not pressing the amendment. I appreciate and agree with the various points he has made. I agree with him that Amendment 149A of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, should be preferred, because it focuses on the key issue of proportionality. It preserves the existing test but highlights proportionality as a crucial point that must be addressed. For these reasons, if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, does test the opinion of the House, I propose to vote in favour of it.

My Lords, I am going to speak to four amendments in this group: Amendments 137 and 146 on executive release, on which I can be very brief; a new amendment in my name, Amendment 148; and a few words about Amendment 149A, which was tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, to which he and others have already spoken.

Starting with executive release and Amendments 137 and 146, I am delighted and grateful to the Minister for bringing forward his Amendment 139B, which incorporates neatly into one clause those two amendments, which I will now obviously not press. I have just one question on the Government’s amendment: as regards the licence being treated as having remained in force following executive release if it is in the interests of justice, what sort of cases are covered by the “interests of justice”, a phrase which was not in my original amendment? I would be grateful if the Minister could say a few words about that.

As I seem to be on a bit of a roll as regards my amendments being accepted, Amendment 148 is a new amendment but on the same theme of helping to reduce the time spent in prison following a recall. This is about ensuring that IPP cases will be referred by the Secretary of State to the board within 28 days, or earlier if the prisoner makes written representations about the recall. This 28-day deadline already exists in statute for determinate sentence prisoners, and my amendment simply requires the same thing for IPP prisoners, not unlike executive release. There is no reason for any difference. Many recalled determinate sentence prisoners will involve more preparation before referral to the Parole Board than IPP prisoners, so why treat them differently? Since it is currently MoJ policy, as I understand it, to refer recalled IPP prisoners to the board within 28 days, let us be consistent and make it a statutory duty, as with determinate sentence prisoners.

Your Lordships may ask what difference it will make, given that it may be many months, if not years, before the board then considers the case. On paper, it is perhaps only a little, but it is only once the case is referred to the board that the process towards a paper or oral hearing can be initiated. It is easy to forget that every day in prison matters hugely for the prisoner concerned, particularly just after the psychological trauma of a recall, with all the frustration and despair that involves.

Although this amendment is only a small step when set against the unfair delays that currently arise at the board stage, it should make some difference for IPP prisoners to know that there is at least a statutory time- table governing the immediate aftermath of a recall. A statutory deadline would also mean the Secretary of State would have to ensure adequate resources were put into ensuring that a properly documented referral can take place within that timescale. I make no apology for that. Every day in prison matters hugely to the prisoner concerned. So I very much look forward to the noble and learned Lord saying, as he did with my executive release amendments, that he sees force in that one.

I want to say a few words about Amendment 149A, which has been spoken to by other Peers and was tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. I very much support this amendment. The need for the public protection decision to take into account the proportionality of the term served to the seriousness of the offence is especially crucial in respect of IPP prisoners, because it is one of the main reasons why the sentence is so “unfair” and “indefensible”—the Government’s words.

The Minister may say that proposed new Section 28ZA(9), in Clause 41, already allows the Parole Board to take into account any matters it wishes, including length of time served, when making a public protection decision. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, explained, the problem is that, unlike the matters listed in proposed new Section 28ZA(5), the board is not required to take this into account and frankly, there is no indication it ever would. It should therefore be required to do so, and this amendment would achieve that.

The Minister may say that this is not relevant to the risk the IPP prisoner may still pose, but the risk that a prisoner may reoffend if they are released is not new or unique to IPP prisoners, as we have heard. The Government accept it daily when determinate sentence prisoners are released on licence. The Justice Committee said in its third report that some determinate sentence prisoners will have committed far more serious offences and present much more of a risk on release than an IPP prisoner. Yet, society lives with that risk because the terms of their fixed-term sentence allow them to be released, however dangerous they may still be. Why is society prepared to accept the risk in their case, but IPP prisoners are told that society is not prepared to do so in theirs? Is that justice, especially given that less than 10% of serious reoffending is by life or IPP prisoners and overall reoffending rates on release are lower for IPP prisoners?

I want to give a couple of examples that I have been given permission to use, because they vividly illustrate this point. Aaron Graham punched a man in the face when he was 25. He was convicted of GBH in 2005 and sentenced to IPP with a tariff of two-and-half years. He has now served more than 20 years. Had he committed the offence 12 months earlier, before IPP was introduced, under the law at that time he would probably have been sentenced to about five years and been out on licence after two-and-half years. Luke Ings committed two robberies and assault in 2006, when he was just 17. He was given an IPP sentence and a tariff of 18 months. He has served 18 years of a DPP sentence—longer than he had been alive at the time he committed the offence. Again, if he had committed the offence a year or two earlier, he would have been given a determinate sentence and been out on licence after 18 months.

These are two cases among many, and they amply demonstrate the need for an explicit proportionality assessment, taking into account length of time served. We must grasp this nettle now, since it could be the last chance for many IPP prisoners. If we are not to have a resentencing process, this is an essential alternative in order to mitigate continuing unfairness and injustice. I look to forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I will briefly repeat some of the remarks I made in Committee about the issue which is now dealt with in Amendment 147. The cases the noble Lord, Lord Carter, mentioned demonstrate amply why many serving and recalled IPP prisoners have simply lost hope of ever being properly released. The purpose of Amendment 147 is to create, on a statutory basis, a mentor and advocate scheme to add to the support which may be available to IPP prisoners.

When I spoke about this in Committee, I was quite gratified by the Minister’s response, notwithstanding the fact that such an amendment has not found favour. The Minister said, having listed the kinds of support that exist for IPP prisoners:

“That is not to say that there could not be better organisation of voluntary agencies or, despite what I have said, some other route to consider whether there are ways of strengthening the support of prisoners on some non-statutory basis”.—[Official Report, 12/3/24; col. 1966.]

Since the amendment, in its current form as Amendment 147, has not found favour with the Government, I urgently ask both the Minister and the Government to look at offering the kind of additional support which would have been offered in an advocate and mentor scheme.

It is clear from everything that has been said from all sides of the House about the current situation of IPP prisoners that it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can. Although I understand that a scheme like this will not end up being statutory, it could provide added support for those prisoners and perhaps some small measure of hope that they may ultimately be treated somewhat more fairly than hitherto.

My Lords, I am very pleased that the Government and the Labour Front Bench have improved this Bill, because it was quite a difficult one when it was first presented. However, it would be so amazing if they both accepted this last little tweak of Amendment 149A. Although it applies to very few people, this is an issue of justice and of unfairness that could be put right. I know it is very late, but that amendment is very worth while.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 140, which is in my name, although I support all the amendments tabled by noble colleagues in the IPP group.

I thank all the groups involved in this that have supported us. I also thank the Minister himself for the huge efforts he has made on behalf of IPP prisoners, and the Government for the immense distance they have travelled so far in repairing the damage done by this sentence on the psyches and futures of the remaining rump of unfortunate individuals left serving IPP sentences. We all want to help them progress and leave this torturous situation, but we all know that it must be done in a safe way that will not endanger the public. Amendment 140 would go a huge distance towards achieving this for those the system has damaged the most: those stuck in prison three or more years after their tariff has expired, whether or not they have been released and recalled in the meantime.

Under the current law, any prisoner who is being transferred to hospital will be entitled to the same level of aftercare as any other individual who has been in hospital under qualifying sections. This is an estimated 600 prisoners out of the almost 3,000 still in the system. Section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983, on aftercare, provides wraparound care, which can include forensic psychiatrists working with police, probation, victim liaison officers, and local health and social care practitioners, as appropriate, under MAPPA auspices in their local areas.

For prisoners who have been sectioned, the duty means that multiagency planning starts before release and that prisoners come to their parole hearings with a package of support and care ready for them. This will enable them to live safely on the outside. It is hugely successful and throws a light on a path that would lead to many more successful releases. Over 90% of IPP releases by the Parole Board of prisoners who have had Section 117s between November 2021 and August 2023 would have had aftercare plans before release. This is double the percentage of IPPs who did not have Section 117s.

If you speak to any practitioner involved in the parole process, they will tell you that the number one problem preventing the release of people stuck in prison on this sentence is the lack of a package of support in the community to give the Parole Board confidence that they can safely be managed. With an aftercare package provided by health and social care, in consultation with probation, much more care is taken to ensure that the basics—the scaffolding on which the individual can rebuild their lives—are covered. This scaffolding may include suitable accommodation and support as needed from an allocated psychiatrist, working with police, probation, victim liaison officers, local health and social care practitioners, et cetera. Arguably, all prisoners should be entitled to this, but sadly we know that the system often lets them down.

I will give two real-life examples. Their names have been changed for obvious reasons. I am calling them John and Peter. John was sentenced when he was 15 for a minimum term of under a year, and he spent 15 years in prison. Peter was sentenced at the age of just 13. He had a DPP with a minimum of 12 months, and he spent 17 years in prison.

John had a traumatic childhood, which included abuse and being put in care. His first 10 years in prison were chaotic. Over time, it became clear that he had developed a serious mental disorder in the form of a personality disorder. In one prison, the prison psychologist suggested that he should be assessed for a transfer to hospital. He consented and was duly transferred under the Mental Health Act 1983, so he was entitled to the support afforded by Section 117. He said that

“for the first time ever I was able to go to the Parole Board with a really good and supportive release package on the table”.

It has not been all plain sailing for John since his release. He was rearrested for a breach of conditions several months later, but he knows that the support is still there to help him face the Parole Board again and to succeed when he is released. The support package will last for as long as John needs it.

Contrast this with Peter’s story. Peter initially did very well in custody and was first released when he was just 17. He has had long periods of stability, but then things broke down and he has been recalled five times. He now lives in a constant state of anxiety that he will be recalled to prison. He says that living at an endless risk of recall is “like living on eggshells”, and that his sentence has

“given me bad anxiety and paranoia—even when I am the victim I am the one who gets arrested whenever I contact the police— I fear going out and getting recalled because something might happen”.

On his latest release, Peter went to a special mental health approved premises, but was discharged from prison without his medication. After 12 weeks in a hostel, his accommodation entitlement was up and he had nowhere to go. His last recall followed a significant deterioration in his mental health and a spell of time as a voluntary patient in a mental health ward from which he was discharged without suitable accommodation and support. He said he was glad to be back in prison because at least he “couldn’t be recalled”. Because he has never been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983, he is not entitled to the same wraparound care as John. But why should he not be?

The answer, obviously, is that he should, but noble Lords may justifiably wonder what the cost and resource implications might be. I am not necessarily asking for a blank cheque. It is a few hundred people in a system which is already helping tens of thousands of individuals who have never been in prison and are discharged each year from mental hospitals under Section 117. They are a drop in the proverbial ocean. To give this level of help is a once-in-a-lifetime investment for those stuck prisoners: there will be no new IPP prisoners to become even further damaged by the IPP sentence—thank goodness. This one investment would be so successful in helping that rump of poor individuals.

I have a premonition that the Minister may have some very helpful things to say in response to Amendment 140. If he cannot see his way to supporting it today, can he at least agree to meet the experts from the forensic faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and me? If he is agreeable to this modest request and my premonition comes true, I could well be persuaded not to press Amendment 140 to a vote.

My Lords, I wish I could speak as eloquently as a number of those who have already spoken—I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, will do so in a moment. We have travelled quite some way over the last few weeks, to a large extent due to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and other colleagues of his on the Cross Benches, and my noble friend Lord Moylan, who has been our shop steward in our discussions with my noble and learned friend the Minister.

I hope I will not embarrass my noble and learned friend by repeating what others have said about him, but it is clear that without his willingness to listen and his understanding of the deeply serious problems that IPPs present, we would not be where we are today. I salute him for his patience and kindness in listening to me and in understanding the plight of IPP prisoners. As a Government Minister—particularly one in charge of the justice system and the prison system—the most important phrase that concerns you when you get up in the morning, or go to bed at night, and think about a Bill such as this is “the protection of the public”. We have heard him use that expression any number of times during our discussions. The great advantage we have had in talking to him is that we have had discussions, not rows. The whole temper of the debate this afternoon demonstrates that, across the House, we want a discussion because we want to reach a just and fair answer to this very difficult problem.

I have co-signed a number of the amendments on the Marshalled List, but I want to concentrate, reasonably briefly, on Amendment 149A, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and others, have spoken. It seems to me to encapsulate the essence of what we are trying to do: yes, to ensure the protection of the public when it is necessary to do so, as the Minister wishes to do, but also to bring a degree of proportionality into the decisions that have to be taken by the Parole Board. There are no double negatives in this proposed new clause; there is a straightforward fixation upon doing what is just and fair.

Many noble Lords will have read the terms of the noble and learned Lord’s proposed new clause, but really one has to read carefully only subsection (2) of it to see that it allows for the Government—any Government—to protect the public, but also allows for our justice system to end the monstrosity which is the injustice and the unfairness of the IPP system. We have had two examples from the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and two more examples from the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, but there are many, many more. Those are the prisoners who have survived, but bear in mind that there are a number of IPP prisoners who have died by their own hand because they have run out of hope. The one thing that a justice system must provide is the ability for a prisoner to get better, to rehabilitate, to return to society and to make his or her way in the world.

Subsection (2) says that

“the Secretary of State must by order pursuant to section 128 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 … direct that, following the prisoner’s referral to the Parole Board they will not be released unless the Board is satisfied that, having regard to the proportionality of the term served to the seriousness of the offence or offences of which they were convicted”.

Come back to the 18-month tariff, come back to the two-year tariff, and see that these men are in prison 18 years after being sentenced, nearly two decades after that tariff has expired. Importantly, the subsection also refers to “any other relevant factors”. The Parole Board is not required to just open the door and release them regardless because they are still there 20 years later, well beyond their two-year or 18-month tariff. It can take into account any other relevant factors. That could be the mental instability of the prisoner concerned or any number of characteristics or behaviours that the prisoner demonstrates, which demonstrate to the Parole Board and those who advise it that this particular prisoner—albeit he has served 20 years beyond his two-year tariff—is still, none the less, unsafe to release.

The burden must surely be on us, as representatives of the state in your Lordships’ House and as makers of legislation, to do things which promote fairness and justice, in a way that is transparently sensible. If I may say so, Amendment 149A speaks nothing but common sense, justice and fairness. Even at this very late stage of the Bill, I urge the Government to have one more think. This is not a matter of Labour against Conservative, Cross-Benchers ganging up on the Government, or the Liberal Democrats ganging up with the Labour Party against the Government. It is not even a matter of a couple of lily-livered, pinko Conservative drips ganging up on their Government and trying to engender a rebellion.

It is a cross-party justice question. If I cannot stand up and speak for justice as a Conservative, I am in the wrong business. I will be voting with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, this evening.

My Lords, how do I follow those words about pinko commie Conservatives? Quite easily.

Perhaps we would not start from here, but as we are here, I too warmly welcome the Government’s concessions. They show that the Minister has been listening in Committee and at all the meetings. I hope that his listening continues, because there are many very fine amendments in this group, as reflected by the many very fine speeches. Even if the amendments are not voted on, I still think that they are worth considering, and I hope that the officials and the department will take on board what is being said.

All the amendments in this group tackle very specific, and sometimes seemingly technical, matters that remain outstanding in trying to tackle the IPP issue. It strikes me that all these fiddly, piecemeal issues could have been dealt with historically in one fell swoop, and once and for all, by a resentencing amendment. Although I know that that is off the table for now, it will need to be brought back by some future Government. For all that, this group of amendments adds up to more than the sum of its parts, which is why I hope that the amendments will still have an impact, even if they will not all be voted on.

Before I speak to the amendments that I put my name to, I want to show my support for Amendment 145, which the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, said he cannot now press because of a lack of support. The notion of reversing the burden of proof when applying for parole made for one of the most important amendments in this group, not least because it would have had a material impact on the 3,000 IPP prisoners still in jail and it presents the most hope of the amendments here. A lot of people have rightly congratulated UNGRIPP and Donna Mooney on the work that they have done. She reminded us why she wanted Amendment 145 in particular to pass: she is worried that the IPP prisoners who are still incarcerated feel doubly abandoned by this Bill, because it does so little for them as a group. I concur, and I wanted to see that rectified.

That is why it was so gratifying in Committee to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, had described then as a “nudge” to the Parole Board that would make a significant difference. Indeed, as we speak, the words of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, from the Dispatch Box are being echoed and cheered on widely in a clip featuring them in Peter Stefanovic’s latest short vlog, which has had over 1 million views in a matter of days. It is interesting that those words are being cited as a positive example of cross-party co-operation on an important matter of principle about criminal justice. I hear that the Labour Front Bench is now unable to support this amendment.

I want to counter something that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, mentioned. He said that, in the build-up to an election, this is a toxic topic. I understand the nervousness about law and order, but I will challenge that. I do not think that it is as toxic as we in this House or the other place sometimes suggest to the public. In fact, I think that public opinion can be won over—and is being won over—on IPPs. The fear that politicians have of the public and public opinion is sometimes an underestimation of the public’s sense of fairness and justice, as we have seen with the range of scandals over recent weeks and months—there have certainly been far too many.

The principle behind Amendment 145 is still important to consider, because if the state insists on retaining the power to continue incarcerating people for decades after their original tariff is spent, using a sentencing regime that the state itself has abolished as not fit for purpose, it is only right that the burden of justifying such extraordinary power should then lie with the state.

This is especially important because putting the burden of proving that they are safe on to prisoners is an added burden and injustice, because the practical barriers to acquiring proof are created by the state. As we have already discussed at length, prisoners cannot exert any agency or power in accessing, for example, rehabilitation courses if those courses are cancelled or delayed or if they are bundled from one prison to another. All that is what is used as proof of their safeness.

I am sure that noble Lords saw the very moving story of the IPP prisoner Thomas White meeting his 14 year-old son for the first time since he was a 10 month-old baby. It is all credit to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for helping to organise that family reunion. Apparently, there was not a dry eye in the visiting room. Part of the media coverage revealed that Thomas had been moved 16 times since 2012, when he was put on an IPP. He had no control or choice over those moves, but as a consequence had no way of acquiring the rehabilitation courses deemed necessary to stand a chance with the Parole Board. Therefore, I would still say yes to Amendment 145, although Amendment 149A, as an elegant compromise, is one for which I will vote. What a moving and wonderful speech we heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, at the beginning. It really set the tone for this discussion.

One hurdle that prisoners find hard to get over at parole hearings is proof of adequate arrangements for when they will be released, to prove that they will be safe. This brings me to Amendment 140 on aftercare. The need for this has been so well articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, but I have just a couple of additional points. If you read the excellent journalistic articles on IPP prisoners, such as those by Simon Hattenstone in the Guardian, or by Amy-Clare Martin in the Independent, or listen to the fantastic investigative documentary series “Trapped”, you will know that time and again the inadequacy of post-prison arrangements is referred to as a key factor in creating an IPP version of ping-pong—slightly different from ours—where people are constantly recalled back to prison, having been let out and then made to go back in, not for any criminal activities but because they are unable to negotiate the trigger-happy licensing rules and lack of suitable aftercare, which is what made this amendment so important.

I have always thought that the main danger presented by IPP was not to the public but to IPP prisoners and licensees themselves. We know about those 90 tragic suicides, but how concerning is it that self-harm is more prevalent among IPP prisoners than among any other prisoner cohort, including lifers? They actually need this extra special support, and at the very least are owed specific, specialised multiagency aftercare, which is why I like that amendment.

In that context, Amendment 147, concerning a specialist mentor scheme, is also a worthwhile endeavour, as put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Blower. One thing not mentioned often enough is the added work and strain that IPPs create for prison officers and probation staff, because both services are understaffed and underresourced. They have to negotiate the particular challenges of a cohort of IPP prisoners, often subsumed by despair, who are treated differently from other prisoners and licensees due to the peculiar requirements of IPP.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the new president of the Prison Governors Association, Tom Wheatley, in one of his first media interviews, called for a review of IPPs and resentencing. I think that governors and staff would really appreciate any extra support from specially trained mentors; and for those IPP prisoners and licensees, this would be an invaluable extra crutch for support when staff cannot help them because they are too busy or it is not appropriate.

Finally, there is Amendment 148, the requirement for the IPP recall cases. This is a brilliantly important amendment. There is a new documentary coming out called “Britain’s Forgotten Prisoners”, which will have its world premiere at the Sheffield documentary film festival in June. It features Shirley Debono, that tireless, courageous campaigner, and her son Shaun. Part of the harrowing nature of it is that he dreads being recalled because he knows that it will mean another year or two in prison, because he cannot get a Parole Board hearing. For me, that amendment is very important and I will support it.

My Lords, I added my name to Amendments 138A, 143 and 144 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. These amendments are concerned with DPPs—with people who have been detained, as opposed to imprisoned, for public protection. I listened very carefully to the Minister when he explained Amendments 139A, 139B and 139C and the very sympathetic way he has addressed the issues that we raised in Committee.

All I wanted to say at this advanced stage of the Bill is that we need to remember that DPP prisoners were, when they were first detained—“detained” sounds very straightforward; when they were first convicted—under 18. We need to think very carefully about that. They are people who have had—it is almost certain—the most appalling life chances. Members of your Lordships’ House who have worked in this area will have appalling stories about how these people have been unable to get their lives together. We surely have a special responsibility to people who have started out like that, and, in thanking the Minister for the changes he plans to make in procedure for this terrible situation, I hope that the fact that they were children at the outset will not be overlooked.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow noble Lords—and noble and learned Lords—and to benefit from their considerable wisdom on the matter at hand. I do not wish to repeat all that has already been said, but my right reverend friend the Bishop of Gloucester has added her name to several amendments in this group. She is sadly unable to be here today, but I know that, like many other noble Lords, she is dedicated to seeing the reform of the criminal justice system, particularly in respect of our prisons, for which she is the lead bishop for the Church of England.

I will reflect briefly on Amendment 140. As has already been said, we know that many IPP prisoners are stuck in the system, and appropriate psychiatric care in the community is not in place to manage their high-support needs. It is clear to anyone who visits prisons and meets IPP prisoners that they suffer great mental distress, reportedly more so than the wider prison population. This sentence—arguably more than any other— disrupts relationships and leads to hopelessness, anxiety and alienation, as we have heard so much about. In many cases, it can be said that the sentence itself is the very cause of that mental distress, as is reported by many chaplains in our prisons.

The changes proposed through this Bill are welcome and, as we have heard, much progress has been made; but, for the sake of both the prisoners in question and the wider community, I submit that the extended aftercare arrangements proposed in Amendment 140 are needed. Like other noble Lords, I ask the Minister to think again on this important matter.

My Lords, it has long seemed strange that, having abolished IPP sentences during the coalition in the LASPO Act, we still have nearly 3,000 prisoners, many of whom had relatively short-term tariffs, in custody or recalled to custody many years after their tariffs have expired.

In this House and elsewhere, there is unanimity that IPPs have been and remain a stain on our justice system, and that they are an inhumane mechanism, unjustly withholding from prisoners a date of release, routinely depriving them of any hope of freedom and causing them serious mental health problems. This is a fact highlighted by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Garnier. The IPPs were frequently in the wake of offences that were not of themselves the most serious.

This is all against a background of a Government taking strange measures, almost impossible to justify, to keep down the prison population. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, pointed out, we have prisoners on determinate sentences being released up to 93 days early, for no good reason apart from that there is no space for them. With Operation Early Dawn, we have hearings of criminal cases being delayed to avoid using up prison space by convicting and sentencing offenders expeditiously. We have a prison building programme that even on the most sanguine projections for planning and construction cannot possibly keep pace with predicted increases in prisoner numbers.

Yet we have a Government who have already been the cause of increasing prisoner numbers—with longer prescribed sentences and legislation increasing times in custody—setting their face against doing more to relieve a significant part of the pressure by releasing IPP prisoners faster and more humanely. Certainly, they have moved some way, and I join my noble friend Lady Burt in welcoming the Government’s movement and in her call in Amendment 140, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, and the right reverend Prelate, for much more and far better aftercare and support for these damaged prisoners who have suffered so much from IPPs. The action plan, so far as it goes, is welcome, as are the other government amendments, in which the Government have accepted the spirit of amendments moved by others throughout the passage of this Bill. I join those others, notably the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who has been mentioned and who has spoken, in appreciating the discussion and co-operation that we have all had with the Minister. However, one suspects that it has been despite the Minister’s best efforts that the Government have not moved far enough.

Amendment 149A, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and powerfully supported today by the noble Lords, Lord Moylan, Lord Carter, and others, with its requirement for an approach that embodies proportionality, is a modest amendment. Why the Government cannot accept it I cannot imagine. The noble and learned Lord’s amendment is designed to give IPP prisoners the hope that they need. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, expressed powerfully the effects of the loss of hope for IPP prisoners in the context of this amendment. If the noble and learned Lord does test the opinion of the House, we will support his amendment. I hope only that a good number of Labour Peers and Conservative Peers, in the cross-party spirit shown by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, will do the same. It would be very welcome if the Government would heed his plea to have one more think.

My Lords, I too acknowledge the work done by the Minister on IPP and the significant movement that there has been through the government amendments.

It is right that IPP sentences were abolished. We share the concerns that lie behind many of these amendments. We have always sought to work constructively on a cross-party basis on this issue, which is why we are supporting the government amendments to bring forward a statutory action plan. Our default position will always be, where possible, to secure the safe release of IPP prisoners. However, public safety must be at the centre of our approach. It is not possible to make assessments of public safety responsibly and confidently from the opposition position without the necessary evidence on the individual needs of these offenders. In government, the Labour Party will work at pace to make progress and will consult widely to ensure that the action plan is effective and based on the evidence available.

Government Amendment 139C, the annual report amendment, is a government concession to Amendments 141 and 142 tabled by my noble friend Lord Blunkett. It places an obligation upon the Government to report annually on the progress and rehabilitation of IPP and DPP prisoners through the enhanced work of the progression board and to outline those whom they have consulted in supporting such progress. There is clear intent of prisoner release and support and progress on licence while being monitored and advised by the scrutiny panel—currently known as the external challenge group. The Minister mentioned the members of this group. Nobody could doubt their credibility.

There will be no disagreement across the House that IPP sentences have become a stain on our criminal justice system and must be rectified. The evidence of their detrimental impact has been detailed throughout the Bill and in this debate, as well as through the tireless work of colleagues across two Houses. Our priority is, and must be, public safety, a point that was made in opening by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier. While reforms to IPPs are necessary, we must ensure that any actions taken are measured and safe. The creation of a scrutiny panel of experts will allow for the essential transparency and informed decision-making to ensure that any steps taken to progress a solution for those on IPP sentences is robust. I noted the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, about the purpose of the action plan as stated within the plan itself.

I turn to my noble friend Lord Blunkett’s Amendments 138A and 143, and the Government’s response to them: Amendment 138ZB. One of the most significantly impacted groups is those who were sentenced indeterminately as children. It is understood that children can learn and be rehabilitated at a significantly quicker pace than adults. Yet one of the many concerns with these sentences is that they did not appear to take this into account when the children were sentenced. As a result, we have 49 prisoners serving a DPP sentence in custody having been sentenced as children and subsequently recalled.

It is clear that IPP sentences require resolution. However, we believe that any solution must provide clear delineation for those sentenced as children and the situation should be assessed within that context. There is a need for those on DPPs to be considered within their unique context. A wider plan on IPPs cannot be expected to understand the nuances of those sentenced as children and the impact that their time in custody may have had on their development. In the meantime, reducing the qualifying period for licence determination is a decisive move in the right direction, so we will be supporting the Government’s Amendment 138ZB and will abstain if my noble friend presses his amendments.

I move on to Amendment 149A, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and Amendment 145, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. Amendment 149A states explicitly that the release test should be proportionate to the nature of the original offence under IPP. It covers the same parameters as the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, wanting to alter the release test to make it easier for those who have served their time to be released when safe. It is applicable to those who have served in excess of the maximum determinate sentence provided by law for the offence or offences of which they were convicted, or 10 years or more beyond the minimum term of their sentence. We have said that in government we will work at pace to bring forward an effective action plan that will allow the safe release of IPP prisoners where possible. It is not possible to make assessments of public safety responsibly and confidently from opposition without the necessary evidence on the individual needs of these offenders.

We have concerns about any potential changes to the release test, and the Parole Board’s ability to prioritise public safety. For that reason, we are supporting the Government’s action plan rather than any changes to the release test at this time. Therefore, we would abstain if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, were to move his amendment.

My noble friend Lord Blunkett, in his generous speech, expressed understanding for the Labour Party’s position. He spoke of the recall of prisoners breaching their licence conditions, and the difference between that for determinate sentences and for indeterminate sentences. I like Amendment 148, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, which would make the licence conditions between indeterminate and determinate sentences equivalent. I will say something, however, about my experience as a magistrate who sat on breach courts many times. Many of the briefings I received said that the breaches were somehow inconsequential or not serious. In my experience, offenders often do not realise the seriousness of their breaches. It is not uncommon for them to give an example of their breach that they believe to be trivial, only for the court, and the potential victim, to take a different view. Licence conditions are there for a reason, and it needs to be reinforced that the reason is public protection.

I turn to Amendment 147, tabled by my noble friend Lady Blower, and Amendment 140, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt. Amendment 140 would introduce an additional aftercare duty in respect of people on IPP who have never been released and are three or more years beyond the expiration of their tariff, and who have not yet had their licence terminated. My noble friend’s Amendment 147 would enable the Secretary of State to appoint mentors to assist over-tariff IPP prisoners. They would provide practical support in formulating a release plan, support them at the Parole Board hearing and signpost relevant services, including mental health services, to enable them to get out of jail and stay out.

We support the intention behind both these amendments. We recognise that enhanced mental health support for these prisoners is likely to be needed once they are released, both for the protection of the community and to stop them breaching their licence conditions or re-offending. We do not, however, know the whole picture regarding the numbers concerned or the extent of the additional support required. While I am happy to express general support for these amendments, we would not support them if they were moved to a vote. I was intrigued to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, said about anticipating further concessions from the Minister at the Dispatch Box.

This group of amendments has been hotly anticipated by the many people who will be watching this debate, and by the IPP prisoners themselves and their wider families. Although substantial and welcome progress has been made through the Government’s amendments, the step-by-step approach in this and previous Bills has led to changes and to some reduction in the number of IPP prisoners, and that must be done on a sustainable basis. The point is that if we were to press ahead too quickly and prisoners were released and serious offences were committed, that would thoroughly undermine the position of the IPP prisoners who were left behind. This therefore needs to be done in a slow, systematic and sustainable way that will be to the benefit of the existing IPP prisoners.

My Lords, I first thank noble Lords for their contributions. To those who were kind enough to refer to me personally, I respectfully say that I simply speak on behalf of the Government, not on my own behalf. This Bill, these amendments and the matters we are discussing are government-sponsored matters. It is the Lord Chancellor and my right honourable friend Mr Argar in the other place, and the Government as a whole, who have put forward this Bill and these amendments for your Lordships’ consideration.

I gathered from the most eloquent speeches we heard today that a number of amendments are not going to be moved. For the record only, I will therefore touch only briefly on those amendments and then turn in more detail to those that remain in contention.

Amendments 134 to 136, proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, would permit offenders to apply to the Parole Board for licence termination after at least a year had elapsed. The Government’s view can be briefly stated: the relevant offenders have to complete only two years on licence, so we are talking about only one possible application to the Parole Board during that two-year period. By the time the Parole Board has determined the application, one would be very close to the end of the two-year period anyway. In the Government’s view, it is not unreasonable to expect an offender to fulfil the required two-year period; that is a clear and certain test. We should not overburden the Parole Board—even more than it is burdened already—with these further applications. That is the brief answer to that point; I will not elaborate further.

On the noble and learned Lord’s Amendment 138, which addresses what are described as inappropriate recalls, I simply point out that, in his recent report of December 2023 on the Probation Service and the power of recall, the chief inspector found that the power was being used in a necessary and proportionate way. I associate myself with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, bringing to bear his experience as a magistrate, about the importance of recall and the circumstances in which it happens. It is very important that the Probation Service is not criticised for the way in which it makes recalls. Be that as it may, in the Government’s view, these amendments, including Amendment 138, are now overtaken by government Amendments 139A and 139B, which provide, in effect, for re-release and for the release not to count if that is in the interests of justice.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, whether I can give any examples of what might be in the interests of justice in that instance. My official advice is that I cannot, because that would pre-judge particular circumstances. I can say in my personal capacity, however, that one could imagine, theoretically and hypothetically, that a recall made rather close to the expiry of the licence term, when the effect might be to restart the two-year clock—or a recall made in circumstances where there had been an arrest but subsequently there were no charges, or nothing was done to pursue the matter that led to recall—might be instances where this kind of power could be useful. I think that is as far as I can go on that matter.

Amendment 139 concerns the power in delegated legislation to change the qualifying period, which at the moment could be either reduced or released. That is a standard provision. The Government cannot imagine the circumstances in which anyone would ever want to increase the qualifying period, but one never knows. Therefore, we are not in favour of changing the statutory power to change the qualifying period.

Following the amendments through in numerical order takes me to Amendment 140. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, for her most moving speech on the additional aftercare duty that the amendment contemplates for prisoners who are suffering from mental health problems in particular. I also thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham for supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, and other speakers likewise.

The Government agree with the noble Baroness that those entitled to the support that Section 117 of the Mental Health Act provides should indeed receive it. It is important to highlight that the purpose of Section 117 is to prevent readmission, so extending it to people who have never been admitted to a mental health hospital does not quite align with the section as it is at the moment. The amendment would widen the purpose and application of Section 117 and extend it beyond its present scope, so it is not an amendment that the Government can support.

However, I draw the noble Baroness’s attention to the efforts we are taking to protect IPP prisoners’ health and well-being through the IPP action plan and other initiatives. The annual report to Parliament on IPP sentences will have a dedicated section that focuses on mental health support for prisoners, so the Government will be held accountable for their actions, particularly on mental health. The Government entirely accept that this is extremely important to the matters we are discussing. HMPPS is also extending the scope of its psychology services, so that it can continue to support some of the more complex IPP cases, not just in prison but in the community.

Another important area of support is that provided by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and the NHS, regarding health and particularly mental health needs provided to all offenders while in custody and as members of the public when in the community on licence. The Ministry of Justice will explore with the Department of Health and Social Care whether an up-to-date IPP offender health needs analysis could be delivered, so that we can inform future Health and Justice joint work supporting this cohort of offenders. The Lord Chancellor will work with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to consider what more could be done to meet IPP offenders’ health needs following any such assessment. The annual report will include progress on this work, if taken forward.

In response to the question I was asked by the noble Baroness, I am very happy to meet the Royal College of Psychiatrists to discuss this. The college is already represented in the challenge group and is very familiar with the problems, and it is in the Government’s interest to be as fully informed as possible about these issues. I will take that suggestion forward, as well as writing to my ministerial colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Care to begin work specifically related to the health requirements of IPP offenders. I am sure that the input of the royal college on that kind of matter will also be of importance. So we recognise the specific health challenges faced by the IPP offender cohort and are increasing our support. I hope that, in the light of what I have just said, the noble Baroness will not feel the need to press her amendment, in due course.

I of course pay great tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for all his efforts on behalf of these prisoners. I have already covered his amendments, so will not say any more about them now—save that we all recognise the vital role that the noble Lord has played, centrally, in finding and working towards solutions on this difficult matter. I am sure that he has the thanks of the whole House and the nation for everything that he has done in this regard.

I come to the important amendments—Amendment 145, tabled by my noble friend Lord Moylan and Amendment 149A, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, which would modify the release test. I will deal first and briefly with Amendment 145, which introduces a change in the burden of proof. My feeling is that the House would like to address Amendment 149A rather than Amendment 145, but I will make just one comment about Amendment 145, which is about changing the so-called burden of proof and introducing a new burden of proof. On that point, there is no burden of proof in the current release test, in the Government’s view. It is simply up to the Parole Board to assess whether the prisoner is considered a risk to public protection. The Government are opposed to creating a burden of proof on anybody and making this a more legalistic process.

For clarity’s sake, I understand that the Parole Board is preparing to update its guidance to state explicitly that there is no burden on the prisoner to prove that he is safe to release, so that, in lay terms at least, prisoners can understand that it is not up to them to prove anything; their case will simply be considered by the Parole Board.

That leaves us with the one crucial point, stressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, as the last piece of the jigsaw: if only we could move a little on this, we would have met every conceivable suggestion that has been made. The central point about Amendment 149A, stressed in a very powerful speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Garnier, and others, is to introduce the idea of proportionality in the release test. The prisoner may not in fact be safe to release, but he has been there for a long time, so we had better release him anyway; that is what it comes down to. I see the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, nodding.

Respectfully, I am pleased to adopt the arguments that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is putting to the House. We are where we are and everybody regrets it, but we have a dilemma. In almost all cases, these prisoners have been before the Parole Board many times and the Parole Board has said that they are not safe to release. So what do we do? Do we just change the release test and say that we are going to release them anyway—give permission for them to come out, in a sense—or do we take steps to enable them to pass the existing tests to qualify for safe release?

As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, says, we must take this step by step. We have put enormous effort behind producing the action plan. We have dedicated resources, we have reporting systems, we have a report to Parliament, we have increased support for mental health, we have reduced the licence periods and we have special arrangements for DPP. Let that work. We cannot lose sight of the importance of public protection. Let us go step by step, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, says.

I am delighted to hear that, in the unlikely event of a change of Government, any new Government of which the Labour Party was part would work at pace to make the action plan effective. That is what this Government will do, whether before or after the election, if they are still in power or part of a Government. We have cross-party support; everybody is determined to make the action plan work. Let us not risk public protection by changing the test in a way that would effectively say that these people are unsafe but we are going to release them anyway. As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, points out, if we did that and then it backfired—if something went wrong and there were serious incidents—that would be so damaging for the existing unreleased IPP population that, frankly, we would wish we had never done it. Let us not take that risk.

It is not at all clear what proportionality actually means; it is not a very easy test to apply. The Government’s present view is that proportionality should not be a factor for the Parole Board. It is a very difficult ask of the Parole Board to weigh things up; we should give it one task and one task only: to decide the question of public protection. We should have that test, and that should be the right test for all IPP offenders, however long they have served and whether they are over tariff or not.

I make one final point. Noble Lords have said that this may be the last chance. It is not the last chance, by any means. There is power under the LASPO Act 2012 to change the test. If the action plan does not work out, and if, in later circumstances, a future Government decided that they were prepared to take the risk, they could still do so without any primary legislation, subject to affirmative resolution by both Houses of Parliament. We do not need to press this point now. Let the action plan work.

In a debate on public bodies, protests and funding, we wanted to use the word “reasonableness”, and the Government still stuck to proportionality—in government circles, on that particular Bill, they knew what proportionality meant. Moreover, I was in the debates on the Human Rights Act; it was very clear that part of the human right is whether the decisions that have been taken are really proportionate. The Act spells this out, so I do not understand why, in this particular case, the Minister is relying on case law, particularly on the Human Rights Act. I do not see why that cannot be applied in this particular instance.

My Lords, I cannot do better than simply refer to what I have already said: the Government think that there should be a very clear, simple test of public protection, and that the way to get these prisoners out is to work in a way that enables them to meet that test, so that they and the wider community are safe. My respectful submission to this House is that that is a reasonable and responsible approach, because otherwise we run terrible risks in relation to releasing this cohort, who have already been found several times not to be safe to release. That is the Government’s position.

I turn briefly to Amendment 147, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, which relates to other support for IPP prisoners through the use of independent monitors, and in addition to the support I indicated on the last occasion. The Government will look at additional support, as the noble Baroness asked me to do, and consider whether that would be a further element that we can build into the action plan. I respectfully say to the noble Baroness and to other noble Lords who have made this point that, for prisoners who have lost hope, the Government’s actions should be the start of restoring hope. We are in the business of restoring hope for this cohort of prisoners.

Amendment 148, from the noble Lord, Lord Carter, would provide 28-day time limits for referral to the Parole Board. It is quite true that HMPPS is required to refer determinate prisoners within that timescale. In relation to IPP prisoners, it does its very best to refer them back to the Parole Board within 28 days, and in the majority of cases it meets this deadline. However, there may be cases, particularly complex cases, where 28 days is not enough to get all the reports together. We do not want to get ourselves into a position where we are referring matters to the Parole Board because we have a statutory deadline to do so, but where the case is not ready and we might risk disadvantaging a prisoner rather than assisting them. That is the Government’s position on the statutory obligation. I reiterate that progressing IPP licence termination and swiftly considering cases for release is one of our top priorities.

Amendment 149, from the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, is about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. I fully agree that this issue should be examined. I have already asked officials to explore options, with a view to amending the Act in relation to IPP sentences.

In closing, we have introduced in the course of the passage of the Bill a combination of levers to make a real impact. I respectfully say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, that it is no longer the case that there is no end in sight. This Government have not given up on any IPP or DPP prisoner. Nobody serving an IPP or DPP sentence will be forgotten. Every one of them deserves the chance to progress towards a safe and sustainable release, and ultimately to have this sentence brought to an end.

Amendment 120A agreed.

Clause 42: Public protection decisions: fixed-term prisoners

Amendment 120B

Moved by

120B: Clause 42, page 41, line 6, leave out from second “the” to end of line 7 and insert “High Court;”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 45, page 47, line 28.

Amendment 120B agreed.

Amendment 121 not moved.

Amendment 121A

Moved by

121A: Before the Schedule, insert the following new Schedule—

“ScheduleInfected Blood Compensation AuthorityPart 1ConstitutionMembership

1 (1) The IBCA is to consist of—(a) a Chair (who is to be a non-executive member),(b) at least 3, but not more than 6, other non-executive members,(c) a chief executive, and(d) at least 2, but not more than 5, other executive members.(2) The members are to be appointed in accordance with paragraphs 2 to 4.(3) A person exercising a power of appointment in accordance with those paragraphs must when doing so ensure, so far as practicable, that the number of non-executive members is at all times greater than the number of executive members.Appointment of non-executive members

2 (1) The Chair is to be appointed by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.(2) The other non-executive members are to be appointed by the Chair except for the first three who are to be appointed by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.(3) A person may not be appointed as a non-executive member if the person is a member of the IBCA’s staff.Appointment of executive members

3 (1) The chief executive and the other executive members are to be appointed by the Chair.(2) The executive members are to be members of the IBCA’s staff.Appointments of members: eligibility

4 (1) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office may by regulations make provision about criteria which must be met by persons in order to be appointed as members of the IBCA.(2) The regulations may make provision for a person to cease to be a member of the IBCA if the person no longer meets those criteria.Terms of membership

5 (1) A member of the IBCA holds and vacates office in accordance with the terms of the member’s appointment (subject to this Schedule).(2) A member may resign from office by giving notice to the appropriate person.(3) A member may be removed from office by notice given by the appropriate person on the grounds that the member—(a) has without reasonable excuse failed to discharge the member’s functions, or (b) is, in the opinion of the appropriate person, unable or unfit to carry out the member’s functions.(4) A person ceases to be—(a) a non-executive member of the IBCA upon becoming a member of its staff;(b) an executive member of the IBCA upon ceasing to be a member of its staff.(5) In this paragraph “appropriate person” means—(a) in the case of the Chair, the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office;(b) in the case of any other member of the IBCA, the Chair.Non-executive members: payments

6 (1) The IBCA must pay, or make provision for the payment of, such remuneration, pensions, allowances or gratuities as the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office determines to or in respect of a person who is or has been—(a) the Chair, or(b) a non-executive member appointed by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office under paragraph 2(2).(2) The IBCA must pay, or make provision for the payment of, such remuneration, pensions, allowances or gratuities as the Chair determines to or in respect of a person who is or has been a non-executive member appointed by the Chair under paragraph 2(2).(3) Sub-paragraph (4) applies if—(a) a person ceases to be the Chair or a non-executive member appointed by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office under paragraph 2(2), and(b) the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office determines that the person should be compensated because of special circumstances.(4) Where this sub-paragraph applies, the IBCA must pay the person compensation of such amount as the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office may determine.(5) Sub-paragraph (6) applies if—(a) a person ceases to be a non-executive member appointed by the Chair under paragraph 2(2), and(b) the Chair determines that the person should be compensated because of special circumstances.(6) Where this sub-paragraph applies, the IBCA must pay the person compensation of such amount as the Chair may determine.Staffing

7 (1) The IBCA may—(a) appoint employees, and(b) make such other arrangements for the staffing of the IBCA as it determines.(2) The IBCA must pay its staff such remuneration as may be determined in accordance with this paragraph.(3) The IBCA must pay, or make provision for the payment of, such pensions, allowances, gratuities or compensation as may be determined in accordance with this paragraph to or in respect of any person who is or has been a member of staff of the IBCA.(4) Members of staff of the IBCA are to be appointed on such other terms as may be determined in accordance with this paragraph.(5) A matter is determined in accordance with this paragraph if—(a) in the case of a matter which relates to an executive member, it is determined by the Chair; (b) in the case of a matter which relates to any other member of staff, it is determined by the IBCA.(6) Before making a determination as to remuneration, pensions, allowances, gratuities or compensation for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) or (3), the IBCA must obtain the approval of the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office as to its policy on that matter.Interim chief executive

(1) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office may appoint a person as an executive member to act as chief executive of the IBCA (“an interim chief executive”) until the appointment of the first chief executive by the Chair under paragraph 3(1).(2) An interim chief executive may incur expenditure and do other things in the name of and on behalf of the IBCA until the appointment of the first chief executive by the Chair under paragraph 3(1).(3) In exercising the power in sub-paragraph (2), an interim chief executive must act in accordance with any directions given by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.(4) Paragraphs 3, 5 and 7 do not apply to an interim chief executive.Committees and sub-committees

9 (1) The IBCA may appoint such committees and sub-committees as it considers appropriate.(2) A committee or sub-committee may consist of or include persons who are neither members, nor members of staff, of the IBCA.(3) The IBCA may pay such remuneration and allowances as it may determine to any person who—(a) is a member of a committee or a sub-committee, but(b) is not a member of staff of the IBCA,whether or not that person is a non-executive member of the IBCA.Procedure

10 (1) The IBCA may determine its own procedure and the procedure of any of its committees or sub-committees.(2) The validity of any proceedings of the IBCA, or any committee or sub-committee of the IBCA, is not affected by any vacancy among its members or by any defect in the appointment of such a member.Exercise of functions

11 (1) The IBCA must have regard to the need to exercise its functions effectively, efficiently and economically.(2) The IBCA may delegate any of its functions to—(a) a member of the IBCA,(b) a member of the IBCA’s staff authorised for that purpose, or(c) any committee or sub-committee.(3) A function may be delegated to the extent and on the terms that the IBCA determines.Funding

12 (1) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office must pay to the IBCA—(a) such sums as are required to meet payments made by the IBCA under the infected blood compensation scheme, and(b) such other sums as the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office considers are reasonably sufficient to enable the IBCA to carry out its functions.(2) Payments under sub-paragraph (1)(b) may be made subject to conditions. (3) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office may by regulations make provision about what the IBCA must do with any sums repaid to it by virtue of section (Payments)(5) (which may include provision requiring the sums to be paid to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office).Annual report

13 (1) As soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each financial year the IBCA must prepare a report on the exercise of its functions during that financial year.(2) The IBCA must send the report to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.(3) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office must lay the report before Parliament.Accounts and audit

14 (1) The IBCA must—(a) keep proper accounts and proper records in relation to them, and(b) prepare a statement of accounts in respect of each financial year in the form specified by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.(2) The IBCA must send a copy of each statement of accounts to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and the Comptroller and Auditor General, as soon as practicable after the end of the financial year to which the statement relates.(3) The Comptroller and Auditor General must—(a) examine, certify and report on each statement of accounts, and(b) send a copy of each report and certified statement to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.(4) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office must lay before Parliament a copy of each such report and certified statement.Meaning of “financial year”

15 In this Schedule “financial year” means—(a) the period beginning with the date on which the IBCA is established and ending with 31 March following that date, and(b) each successive period of 12 months.Provision of information

16 The IBCA must provide to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office such information relating to the IBCA’s functions as they may request.Status

17 (1) The IBCA is not to be regarded—(a) as the servant or agent of the Crown, or(b) as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown.(2) The IBCA’s property is not to be regarded as property of, or property held on behalf of, the Crown.(3) Service as a member, or a member of staff, of the IBCA is not service in the civil service of the State.Seal and evidence

18 (1) The application of the IBCA’s seal must be authenticated by a signature of—(a) a member of the IBCA, or(b) another person authorised for that purpose by the IBCA.(2) A document purporting to be duly executed under the IBCA’s seal or signed on its behalf—(a) is to be received in evidence, and(b) is to be taken to be executed or signed in that way, unless the contrary is shown. (3) But this paragraph does not apply in relation to any document which is, or is to be, signed in accordance with the law of Scotland.Supplementary powers

19 The IBCA may do anything it thinks appropriate for the purposes of, or in connection with, its functions.Part 2Transfer schemesPower to make transfer schemes

20 (1) The Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office may make one or more schemes (“transfer schemes”) for the purpose of transferring to the IBCA such property, rights and liabilities of a relevant person as the Secretary of State or Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of enabling the IBCA to carry out its functions under or by virtue of this Act.(2) In this paragraph “relevant person” means—(a) the Secretary of State;(b) the Minister for the Cabinet Office;(c) a Special Health Authority established under section 28 of the National Health Service Act 2006;(d) the Welsh Ministers;(e) a National Health Service trust established under section 18 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006;(f) a Special Health Authority established under section 22 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006;(g) the Scottish Ministers;(h) a person who has at any time been appointed by the Scottish Ministers under section 28(4)(d) of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 (asp 13) to manage a scheme under that section;(i) the Department of Health in Northern Ireland;(j) the Regional Business Services Organisation established by section 14 of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (Northern Ireland) 2009 (c.1 (N.I)).(3) A transfer scheme may not be made—(a) in relation to a relevant person within sub-paragraph (2)(d), (e) or (f), unless the Welsh Ministers consent;(b) in relation to a relevant person within sub-paragraph (2)(g) or (h), unless the Scottish Ministers consent;(c) in relation to a relevant person within sub-paragraph (2)(i) or (j), unless the Department of Health in Northern Ireland consents.(4) The things that may be transferred under a transfer scheme include—(a) property, rights and liabilities that could not otherwise be transferred;(b) property acquired, and rights and liabilities arising, after the making of the scheme;(c) criminal liabilities.(5) A transfer scheme may make supplementary, incidental, transitional or consequential provision and may, in particular—(a) create rights, or impose liabilities, in relation to property or rights transferred;(b) make provision about the continuing effect of things done by a relevant person in respect of anything transferred;(c) make provision about the continuation of things (including legal proceedings) in the process of being done by, on behalf of, or in relation to, a relevant person in respect of anything transferred; (d) make provision for references to an interim compensation authority in an instrument or other document in respect of anything transferred to be treated as references to the IBCA;(e) make provision for the shared ownership or use of property;(f) make provision which is the same as or similar to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/246);(g) make other supplemental, incidental, transitional or consequential provision.(6) A transfer scheme may provide for—(a) modifications by agreement;(b) modifications to have effect from the date when the original scheme came into effect.(7) For the purposes of this paragraph—(a) references to rights and liabilities include rights and liabilities relating to a contract of employment;(b) references to the transfer of property include the grant of a lease.(8) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (7)—(a) an individual who holds employment in the civil service is to be treated as employed by virtue of a contract of employment, and(b) the terms of the individual’s employment in the civil service of the State are to be regarded as constituting the terms of the contract of employment.Tax treatment of transfer schemes

21 (1) The Treasury may by regulations make provision varying the way in which a relevant tax has effect in relation to—(a) anything transferred under a scheme under paragraph 20, or(b) anything done for the purposes of, or in relation to, a transfer under such a scheme.(2) The provision which may be made under sub-paragraph (1)(a) includes in particular provision for—(a) a tax provision not to apply, or to apply with modifications, in relation to anything transferred;(b) anything transferred to be treated in a specified way for the purposes of a tax provision;(c) the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to be required or permitted to determine, or specify the method for determining, anything which needs to be determined for the purposes of any tax provision so far as relating to anything transferred.(3) The provision which may be made under sub-paragraph (1)(b) includes in particular provision for—(a) a tax provision not to apply, or to apply with modifications, in relation to anything done for the purposes of or in relation to the transfer;(b) anything done for the purposes of, or in relation to, the transfer to have or not have a specified consequence or be treated in a specified way;(c) the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to be required or permitted to determine, or specify the method for determining, anything which needs to be determined for the purposes of any tax provision so far as relating to anything done for the purposes of, or in relation to, the transfer.(4) In this paragraph references to the transfer of property include the grant of a lease.(5) In this paragraph— “relevant tax” means income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, value added tax, stamp duty or stamp duty reserve tax;“tax provision” means any legislation about a relevant tax.Part 3AmendmentsPublic Records Act 1958 (c. 51)

22 In Part 2 of the Table in paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the Public Records Act 1958 (definition of public records), at the appropriate place insert—“The Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 (c. 67)

23 In the Schedule to the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960—(a) in paragraph 1 (bodies in England and Wales to which the Act applies), at the end insert—“(q) the Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”;(b) in paragraph 2 (bodies in Scotland to which the Act applies), at the end insert—“(g) the Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 (c. 13)

24 In Schedule 2 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 (departments subject to investigation), at the appropriate place insert—“The Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 (c. 24)

25 In Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, at the appropriate place insert—“The Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (c. 25)

26 In Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975, at the appropriate place insert—“The Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36)

27 In Part 6 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (other public bodies), at the appropriate place insert—“The Infected Blood Compensation Authority.”Equality Act 2010 (c. 15)

28 In Part 1 of Schedule 19 to the Equality Act 2010 (authorities subject to the public sector equality duty), under the heading “Health, social care and social security”, at the appropriate place insert—“The Infected Blood Compensation Authority.””Member's explanatory statement

This amendment makes provision about the constitution of the Infected Blood Compensation Authority, for the transfer of property, rights and liabilities to and from the Authority and for various enactments to apply in relation to the Authority.

Amendments 121B to 121F (to Amendment 121A) not moved.

Amendment 121G (to Amendment 121A) had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 121GA and 121H (to Amendment 121A) not moved.

Amendment 121A agreed.

Amendment 122 not moved.

Clause 44: Referral of release decisions: life prisoners

Amendments 122A to 122F

Moved by

122A: Clause 44, page 44, line 34, leave out “relevant court” and insert “High Court”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

122B: Clause 44, page 44, line 35, leave out “relevant court” and insert “High Court”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

122C: Clause 44, page 45, line 4, leave out “relevant court” and insert “High Court”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides for the High Court to determine all prisoner release cases referred by the Secretary of State under section 32ZAA of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 inserted by Clause 44.

122D: Clause 44, page 45, line 8, leave out “relevant court” and insert “High Court”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

122E: Clause 44, page 45, line 11, at end insert—

“(2A) The requirement for the Secretary of State to give effect to the Parole Board’s direction to release the prisoner is suspended—(a) during such period, beginning with the day on which the direction is given, as the Secretary of State reasonably requires to determine whether to direct the Parole Board to refer the prisoner’s case to the High Court under this section, and(b) if the Secretary of State gives such a direction, pending determination of the reference under section 32ZAC(1).”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment suspends requirements to release a prisoner while the Secretary of State is considering whether to refer the prisoner’s case to the High Court and until any such reference is determined.

122F: Clause 44, page 45, leave out lines 12 to 18

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

Amendments 122A to 122F agreed.

Amendments 123 and 124 not moved.

Amendments 124A to 124E

Moved by

124A: Clause 44, page 45, leave out lines 23 to 25

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 11.

124B: Clause 44, page 46, line 40, leave out “relevant court” and insert “High Court”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

124C: Clause 44, page 46, line 41, leave out “relevant court” and insert “High Court”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

124D: Clause 44, page 47, leave out lines 12 and 13

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

124E: Clause 44, page 47, line 16, leave out “Upper Tribunal or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on my amendment of Clause 44, page 45, line 4.

Amendments 124A to 124E agreed.

Amendment 125 not moved.

Amendment 125A

Moved by