All 9 Parliamentary debates in the Lords on 7th Feb 2023

Tue 7th Feb 2023
Tue 7th Feb 2023
Tue 7th Feb 2023
Northern Ireland Budget Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading: Part 1 & Committee negatived: Part 1 & 3rd reading: Part 1
Tue 7th Feb 2023
Northern Ireland Budget Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading: Part 2 & Committee negatived: Part 2 & 3rd reading: Part 2

House of Lords

Tuesday 7th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Tuesday 7 February 2023
14:30
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

NHS Staff: Food Banks

Tuesday 7th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Question
14:37
Asked by
Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
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To ask His Majesty’s Government how many NHS trusts are (1) providing, or (2) planning to provide, food banks for nurses and other NHS staff.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hain, that we are working to support the welfare of NHS staff. We continue to support all NHS staff during these challenging times; individual employers across the NHS are best placed to prioritise support for their staff. Information on food banks set up by NHS trusts is not held centrally, but from March 2023 the Family Resources Survey will track food bank usage.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but it was not really an answer. An NHS Providers survey last autumn found that 27% of trusts had food banks for staff and 19% were planning to have them. That is nearly half the trusts in England. At least one trust was providing food vouchers as staff were going without meals, and the cost of living has severely worsened since then. Are the Government not utterly ashamed? Why do Ministers not start paying nurses, ambulance workers and other staff properly, instead of forcing them to go on strike for better wages to feed themselves properly?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord. The lowest paid, who are obviously most at risk in this category, we have sought to protect the most. They received a 9.3% pay increase. In all these circumstances, we have been looking to follow the guidance from the independent bodies, which we will continue to do.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that food price inflation is now running at over 16%. This disproportionately affects lower-paid workers, including many health and social care staff, yet the Government’s approach seems to be, “Crisis? What crisis?” Does the Minister accept that nurses are seeing real-terms pay cuts at present? Is he worried about the effect of these cuts on his long-awaited workforce strategy?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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As has been mentioned many times, the workforce strategy is key; being able to recruit and retain staff, and pay, are vital elements of it, so I accept the challenges in this space. At the same time, I am mindful that we have sought to protect the lowest paid through these increases, as I mentioned. I am confident that the new pay review body, which is coming up, will seek to take the inflationary pressures into account to make sure that there is a fair settlement for everyone.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, why are the Government hiding behind the pay review body? When it looked at wages for the health service, inflation was running at 4% or 5%. We have just heard that food inflation is now running at 16%. Will the Government think about this again and ask the pay review body to look at the facts now?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Again, April is very close; the pay review body will be looking at the facts then. The noble Lord is quite correct that the real change is inflation, and that is why the priority for all of us has to be to reduce inflation. It is pernicious in its impact on every single one of our pockets, and most of all on those people with the least money. That has to be the priority, but we will continue to support these people.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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My Lords, back in 2008, there were only 26,000 people visiting food banks—they were brought in, really, as a response to the crash—but that figure is now 2.56 million people. Back in those days, Ministers were somewhat ashamed that we had them; now they seem to be handy photo opportunities for Prime Ministers. Where do food banks figure in how the Government look at the economics of this country? It seems to me that they count on them a great deal more than they should.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Clearly, food banks should be a last resort for people; that is definitely my hope. I am glad to say that there are some good examples of where hospitals have thought that this is the appropriate thing to do and have set them up to help people in that circumstance. However, the biggest increase has been in energy bills, which we have sought to protect people from. I am glad to see that prices are forecast to reduce in future. Actually, gas futures prices are down 71% for next year, so things are starting to get better. Is it challenging right now? Yes.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, are the means of improving the conditions and welfare of all aspects of our much-valued NHS workforce forming a central part of the discussions that are continuing in an effort to reach an agreement in this current tragic dispute?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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They are a central part of the discussions, but at the same time, we have to work out how we can best spend the budget. There are difficult choices here. Clearly, we want to make sure that we are protecting elective recovery and front-line services in A&E, so there are a lot of competing demands in this space. We are seeking to balance those in the best way possible, with the help of the independent pay review bodies, to make sure that we protect and pay what is appropriate in the circumstances.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, a survey by the Cavell Nurses’ Trust found that 14% of nurses and health workers are using food banks to feed themselves and their families, and nearly 70% are either unprepared or very unprepared for a financial emergency. What assessment have the Government made of the effect this is having on the health and well-being of staff? Does the Minister feel that this ought to provide a greater incentive to the Government to resolve the long- running pay dispute?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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That is a concern; we want to resolve the pay dispute. I know personally how much time and energy are being put into this from our side as well. Clearly, more needs to be done. We are not there yet, but I am hopeful that we will get there. At the same time, we did try to protect those on the lowest incomes, as I mentioned earlier. Everyone received a minimum of £1,400, which is 9.3%. Clearly, we will need to do more for the next year, but we are trying to protect those in the most difficult circumstances.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)
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My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what percentage of NHS hospitals have subsidised canteens that staff can use at the end of long shifts, and how many of these are open in the evening and during the night, when access to reasonably priced hot food is hard to find? If the Minister does not have those figures, could he please write to me with them?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I do not have those figures so I will happily write to supply them to the noble Baroness. However, I have some examples, such as Newcastle upon Tyne, where they have good free meal cards that they can give out to help people buy their meals discreetly themselves, or the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, which has subsidised £2 hot meals that are available at any time. So there are some good examples of what trusts are doing to help people in the space, but I will write to the noble Baroness about the other cases.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, on a recent visit to a food bank at my local hospital I met a nurse, a single parent with two children, who has a gross pay of about £30,000 and income tax and national insurance of £5,600. Her rent has gone up from £1,000 to £1,500—that is £18,000 a year—and she has energy bills of £3,000. That leaves her about £10 a week for food. Yet the Minister seems to be implying that these people are awash with cash. Is he not ashamed that he is not giving these people decent wages so that they do not have to use food banks?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I do not think I have implied today that people are awash with cash—that has not been my tone for one moment. My tone has been one of complete understanding that we are in a difficult situation, with difficult choices to be made. We are trying to navigate our way through while bearing down on inflation, which is the priority, and making sure that our scarce resources are focused on the areas of most need. The noble Lord talks about taxes but clearly tax is one area where we want to make sure that it is as fair as possible as well. There are a number of measures and the solutions are not easy, but we are definitely mindful of the issue.

Lord Trefgarne Portrait Lord Trefgarne (Con)
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My Lords, most of the publicity we hear about the present dispute refers to percentage increases, not absolute salaries. What is the approximate salary of a junior health service employee?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Clearly, there is a wide range with regard to that. If I was to take an average overall, we would probably be talking about the mid-£30,000s as a very broad average, but I will quite happily provide my noble friend a breakdown of those detailed figures. However, as I say, we have made sure that as a minimum everyone received at least £1,400, accepting that the lowest paid need the most protection.

Bread and Flour Regulations 1988

Tuesday 7th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:47
Asked by
Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker
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To ask His Majesty’s Government when they expect to announce a decision following the consultation on the Bread and Flour Regulations 1988 which closed on 23 November 2022.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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The Government will publish an interim response within 12 weeks of the consultation closing, on 14 February, with a fuller government response later this summer. We received 369 responses, and UK officials are currently reviewing them in detail with a review to finalising policy decisions. Following that, the Government expect to lay new legislation early in 2024 subject to clearing parliamentary process. Discussions with industry on the practicalities of folic acid fortification of flour are also ongoing.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker (Lab)
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I have to say that is the first time the Minister has answered one of my Questions on this, and I am very grateful to him. He gave some positive dates, which we can hold him accountable to, and it looks as though there is some progress. I will make just one point. It is already three months since the end of the consultation. That is another 250 neural tube defect pregnancies, 80% of which will be terminated, and close to 50 live births of children who will have lifelong disabilities. It really needs to speed up. I fully accept what the Minister said, and I am very grateful for that—it would be churlish to be otherwise. However, the fact is that time is of the essence on this. We have a cure for 80% of the issue, but we are not using it at the present time.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, who has been a tireless campaigner on this issue. Again, a benefit of this position is getting to learn new subjects, and this is one of them. I can see why he campaigns so hard on it. I am delighted to say that we are getting there, albeit that it could be argued that maybe it could be quicker. At the same time, industry is seeing that, and the good news is that it is already adjusting. The majority of breakfast cereals are now fortified and a lot of the rest of the industry is responding. We are making a difference, and I thank the noble Lord again for his campaigning.

Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister consider that too low a dose would leave people believing that fortification does not work? Is he aware that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists believes that the proposed level of folic acid fortification will prevent only about 20% of neural tube defects? It recommends that fortification be set at a level that is sufficient to prevent four out of five neural tube defects, which is 1 milligram per 100 grams. Will the Minister consider that?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I am very aware of the range of scientific advice on this. I am also aware that the official results of the consultation, which will come out, are not clear cut. A sizeable number of people, 40%, are anti-fortification. As ever, it is about trying to get that balance right. We completely agree on the direction of travel. There is some scientific advice that at too high a level there is a potential masking of pernicious anaemia in the elderly. This is the first step. Let us get all the evidence. The critical thing is getting that first step right.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con)
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My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister find out exactly how many people are involved in the decision-making on this subject? How often do they meet?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I do not know the precise number; I know there are many stakeholders in this. The devolved Administrations have been involved in all of this. Part of the delay is because, once we go ahead, we have to notify the EU, because of the Northern Ireland elements of it, and that is a six-month notification. We also have to notify the World Trade Organization. All these aspects mean that this is not as quick as we would want, and then we need to let the industry have time to adjust. It is a process involving many people, but we are getting there.

Baroness Wheeler Portrait Baroness Wheeler (Lab)
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My Lords, despite their seriously delayed decision-making, the Government promised nearly two years ago that major efforts would be made to step up awareness raising of the importance of taking folic acid supplements, particularly among at-risk groups such as Afro-Caribbean women and women under 20 years old. Can the Minister tell us what actions have been taken, and what measurable impact awareness raising has had among these risk groups and on ensuring that women whose pregnancies were unplanned are not missing out on these vital nutrients in the early stages of their pregnancies?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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The noble Baroness is correct. Key to all these things is awareness that the best advice is to take folic acid supplements, as suggested. I am happy to provide precise figures of how that has moved in recent years. I completely agree that, as ever, education and awareness are key to this.

Lord Jackson of Peterborough Portrait Lord Jackson of Peterborough (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome my noble friend the Minister’s very positive tone. I first campaigned on this issue as a constituency MP 18 years ago, but it is 32 years since the Medical Research Council established the causal link between the ingestion of folic acid and the reduction of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Scores of countries have pursued this policy and it has had a significant impact on reducing the tragedy of lifetime disability that has affected many families. Can the Minister ensure that the review is concluded expeditiously so that we can erode these terrible medical conditions as soon as possible?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes, I am very happy to do so. It has been quite a process, as my noble friend says, but we are getting there. As I said, the good news is that the industry is seeing the direction of travel and is responding as well. That is always better when done voluntarily. We are seeing more foods with levels of fortification. We will get there in terms of it being mandated as well.

Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel (CB)
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My Lords, there has to be some progress. I think the noble Lord, Lord Markham, is the seventh or eighth Minister to answer this Question, the first being the noble Earl, Lord Howe. To get the scientific facts right, the advice given by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of 1 milligram is based on the surmise that higher doses do not cause any harm. It is wrong science, for which there is no proof, to say that doses as high as 1 milligram mask B12 deficiency. It is completely false and we must not use that. The chief scientific officer of the Department of Health confirmed that at our last meeting, which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, may well remember.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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To be clear, I was referring to scientific advice I received today about the potential risk of masking, as I said. It is a concern but, as ever, one of the wonders of this House is the expertise available on tap. I will go back to consult on that and write to the noble Lord.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
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My Lords, between 80 and 90 countries now add folic acid to flour, with no known side-effects. What are the Government waiting for? All the evidence is there, all the science is there and this is all well known. I do not know, speaking for myself, what the delay is about.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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As I say, there is a process involving co-ordination with the devolved Administrations. We have to consult the EU, as mentioned, because of Northern Ireland is part of it all, and then allow the industry to get on board. Again, we are all in favour, without a doubt, but 40% of the respondents were anti. So we need to be careful to do this in the right way. I hope and believe this to be the first step but, as ever, the first step is often the hardest. We are getting there and this will make a difference.

Lord Dodds of Duncairn Portrait Lord Dodds of Duncairn (DUP)
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My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in welcoming the Government’s firm announcement on dates. The delay has been as frustrating as it has been inexplicable for many people. Can I seek an assurance that, when this measure is finally adopted legislatively, it will apply across the entire United Kingdom equally and at the same time?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes, that is my understanding. One of the aspects that has taken time is getting the devolved Administrations on board and the complications of the Northern Ireland situation with the EU.

Baroness Jolly Portrait Baroness Jolly (LD)
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My Lords, many countries put folic acid into bread to prevent neural tube defects. When it was added to flours in Australia, the number of these defects reduced by 14%. More folic acid in more bread products could save 800 babies a year in the UK from developing birth defects such as spina bifida. The Minister gave your Lordships positive news, but when can we expect it to bear fruit?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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As mentioned, there is a process that we are going through. As I said in my first Answer, we will be laying the legislation early in 2024, but it is happening. More importantly, in the meantime a lot of the industry are voluntarily adopting it.

School Buildings: Risk of Collapsing

Tuesday 7th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:57
Asked by
Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take in response to the risk status of school buildings collapsing being raised to “critical – very likely” in the Department for Education’s Consolidated annual report and accounts, published on 19 December 2022 (HC 918).

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, safe, well-maintained school buildings are a priority for the Government. We have allocated over £13 billion since 2015, including £1.8 billion this year, to keep schools safe and operational based on their condition need. Our new school rebuilding programme will transform buildings at 500 schools, prioritising core condition and evidence of potential safety issues. Where the department is alerted to significant safety issues with a building that cannot be managed locally, we provide additional support.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply but with respect, parents are not interested in what has been spent since 2015, because the DfE’s annual report shows that it is quite inadequate to make the school estate safe. Between 2010 and 2022, political decisions have meant that there has been a 25% decrease in cash terms in schools’ capital spend. In the next few years, the Government may not be in a position to put their plans into place.

Parents need answers now on the safety of the schools their children are going to daily. It is shocking that the Government feel able to withhold information from them, as they did 10 days ago when they reneged on the promised publication of data showing the schools most in danger of collapse. What do the Government have to hide?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The Government do not have anything to hide: they have been proactive in reaching out to schools and engaging with them to understand the condition need of the school estate and the structural issues they face. The noble Lord refers to the publication of the condition data collection reports. I remind him that all the data from those surveys has been shared directly with the schools and responsible bodies concerned, so they have been able to act on the information from those reports.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, no noble Lords will want to see any of the risks outlined by the department materialise, but we have to prepare for them. Can my noble friend outline whether there have been meetings at the department, walking through what would happen if we had an issue with building material? In particular, have disaster response experts and insurers such as Zurich been included in those meetings? Also, have they taken legal advice on what happens to the personal liability of trustees under health and safety legislation if we should have a building material collapse in one of our schools?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My noble friend asked about some very detailed aspects in that question, and I am happy to respond to her in writing. The department has regular exercises through which we test out a number of different scenarios, including the one my noble friend outlines.

Lord Storey Portrait Lord Storey (LD)
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My Lords, many children are taught in temporary accommodation—portakabins, or, as they are known in the trade, demountables, many of which are in the most appalling condition. In reply to a question from my right honourable friend Ed Davey, the Secretary of State could not say how many demountables or portakabins there were, or where they were placed. We need to know where this unsuitable temporary accommodation is, and a programme for replacing it. Will the Minister look into this?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am more than happy to write to the noble Lord with the details of where those portakabins are. We do have a programme for replacing them and, more broadly, schools that are in poor condition. That programme has been accelerated very significantly: 100 new schools were approved for rebuilding in 2021, and 300 in 2022.

Baroness Bray of Coln Portrait Baroness Bray of Coln (Con)
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My Lords, will my noble friend explain to the House what her department is doing to understand the condition and safety risks in our school buildings and how the department plans to address these?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for her question; I hope I heard it okay. The department works very closely with responsible bodies—academy trusts and local authorities—in managing the school estate. We undertook the first comprehensive survey—the condition data collection survey, known as CDC1—which gave us a picture of the state of every building. I reassure the House that 94% of buildings were found to be in a good condition. We are currently running the follow-up survey, which will allow us to compare the two results and target our condition funding further. We work very closely with schools on advice. The department has now launched a scheme of capital advisers, who go out to schools and support them, and we will be scaling that up in the current year.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister seems to believe that more research needs to be done in this area, but we have heard that there are schools falling apart in the UK now. Will the Government accept personal responsibility for any schools that cause problems and endanger children and staff?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am not sure but I think the noble Lord used the word “complacency”. We are far from complacent. There are elements of the school estate that require further exploration. For example, the CDC survey was not a structural one, so where it identifies issues the responsible body, where appropriate, is beholden to carry out a structural survey. The department is absolutely being proactive and supportive. I meet with trusts and local authorities very regularly regarding these issues. The tone of those meetings is always one of collaboration and working together to address the issues they identify.

Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham Portrait The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham
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My Lords, the latest guidance from the DfE on reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete requires regular visual surveys of school buildings. In my diocese in Nottinghamshire there are many smaller, mainly rural schools that are unable to employ site managers who can undertake these surveys. They have to rely on head teachers and staff to make the necessary ongoing visual inspections. Can the Minister say what assistance can be provided to the teaching and leadership teams, particularly in smaller schools, where the budget is already under considerable pressure?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate raises a very important issue, on which we wrote proactively to all schools last year. I followed that up in the autumn with a letter asking them to tell us whether they believed they had RAAC in their school buildings. That questionnaire closes at the end of this month, and I would be very grateful if any noble Lords who have influence over these thingsencouraged the responsible bodies. Over two-thirds have responded, and it is really important we get that last third. When we get that information, we will send out technical advisers to support the schools. I invite the right reverend Prelate to write to me directly; we are really keen to work with the schools in his diocese.

Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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My Lords, awareness of the aerated concrete issue is growing, and with it so is anxiety among parents. It is good to hear that the Minister understands why, but in December the Department for Education raised the risk of school buildings in England collapsing to “critical—very likely”. A big part of this is school roofs made of aerated concrete, which is weaker than traditional concrete. That is why the Government intend to remove it from all hospitals, but if it is the right thing to do for hospitals, why is it not the right thing to do soon, quickly or now for schools?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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In some cases it will be the right thing to do, but there are definitely examples of RAAC that has been properly maintained and does not pose a risk. We are endeavouring to identify as quickly as possible those schools that believe they have RAAC. Based on our experience to date, a number of schools believe they have it but then it turns out that they do not. We need to find out exactly where it is and whether it has been properly maintained, and then take action. I absolutely assure the House that where we identify any building material that poses a risk to children and staff, we act immediately.

Energy Profits Levy

Tuesday 7th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:08
Asked by
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review the impact of their energy profits levy, given the profits announced by Shell on 2 February.

Baroness Penn Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury (Baroness Penn) (Con)
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The energy profits levy was introduced in May 2022 to respond to very high prices that mean that oil and gas companies are benefiting from exceptional profits. In the Autumn Statement, the Government confirmed that the rate of the levy would rise by 10 percentage points to 35%. This brings the combined headline rate for tax for the sector to 75%. The OBR forecasts that the levy alone could raise more than £40 billion over the next five years.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I thank the Minister for her Answer, but it is obvious to us all that gas and oil companies are making obscene profits just when the poor and the old are frightened of turning on their heating because they cannot afford it. I would like the Government to promise to increase the windfall tax on companies such as Shell, BP and others, close the tax loopholes, use the money to speed up insulating Britain—which is a good campaign slogan—and stop their planned hike in energy prices for companies in April. Is that something they will do?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness on the importance of protecting consumers, including vulnerable consumers. We have the energy price guarantee and other support for them, for example, through increasing rates of universal credit. I completely agree with her on the need to focus on energy efficiency, but I disagree on her interpretation of the current regime as having “loopholes”. They are about encouraging investment in the sector, which is incredibly important for our energy security and for keeping bills down in the longer term.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, in the announcement of record profits, BP has said that it is not going to reach the very moderate targets it had for moving towards net zero. The Climate Change Committee is constantly saying that this is not just a government problem but a business problem. What discussions are the Minister and her department going to have with BP to get it back on track?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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The Government regularly engage with all sectors on their net-zero targets. When it comes to the oil and gas sectors specifically, the changes that we made at the Autumn Statement increased the level of tax relief for decarbonisation of the production of oil and gas better to incentivise companies to take more action in that area.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, my union, Unite, has shown that corporate profiteering is responsible for massively fuelling inflation, unlike public sector pay rises, which in my opinion are not inflationary. Powerful corporations such as Shell are creaming in the profits, and everyone can see that it has now become obscene, driving prices ever higher and causing millions to suffer and go hungry. It is not acceptable. Why are the Government so unwilling to rein in corporate profiteering and instead are choosing to punish poorly paid public sector workers?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I just point out to the noble Lord that we have introduced the energy profits levy. That charges tax at a headline rate of 75% on those companies, and we expect to raise up to £80 billion in taxes from the North Sea overall in coming years.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I draw attention to my registered interests. The Minister spoke in her reply about the need to encourage investment, so could she look carefully at the disparity between the energy profits levy, which gives very generous investment allowances to oil and gas companies, and the electricity generator levy, which has no investment allowance at all for clean energy generators? The Environmental Audit Committee argued in its report in December for a level playing field. Will the Government act on that recommendation?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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The noble Baroness will know that the tax regimes for the two sectors are quite different. Oil and gas already has a specific tax regime that is higher than for electricity generators, which pay normal levels of corporation tax. This levy is on top of that for their profits related to the price for gas, which were unforeseen when they were making their investments. I agree that we need more support for investment in renewables. The Government have committed £30 billion towards our domestic green industrial revolution over the coming years.

Lord Leigh of Hurley Portrait Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con)
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My Lords, in the debate on the Finance Bill, I raised the concern about the unintended consequences of the energy profits levy. Now that a little time has elapsed, has the Treasury had the opportunity to assess the impact particularly on independent, smaller oil companies? They have said that they no longer have the certainty and cash flow to make the same investment in the UK as they thought they would do previously, which will lead to an uneconomic and environmentally unfriendly increase in imports of oil and gas.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I can reassure my noble friend that the Government have been engaging with the sector, including independent, smaller oil and gas companies. We have included the investment allowance precisely to try to strike the right balance between funding cost of living support while encouraging investment to improve our energy security. My noble friend is right that we should look at the carbon intensity of production here in the UK versus the carbon intensity of importing gas from elsewhere.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, between them, Shell and BP have made profits of £55 billion, and over the same period the net yield—that is, the gross yield from the tax minus the allowance for investment—is about £1 billion. Despite the incentives, I have not heard of any increase in planned investment and, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, pointed out, BP has slashed its emissions targets. Is this the outcome the Government planned, or did they get their sums radically wrong?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I am sure the noble Lord would not want to conflate the global profits of those firms with the profits they have derived from their UK oil and gas production. As I have said, those are subject to a tax of 75%. We expect the combined tax take from North Sea oil to be £80 billion over the coming years. We think it is right that we have the investment allowance. The sector is made up of many different players and supports 117,000 jobs, around a third of which are in Scotland—jobs I would have thought Labour would want to support.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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My Lords, the US Inflation Reduction Act offers $216 billion of tax credits to green investments in energy and transport, and the EU will make a similar offering. In contrast, we now have an inexplicable regime, with 91% investment relief for oil and gas companies and zero investment relief for clean power generators. Why is UK green investment being shackled?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I simply cannot agree with the noble Baroness’s interpretation of things. Many renewable electricity generators generate their electricity under contracts for difference, to which that regime does not apply. It applies only to exceptional profits related to the price of gas, and is nothing to do with the cost of investing in renewables. I can agree with the noble Baroness on the importance of investing in renewables, something on which we have a consistent track record. We have the largest wind capacity in Europe, and we are the second-largest deployer globally, behind only China. We have a lot more to do, but we have a strong track record on which to build.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
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My Lords, in retrospect, would it not have been more sensible to have negotiated with the providers of those resources from the North Sea to our domestic consumers and capped the price? Instead, we have allowed prices to rise, with no underlying rise in the cost of production, to the cost of the consumer. The tax may be coming in, but is it going back out to the people in need? I very much doubt it.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I would like to reassure the noble Baroness on that second point. We have the energy price guarantee in place and specific support going to the most vulnerable households. It is at the forefront of our minds that people have faced a difficult winter and that energy prices will remain elevated for some time. We are also putting support into improved energy efficiency and insulation to help bring down bills.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, while I welcome the investment the Government are making in renewables, is it not wrong that vulnerable households are paying between 9% and 12% of their electricity bills in green levies? Would it not be more appropriate for the renewables industry to carry this itself or for it to be a charge placed on energy companies or electricity distribution companies?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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Renewable levies have helped drive the successful track record I referred to earlier, but we are always conscious of consumers’ bills rising. That is why we have put in the significant support that we have.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, unlike those of many other countries, the UK version of windfall tax, which the Government like to call the excess profits levy, excludes excess profits made at forecourts, at refineries and through trading, otherwise known as speculation. Can the Minister explain why these exemptions were created?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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The profits levy builds on the specific tax regime we have in place for oil and gas production in the UK. Perhaps I can reassure the noble Lord that the 75% headline tax rate applied to the sector is one of the highest among comparable North Sea basins, which include Norway at 78%. Other comparable regimes include the Netherlands at 65% and Denmark at 64%.

Report (2nd Day)
Relevant documents: 17th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee
15:19
Clause 10: Powers to stop and search on suspicion
Amendment 46
Moved by
46: Leave out Clause 10
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 46 in my name and to speak to Amendment 47, to which I have added my name. Amendment 46 would remove Clause 10 from the Bill; I am grateful for the support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Meacher, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who have signed this amendment. Amendment 47 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to which I have added my name, would remove Clause 11 from the Bill. These clauses give the police new powers to stop and search for an article made, adapted or intended

“for use in the course of, or in connection with”

protest-related offences, such as highway obstruction, causing a public nuisance and offences under the Bill —Clause 10 based on suspicion and Clause 11 without suspicion—if a police officer of or above the rank of inspector authorises it in a particular place for a specified period. This can be done if the officer “reasonably believes” that people in the area are carrying prohibited objects.

These are a significant expansion of police powers at a time when confidence in the police is waning and on a day when another police officer has been given multiple life sentences for, among other things, abusing his authority. There is potentially an endless list of objects that could be made, adapted, or intended

“for use in the course of or in connection with”

protest offences. Coupled with the power to stop and search without suspicion, this could result in many innocent people being stopped, searched and potentially arrested for being in possession of commonplace objects. If a protest takes place in central London, for example, shoppers in Regent Street and Oxford Street could potentially be stopped, searched and arrested for possessing household objects that they had just bought in John Lewis.

Stop and search is a highly intrusive and potentially damaging tool if misused by the police. The fact that you are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white where the police require reasonable suspicion, and 14 times more likely where the police do not require reasonable suspicion, presents a prima facie case that the police are misusing these powers.

As a commander in the Metropolitan Police Service in July 2000, I presented a paper to my senior colleagues entitled “It is Time to Face the Realities of Stop and Search”. It attempted to demolish established explanations, provide an analysis of why in reality disproportionality was happening and set out steps that needed to be taken to ensure that stop and search was more accurately targeted. That was almost 23 years ago, at a time when disproportionality in stop and search with suspicion was running at eight times; it is now seven times.

A Joint Committee on Human Rights report of November 2020 stated that 25% of black voters in Great Britain were not registered to vote compared with an average of 17% across the population. Even more black people are likely to be excluded as a result of the new requirement to produce photographic identification at polling stations before you can vote. Black people are therefore likely to have less confidence in the electoral process, making protest more important to them as a way of making their voices heard. The same report cites the fact that 85% of black people are not confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police.

Put the two things together, and add the seven to 14 times disproportionality in stop and search, and you create a situation where the powers in Clauses 10 and 11 are likely to have a significant chilling effect on black and other visible minority people’s participation in protest. Not only is that reprehensible in itself but it is likely to increase the chance of serious violence as significant numbers conclude that violent protest is the only alternative means that they have of getting their views taken into account.

The only difference between Clauses 10 and 11 is the degree to which black and other visible-minority people will be deterred from participating in legitimate, peaceful protest. As the JCHR highlights, stop and search without suspicion has been available in the past only to combat terrorism—but was subsequently repealed because of police misuse—and serious violence. The JCHR said:

“It is surprising and concerning that the bill would introduce similar powers to deal not with serious offences punishable with very lengthy prison terms, but with the possibility of non-violent offences relating to protest, most of which cover conduct that is not even currently criminal.”


Even the Police Federation has concerns. Commenting on serious violence prevention orders, another expansion of stop and search without suspicion, a representative said:

“I imagine we would be deeply concerned about moving away from a form of stop and search that is not rooted in ‘Reasonable Grounds’. We could easily make a case that this leaves officers vulnerable to complaint, ‘post stop’, in an area which is already supercharged as an issue in many communities. Reasonable Grounds has a firm legal basis, is tried and tested, and therefore affords reassurance to our colleagues engaged in these stops.”


A previous Home Secretary asked HMICFRS to do a report on policing protests, page 109 of which says:

“Arguing against the proposal for a new stop and search power … another officer stated that ‘a little inconvenience is more acceptable than a police state’. We agree with this sentiment.”


Neither of these clauses should be part of the Bill. Depending on the support from other parts of the House, I may wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 46.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, this House is wonderful. Your Lordships have heard from a former police officer exactly what the police think of this and how they will handle, or possibly mishandle, it; we are shortly to hear from a lawyer who has experienced court cases about this sort of thing; and here your Lordships have the inveterate protester who has been arrested at a protest—a peaceful one—and it was extremely unpleasant.

Basically, Clauses 10 and 11 could fundamentally change the relationship between police and protesters. At the moment, you can take my word for it, that relationship is usually quite good until the police are told to move in and arrest us or whatever. Most of the time it consists of natural talking, with us explaining what we are there for and them saying what they had for breakfast and that sort of thing. It is not as disastrous a relationship at the moment as it will be if these clauses pass.

Clauses 10 and 11 will definitely be able to change that relationship for the worse. The police will be able to physically stop and search protesters with or without suspicion. I do not know how awful that sounds to noble Lords, but we feel that we are in a democracy. We are not in Iran or Russia; we are meant to be in a democracy where the police are not allowed to do things like that.

The Greens will vote against these as unjust laws, and I very much hope that the majority of noble Lords will follow suit. We all have a very vaunted idea of what Britain, our freedoms and democracy are all about. Here we are seeing a retraction of that and a diminution of our freedoms. I do not see how anyone can vote for that, even the Government Front Bench over there. I very much hope that this measure comes to a vote, and I will definitely vote against.

15:30
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise in support of my noble friend Lord Coaker and of my friend the distinguished former police officer and consistent advocate for rights and freedoms, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Stop and search is always a vexed question; even stop and search with reasonable suspicion is a vexed question. Of course, we must sometimes have it in a democracy, when people are reasonably suspected of various crimes, but even that becomes difficult because the threshold of reasonable suspicion is so low. Stop and search with reasonable suspicion in this Bill is problematic because certain offences in it, for example locking on, are so vague. Therefore, the range of items for which you could be stopped and searched on reasonable suspicion include, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out, things that you might pick up in John Lewis. They could include, for example, your mobile phone if that might be used in connection with the offence of locking on, and so on.

However, my priority is of course stop and search without suspicion. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has rightly pointed out, this has classically been for things such as terrorism and carrying weapons, rather than carrying things such as bicycle chains or mobile phones. Noble Lords will see the problem, which is particularly vexed in the context of the statistics, year on year, on the disproportionate numbers of black and brown people who will be subject to stop and search. Too many young people, boys in particular, have had their first experience of the state and the police service via a racially discriminatory stop and search, because that, unfortunately, has been the culture of policing for too long. We now add a new layer: that there will be lots of young women, not least today, who are particularly concerned about being stopped and searched by the police. That is not a happy thing to have to report, but I am afraid it is the reality.

When I was a young director of Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties, almost exactly 20 years ago, what was then Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allowed suspicionless stop and search where it was considered expedient to preventing acts of terrorism. When an arms fair took place in Docklands, large numbers of protesters, not terror suspects but protesters, were prevented from getting anywhere near that fair. They were hassled and detained, sometimes under Section 44 of that Act. Initially, the Metropolitan Police denied that they would ever use such powers in such a way, until questions were asked in Parliament, including in your Lordships’ House.

I sent a young lawyer from Liberty down to Docklands; he came back with large numbers of notices that had been issued to protesters and journalists, and predominantly to black and brown people, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. That was stop and search without suspicion. It took many years to take that case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where of course it was found that that power was just too broad. Suspicionless stop and search is very ripe for abuse, so I urge—

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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I have great sympathy for the noble Baroness’s argument and that advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but could she explain whether her objection to Clause 11 would be removed if subsection (7) were removed? It is in Clause 11(7) that what seems to be highly objectionable language occurs. It says that the constable

“may … make any search the constable thinks fit whether or not the constable has any grounds for suspecting that the person … is carrying a prohibited object”.

Supposing that that provision were not in the Bill—is the rest of Clause 11 objectionable?

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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This being not Committee but Report, the simplest and speediest answer that I can give to the noble Lord’s question is that Clause 11 is about suspicionless stop and search. He has picked out a particular subsection in the scheme, which would have been interesting in Committee. But the crucial thing is that Clause 11 is on stop and search without suspicion, not in the context even of terrorism, where it can come with greater justification—for example, when everybody is stopped and searched on their way into the Peers’ Entrance if they are not a Peer, or at the airport, where everybody is treated the same. But, by definition, that will not be the case in this scheme. This broad power will be used against young people all over London on the day of a protest. It will cause such strife and will poison relationships between the police service and the people it serves. For that reason, I urge all noble Lords to reject in particular this power to stop and search without suspicion even of the protest offences to which I object in the Bill.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I too speak in support of the amendments to remove Clauses 10 and 11, to which I have added my name. I declare my registered interests as the co-chair of the national police ethics committee and the chair of the Greater Manchester Police ethics advisory committee.

Stop and search can be an extremely useful tool in the police kit box, but, like many tools, it works far less well if it is overused or used for the wrong task. Eventually, it loses its efficacy entirely. I have several broken screwdrivers at home that bear witness to my own excesses in that regard, as well as to my very limited DIY skills. That is the danger we run when we extend stop and search powers in what, at times, feels like a knee-jerk reaction. They are simply the most obvious tool at the top of the box, whether they are appropriate or not. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, indicated, stop and search becomes, as it has in the past, so discredited that it reaches a point where, like my screwdrivers, it is counterproductive to use it, even in circumstances where it would be right and appropriate to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, reminded us, with some chilling figures, of its disproportionate use against certain sectors of society—young black men in particular —which damages confidence in policing not just with regard to stop and search but more generally. It is because I am passionate to support our police that I have such worries about anything that tends to diminish that public confidence. I have the greatest concerns where stop and search is undertaken without suspicion; such powers are even more at risk of simply being used against people who look wrong or are in the wrong place. They become especially prone to the unconscious bias that we might try to shake off but all to some extent carry within us. Should these amendments be pressed to a Division, they will have my full support and I hope that of your Lordships’ House.

I conclude by offering a modest proposal that goes beyond these clauses and the Bill. Could the Minister seek to gain a commitment from His Majesty’s Government to refrain from any extension of stop and search powers until such time as it is clear that the existing powers are being used properly and proportionately? Such a self-denying ordinance might lead to us have an intelligent conversation about how better to focus the use of stop and search. We could then look at whether there are circumstances in which those powers should be radically extended—but not before then.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I have a question. I am imagining the circumstances with which the police are faced. In what circumstances would they proceed to stop and search if they had no suspicion? This seems a rather curious concept: to stop and search without suspicion means that you do not like the look of somebody—but, even then, you might have a suspicion. I just cannot conceive of the circumstances in which it would be proper to stop and search without suspicion.

I am also particularly concerned about the effect of this as far as the police are concerned. If people can be stopped and searched without suspicion, they themselves will probably not have a suspicion that they should be stopped and searched. Given the present circumstances, in which the police will have to work very hard to recover confidence, a woman stopped and searched without suspicion, and who has no suspicion of why she should be stopped and searched, will have a very considerable concern.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I am very grateful to my noble friend for giving way, but I am afraid that he is wrong about the absence of suspicion. When I was a special constable 40 years ago—I do not have the experience of the noble Lord opposite—I would stand in Trafalgar Square and get messages on the police radio such as, “Race code 3 or race code 9 coming down in a beaten-up Vauxhall: worth a stop.” That is not suspicion; that is arbitrary stopping.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, we are not focusing right now—nor should we be, in my view—on the issue of the lack of suspicion, although that is fundamental to Clause 11. Let us focus for a minute on Clause 10, which is about stops and searches without suspicion. Those stop and search powers were introduced for police, necessarily and very importantly, to enable them to stop people who they believe may be carrying a knife or another potentially dangerous weapon. I fully support those stop and search powers, but there is not a strong evidence base that the stop and search powers in that context are actually effective in preventing violent crime. So the idea of extending those powers to stop and search people in case they have a placard—a piece of paper—is completely and utterly disproportionate.

In a democratic society, it is utterly wrong to give disproportionate powers to our police to interfere with the fundamental right in our democracy to protest and to go out on the streets to express our opinions. If we forget the issue of suspicion, Clause 10 is utterly disproportionate, anti-democratic and unacceptable, and it will lead to further discordance between the police and lots of communities where we need to build community support for our police. It will have very detrimental effects on all sorts of people across our society. It is for these reasons that I, among others—I hope the whole House—would support withdrawing Clause 10 from the Bill.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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What a good intervention that was; I much agree with it. Returning to the previous intervention, my noble friend can say what he likes; indeed, as a former special constable, he has no doubt told many how they should behave, but I am very ordinary and follow the law. It seems to me that “without suspicion” means that you do not have a suspicion, and, if you do not have a suspicion, I do not understand how you will decide that you will stop and search somebody.

Also, we should not underestimate the lack of confidence in the police among young people in particular —and, frankly, not only young black people. I have four law-abiding children who are now grown-up; all of them, as teenagers, had very good reason to be extremely suspicious of the way in which the Metropolitan Police behaved, even though all of them were law-abiding to a degree which some would find rather embarrassing. The truth is that the Metropolitan Police, in particular, has a very long way to go to recover confidence. I beg Members of this House to say that this is not the moment to introduce something for which I do not think there would ever be a moment to introduce it. In this moment, of all moments, it is the wrong thing to do; it is bad for the police, democracy and the rule of law.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, when my younger son was 18 or 19, he went around with black friends, and he was stopped three or four times a day with his black friends—but when he went out with his white friends, he was not stopped at all.

I am particularly concerned about Clause 11, and not only for what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has said. With Clause 11, you start with

“a police officer of or above the rank of inspector”.

You then go to

“a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent”.

But in Clauses 6 to 8, it is a constable. So a constable can—without authority from anyone above, as far as I can see under the clause—stop and search someone without suspicion. We should be very cautious about that.

15:45
Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, I broadly support the position of having stop and search with cause, although I know that some would not agree with that, but the Government have to think carefully about without-cause stop and search.

First, the point that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, made is intuitively a good one. Why would somebody stop? There is already a Section 60 power to stop and search without cause. It is a power to be used, for example, in a public park where a large amount of violence has already occurred, and an officer declares that there should be without-cause stop and search. The idea is to deter people from congregating in that place so that therefore they do not carry weapons or attend that place. It was put there for a limited time and for a limited geography. I will come back to why I think it still has problems, but there can be a justification for it. We used to have Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to protect places—particularly places such as this place —against people who might go there to attack them. That was why we had it—and Parliament has agreed to both those powers, and one is still extant.

The next point that I wanted to pick up was, on the definition, which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned, about whether something may be intended or adapted, that power also exists already in the definition of an offensive weapon. He made a good challenge, that therefore any ordinary object could be declared by an officer as helping with a protest—but I do not support that. We have had offensive weapon legislation since the 1950s, when people used to fight in the street with weapons, and the police have managed to make that definition work. If you carry a lock knife, it is clearly an offensive weapon; it is something that has been adapted to hurt people and that is the intention, that is something used to injure. But you can also have something with you that is intended for that purpose, even if it has an innocent explanation. So it is possible to make that work.

It is logical that you have a power with cause. If you decide that it is illegal to lock on or to tunnel, surely it has to be sensible to give the police a power to search for items that might do that. You could argue that, if it is going to be a big thing such as a spade to tunnel, you probably would not need to search too much—but you might need to search a vehicle or a place. The power to search is probably a logical consequence of deciding that some acts are going to be illegal.

However, I think that stop and search without cause has caused real problems. We still have it to some extent—and I speak as someone who has supported stop and search. When I was commissioner of the Met, when I took over in 2011—and people have acknowledged this—we drastically reduced stop and search, yet we reduced crime and arrested more people. The Section 60 stop and search, which I have already mentioned, we reduced by 90%, because it was causing more problems than it solved, in my view. Yet we still managed to arrest more people. The problem was that the Met had implemented throughout London, almost, so there were almost contiguous areas of Section 60, which is exactly what has been done around Section 44. The Section 44 counterterrorism legislation was intended to protect certain places, such as Parliament, but the Met put it in place throughout London.

The final thing that I wanted to come back to is that, particularly in London, stop and search without cause has such a bad reputation that it is probably not wise to extend it. One reason for that is that you now have many grandfathers and grandmothers who were affected by it in the 1960s, when it was called “sus”. In the 1980s and 1990s it was called Section 44, and now it is called Section 60. So I worry that the history of it in London may cause problems.

I go back to my first point: with with-cause stop and search, a logical consequence of causing certain things to be illegal is that it leads to a search for the items that might prove that that person either has that intent or intends to carry out certain acts. I speak as someone who has drastically reduced, not increased, stop and search. Particularly in the context of London, I caution the Government about extending without-cause stop and search.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, the Constitution Committee looked at the Bill with some care and was concerned about two provisions in Clause 11, not just one. The first was Clause 11(7), reference to which has already been made, but it was also concerned about the width of Clause 11(1)(b), which refers to persons who happen to be carrying prohibited objects in an area where the police suspect that these offences may be concerned. The point is that somebody may be carrying something within the area for a completely unrelated reason: they might just happen to be carrying a tool which could be thought to be adapted for tunnelling but was not intended for that purpose at all. The problem with this part of the clause is that it makes no reference at all to the reason why the person was carrying the object. The Constitution Committee thought that that was really stretching the matter too far. I have no problems with Clause 10, but there are these two problems with Clause 11.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 46 and 47. I say a very loud, “Hear, hear” to the impassioned intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, which was spot on. I want to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Deben—on behalf of the Government, noble Lords will all be surprised to know. I thought I would quote what the Home Office Minister said the last time we dealt with this. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, explained why these new powers were necessary:

“it is not always possible for the police to form suspicions that certain individuals have particular items with them.”—[Official Report, 24/11/22; col. 978.]

That is true, but if that is the basis on which we are legislating—that it is not always possible to know if someone has suspicious items on them—then even though you do not know what the suspicions are, it will be all right to stop and search them. This seems to me to bring arbitrariness into the law in a way that can only be dangerous and will not make any logical sense to anybody outside this House.

Think of the consequences of some of this. The Government keep telling us that this is not about stopping the right to protest, and I will take them at face value on that. But let us consider someone who is not doing anything suspicious or carrying anything suspicious, but who is going on a demonstration. The police have the right to stop them, which means that what is suspicious is that they are going on a demonstration: it implies that. Going on a demonstration is pre-emptively seen as something dodgy, and I therefore become sceptical when the Government assure me that this will not have a chilling effect on people going on demonstrations.

I draw attention to a clause that has not been mentioned in these amendments but is related: Clause 14, which we will not need if we vote down Clauses 10 and 11. It contains a new offence of obstructing a police officer in a police-related suspicionless stop and search—for which, by the way, you can go to prison for 51 weeks or get a substantial fine. This clause indicates why Clause 10 and even Clause 11 are so dangerous: they will destroy any feasible community relations with the police.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, referred to the fact that many women might well be nervous if they are approached for a suspicionless stop and search. In all the briefings we have received, people have drawn attention to what happened, tragically, to Sarah Everard. If the police say they have no suspicions but they are stopping and searching you, you might say, as a woman, “Excuse me, I am not having that; I don’t want that to happen.” In fact, a lot of advice was given to young women that they should not just take it on face value if a police officer approaches them and says he wants to interfere with them in some way. But I want to use a more everyday example.

During lockdown, two care workers I know were walking home from work and sat down on a bench in a park to have a coffee. They worked together in a bubble, giving intimate care to people in the care home they worked in throughout the pandemic. They were approached by a number of police officers, who asked them if they lived in the same home. When they said no, the police officers said they were breaking their bubble—if noble Lords can remember those mad days, that is what it was like. They said, rather jokingly, “We’re taking people to the toilet and working intimately with them day in, day out.” The police officers became quite aggressive, threatening to arrest them and all sorts of things. We know those stories from lockdown. The reason I share this story is that the woman who told it to me had never been in trouble with the police before. She had never been approached by the police in that way; she is a law-abiding citizen who would, generally speaking, support the kind of law and order measures being brought in by this Government. However, because this police officer treated her as though she was behaving suspiciously for having her coffee on a bench, having done a long 12-hour shift in a care home, she said that she will never trust the police again. She argued back and they threatened to arrest her.

I fear that, if we give arbitrary powers to the police to use suspicionless stop and search, this Government might unintentionally and inadvertently build a new movement of people who do not trust the police and are not suspicionless but suspicious, with good reason in this instance, that the police are stopping them arbitrarily and that we are no longer a free society. We should all vote against Clauses 10 and 11 and, through that, destroy Clause 14 as well.

Lord Hacking Portrait Lord Hacking (Lab)
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My Lords, I will carry through a bit further the citation from my noble friend Lady Fox of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, a much-respected Minister at the Home Office. More fully, she said that these powers were necessary:

“To ensure that the police have the ability to proactively prevent protesters causing harm … it is not always possible for the police to form suspicions that certain individuals have particular items with them.” —[Official Report, 24/11/21; cols. 977-78.]


That leaves me with a sense of nervousness, for the same reason as the noble Lord, Lord Debden, who unfortunately seems to have left the Chamber—

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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He is called the noble Lord, Lord Deben.

Lord Hacking Portrait Lord Hacking (Lab)
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I have never been very good on the rivers of Essex.

None Portrait A noble Lord
- Hansard -

It is in Suffolk.

Lord Hacking Portrait Lord Hacking (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For the reasons that the noble Lord gave in his short speech, these statements by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who is greatly respected in this House, make me nervous.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, as we are on Report and not in Committee, I will make three short points.

First, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, is quite right to refer to our freedoms. I am sure that she intentionally used the plural and not the singular, because there are two freedoms here that we need to have regard to: the undoubted freedom to protest and demonstrate, and the freedom to go about your business unhindered and not be harassed. Ultimately, in a democratic society we seek to balance those two freedoms. We need to have regard to both sides of that coin.

Secondly, on the objects that could be caught by these clauses as drafted, a number of references have been made to John Lewis—I do not know whether its publicity department is grateful for that. It would be a misconception to proceed on the basis that, merely because an object has been or could be bought in John Lewis, it is therefore inoffensive and should not be caught by the criminal law. The last time I was in John Lewis, which I accept was some time ago, it sold very large knives, hammers, ropes and other implements. Let us put the John Lewis point to one side; it is a good old-fashioned red herring.

Thirdly, I turn to what the clause provides. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, focused on the powers of the constable in Clause 11(7). The important thing about Clause 11(7), I would suggest, is that you have to read the clause as a whole. Clause 11(1) starts with an officer at

“or above the rank of inspector”

believing, first, that some offences are going to be committed and, secondly, that people will be carrying prohibited objects, which are defined in the clause. Next, that officer has to reach three conclusions under subsection (4). I invite noble Lords to look at subsection (4), because “necessary” appears there three times. He has to believe reasonably, first, that

“the authorisation is necessary to prevent the commission of offences”;

that the “specified locality”—it has to be a specified locality—

“is no greater than is necessary to prevent such activity”;

and that the period of time, which cannot be more than 24 hours, is no more than is necessary. What can the superintendent do under subsection (5)? All they can do is to continue that authorisation—not start it, but continue it. For how long? No more than a further 24 hours. It is in that context that the constable can apprehend and do a stop and search.

16:00
So let us be clear about what these clauses actually do. There is no general power for a constable to stop and search without reasonable suspicion, or to do it anywhere, anytime, in any circumstances. It starts with an inspector, and it can be continued by a superintendent for no more than 24 hours. If we are going to vote, whether it is on suspicionless stop and search or John Lewis, let us at least be clear as to what we are voting on and not be diverted by some good old-fashioned red herrings.
Viscount Stansgate Portrait Viscount Stansgate (Lab)
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My Lords, I want to make one point about Clause 11, which in my view should not be in the Bill. I appreciate that the previous speaker has just given a very lawyerly defence of the Government’s view. I am not a lawyer, but I want to say this: I wonder why the Government want to be on the wrong side of history by including Clause 11 in the Bill. I look at Members around the Chamber and think to myself, “What on earth would you feel like if you were ever arrested, stopped and searched without suspicion by a police officer?” I would like noble Lords to bear that in mind when they come to vote, if we are going to vote on this. A lot has been made of the younger generation, and I personally believe that Clause 11 would damage relations in the way that has been outlined by many people making very able speeches. But your Lordships should ask yourselves: how would you feel if you were stopped and searched without any reasonable suspicion by a police officer?

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 47 in my name, for which I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. Just in case I forget, I say now that I want to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 47.

Before I do so, I want to say how much I sympathise and agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others have said about Amendment 46 and stop and search with suspicion. It is worth reflecting that many of us are grappling with a Bill with much of which we disagree, but we are at Report stage and difficult decisions and choices are before us about how we might improve the Bill—if the votes are won in your Lordships’ House—and send it back to the other place with the best possible chance of it not being overturned, thereby impacting on the legislation in a way which will protect, as many of us want to, the rights and freedoms that the people of this country have enjoyed for generations and which parts of the Bill seriously threaten to undermine. That is the choice that lies before us. That is the difficult choice I have in saying from the Labour Front Bench that we are focused on Clause 11 in particular. That does not mean that we agree with other aspects of the stop and search powers, but it means that we think that Clause 11 in particular is an affront to the democratic traditions of our country.

We have heard what it actually does. We have had a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, a former senior police officer of the Metropolitan Police, and others, telling us about stop and search without suspicion and the impact that it has on black and ethnic minority communities, particularly on the young. Will your Lordships seriously pass into law something that will make that fragile relationship between the police and those local communities even worse? Is that what we want to do? And what is it for: terrorism, serious gun crime, serious knife crime, or the threat of murder and riots on our streets? No, it is because some protests may take place somewhere, and we will have stop and search without suspicion to deal with it. Is that in any sense proportionate or a reasonable response to public disorder? Clearly, it is not.

I cannot believe that His Majesty’s Government are seeking to introduce into law stop and search without suspicion for protest-related offences. I do not believe the Government themselves would have believed it—they certainly would not have believed it in the time of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, with the Conservative ideology as it existed then. Margaret Thatcher would not have introduced it. She would have regarded it as an affront, even in the face of the poll tax riots and the miners’ strikes—although there were certain things that went on there. In the face of all that, she did not introduce that sort of legislation. I will be corrected by any member of that Government—there are a few here—as to whether that was the case. She understood that the right to protest was fundamental, however difficult that was for Governments. Yet the Conservatives of today believe it is perfectly reasonable to introduce this not for murder, terrorism or knife or gun crime, as I said, but for protest. Is that the Tory tradition that this Conservative Government want to lay out before the country? It cannot be. It is a totally disproportionate reaction to what is happening, but the consequences are serious and dramatic, and potentially catastrophic. As so many noble Lords have said, at a time when there is a fragility of confidence between the police and certain communities, it is like pouring petrol on the flames. It is just unbelievable.

However, it is not just that. In the debate last week I gave an example, and I will give another one, because that brings it home and makes it real. When your Lordships vote on leaving out Clause 11, consider this. If it is in the Bill, there is a fear about what happens when there are protests around Parliament—there will be protests; I do not know what they will be about. Let us say that people lock arms—disgraceful—so they have attached. The police are worried about it and so an inspector declares that, for 24 hours, it is an area that they are concerned about. That gives an additional power to the police to stop and search without suspicion. Your Lordships can be searched. I know you would think that was an affront, but that is the reality that many black and ethnic minority communities face every single day, sometimes—that is an exaggeration, but they face it in certain circumstances.

Lord Anderson of Swansea Portrait Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab)
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Surely it is not just a matter of black and ethnic minorities. We do not know who were the two care workers who were stopped, whom the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, mentioned. However, it is clear—I speak as someone who, as a young barrister, had to carry out many sus law prosecutions—that a person stopped in those circumstances may next week appear on a jury and may be hostile to the police as a result of that, taking it out on them as a member of the jury.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my noble friend Lord Anderson for that important point.

My example is that around Parliament Square, we have a designated area. Your Lordships, passing through it, can be stopped. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, has often mentioned that sometimes you have no idea that you are in such an area. I know that all your Lordships would co-operate—we have clarified that it must be an officer in uniform, so we would all stand there. However, if it was tourists who could not speak English, then good luck with that. It may be a young student with no idea that they are being stopped. That would happen. It is in the Bill that it is an offence to resist, and so it goes on. It is a complete overreaction and a disproportionate proposal that the Government are making.

To bring it home, let us think of it on Parliament Square. That is not some obscure place in the back end of London somewhere, or Manchester or wherever. Let us bring it right to our doorstep. When somebody says, “Who made it happen?”, the answer will be that Parliament made it happen, unless it is stripped out of the Bill. Unless it is changed or taken out, it is us.

We have heard from numerous noble Lords today objection after objection to the Bill. I have many objections to it. However, if you hone it down, there cannot be many more pernicious examples than Clause 11. Stopping and searching without suspicion for protests—honestly. Good luck to the Minister in justifying it. I know that his brief will give him all sorts of good arguments but at the bottom, it is a baseless piece of proposed legislation that seriously undermines the right to protest. It will have a chilling effect on many people who are simply protesting in the way that they have always done. I will divide the House when it comes to Amendment 47 and ask your Lordships to stand against Clause 11, to send it back to the other place and say that the Government must think again. It is a disproportionate reaction to a problem which they may perceive and it should be thrown out of the Bill.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, seeks to remove the suspicion-led stop and search measure from the Bill, while that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, seeks to remove the suspicionless stop and search measure. I understand the strength of feeling expressed by all noble Lords today when speaking to these amendments, but I do not support the removal of these provisions.

Stop and search is a vital tool used to crack down on crime and to protect communities. It is entirely appropriate that these measures are extended to tackle highly disruptive protest offences. The extension of stop and search powers will enable the police to proactively tackle highly disruptive protest offences by searching for and seizing prohibited items which are made, adapted or intended to be used in connection with protest-related offences, such as glue, chains and locks. We know that stop and search has a strong deterrent effect. These measures can prevent offenders from carrying items for protest-related offences in the first place because of the increased chance of getting caught. This was highlighted in the HMICFRS report on the policing of protests, where it was noted that suspicionless search powers can act as a deterrent when circumstances justify use of these powers. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for repeating this, and there is a difference of opinion with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but as I explained in Committee, His Majesty’s Inspector, Matt Parr, from HMICFRS reaffirmed his support for the suspicionless measure at the Bill’s evidence session in June.

It is vital that the police are given the powers that they need to reflect the operational reality of policing. In the fast-paced context of a protest, it can be challenging to assert the appropriate level of suspicion needed for a suspicion-led search, which is why the Bill includes the suspicionless provision. The suspicionless power will be usable only if certain conditions are met and in cases where, as we have heard, a police officer of or above the rank of inspector authorises its use in a specified locality for a specified period. This power uses a similar framework to that found within Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to ensure consistency in police powers and safeguards.

When this House considered the suspicionless power during Committee, much discussion focused on the execution of the search, so I thought it might help to set that out in detail here. As I noted above, this power uses a similar framework to that found in Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. An authorisation for a Section 60 suspicionless order may be given only by an officer of the rank of inspector or above and can be in place for a maximum of 24 hours. The Section 60 order can be extended for a further 24 hours, to a maximum of 48 hours, by an officer of or above the rank of superintendent, but it cannot be in place for more than 48 hours. It is for the authorising officer to determine the geographical area of the order, which will depend on the situation that led to the order being authorised.

16:15
I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Wolfson for explaining Clause 11 in such great detail, particularly in response to the question from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I reassure the House that, under existing powers, this power can be deployed only if authorised by an inspector and that an officer can do only a suspicion-led search without authorisation and only if they have grounds, if it has not been authorised in that way.
The officer should ensure that no area is set which is wider than they believe is necessary for the purpose of preventing the commission of offences. Both Code A and the authorised professional practice give clear instructions that a Section 60 order does not give officers free rein to search every individual within the locality covered by that order. A decision to search individuals under Section 60 powers must be related to the purpose of the authorisation. Section 60 powers cannot be used by plain-clothed officers, and the same applies to the suspicionless powers.
The suspicion-led powers use a similar framework to that found within Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Suspicion-led powers can be used by plain-clothed officers, but they must show their warrant card to the person who is to be searched. They must also give their name, or warrant or ID number if they reasonably believe giving their name may put them in danger, and the station to which they are attached.
All noble Lords who spoke discussed the potential for misuse of these powers. Officers using Section 1 or Section 60 powers are obliged by Code A to follow GOWISELY—a principle that officers follow in order to meet the legal requirements of a stop and search. This requires them to follow several steps before a search, including explaining the grounds for suspicion and the purpose of the search, showing their warrant card upon request or, if plain-clothed, disclosing their identity and the station that they are attached to, stating the legal power that they are using, and informing the person that they are entitled to a copy of the search record and how it may be obtained. If they do not follow this, the search is deemed unlawful. That will continue to apply here.
Many noble Lords also raised the potential disproportionate use of these powers. As I hope I made clear during Committee, the safeguards on existing stop and search powers will apply to the use of stop and search powers in the Bill, both for suspicion-led and suspicionless stop and search. This includes body-worn video and PACE codes of practice. The Home Office also publishes extensive data on the use of stop and search to drive transparency. To be clear, we expect the police to use their stop and search powers in a focused, legitimate, proportionate and necessary manner, and we encourage forces to continue scrutinising their use.
In a protest context, the use of stop and search powers will be vital when seeking to employ a proactive approach. By removing these powers from the Bill, we would ensure that the police, at best, relied on being reactive to protests. This in turn would leave the general public more vulnerable to serious disruption. I again hope that noble Lords will forgive me for repeating myself, but I believe it is important that they listen to what Chief Constable Chris Noble from the NPCC said when discussing these measures. He stated:
“We can see greater risk of harm to communities and protesters if things are left to run”
without additional pre-emptive police powers to handle disruptive protests. He explained that, having spoken to one of the senior commanders of the G7 operation,
“they described a lack of powers around stop and search for people with items that could only have been used for generating a lock-on device. They had to intervene later in the day, with more significant powers, on a wider group of protesters, therefore interfering with more people’s rights”.
I have heard the concerns raised about stop and search more generally, which I hope I have responded to adequately. But the police have supported stop and search measures, and we believe they will be highly effective for preventing the sort of disruption we have seen in recent months. As such, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken from all sides of the House and of the debate, from former police officers to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, who was arrested at a protest.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, made a great play on John Lewis. I emphasised in my speech that I was talking about everyday household objects, some of which may be purchased from John Lewis. The red herring was the noble Lord’s emphasis on John Lewis, rather than my emphasis on everyday objects and so forth.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, asked what stop and search without suspicion was and what an officer would do. I accept that an inspector or above has to authorise officers to go ahead and stop and search without suspicion. The power means that police officers who are so authorised can stop and search whoever they like and do not have to justify what they are doing.

I should not waste noble Lords’ time dividing the House on an amendment that Labour will not support, and a vote that we therefore cannot win, however passionately I and other noble Lords feel about Clause 10. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 46 withdrawn.
Clause 11: Powers to stop and search without suspicion
Amendment 47
Moved by
47: Leave out Clause 11
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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I beg to move.

16:21

Division 1

Ayes: 284

Noes: 209

The vote of Baroness Pitkeathley was recorded in the Not-Content Lobby in error, and should have been recorded in the Content Lobby. Therefore, the correct result was Contents 285, Not-Contents 208.
16:38
Amendment 48
Moved by
48: Before Clause 15, insert the following new Clause—
“Imposing conditions on public processions: serious disruption(1) Section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public processions) is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (2) insert—“(2ZA) In considering for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community, the senior police officer may have regard to the cumulative disruption to the life of the community resulting from—(a) the procession,(b) any public procession in England and Wales within subsection (2ZB), and(c) any public assembly in England and Wales within subsection (2ZE).(2ZB) A public procession (“Procession A”) is within this subsection if it was held, is being held or is intended to be held in the same area as the area in which the procession mentioned in subsection (2ZA)(a) (“Procession B”) is being held or is intended to be held.(2ZC) In subsection (2ZB) “area” means such area as the senior police officer considers appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the disruption that may result from Procession A and Procession B. (2ZD) For the purposes of subsection (2ZB), it does not matter whether or not— (a) Procession A and Procession B are organised by the same person,(b) any of the same persons take part in Procession A and Procession B,(c) Procession A and Procession B are held or are intended to be held at the same time, or(d) directions are given under subsection (1) in relation to Procession A.(2ZE) A public assembly is within this subsection if it was held, is being held or is intended to be held in the same area as the area in which the procession mentioned in subsection (2ZA)(a) is being held or is intended to be held.(2ZF) In subsection (2ZE) “area” means such area as the senior police officer considers appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the disruption that may result from the assembly and the procession.(2ZG) For the purposes of subsection (2ZE) it does not matter whether or not—(a) the assembly and the procession are organised by the same person,(b) any of the same persons take part in the assembly and the procession,(c) the assembly and the procession are held or are intended to be held at the same time, or(d) directions are given under section 14(1A) (imposing conditions on public assemblies) in relation to the assembly.(2ZH) In considering for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community—(a) all disruption to the life of the community—(i) that may result from the procession, or(ii) that may occur regardless of whether the procession is held (including in particular normal traffic congestion),is to be taken into account, and(b) “the community” means any group of persons that may be affected by the procession, and it does not matter whether or not all or any of those persons live or work in the vicinity of the procession.”(3) In subsection (2A) (examples of serious disruption)—(a) before paragraph (a) insert—“(za) it may, by way of physical obstruction, result in the prevention of, or a hindrance that is more than minor to, the carrying out of daily activities (including in particular the making of a journey),”,(b) in paragraph (a), for “a significant delay to” substitute “the prevention of, or a delay that is more than minor to,”, and(c) in paragraph (b), for “a prolonged disruption” substitute “the prevention, or a disruption that is more than minor,”.(4) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) Subsection (3B) applies where—(a) a public procession is being held or is intended to be held in England and Wales,(b) it appears to the senior police officer that there is a connection between the procession and—(i) one or more other public processions that are being held or that are intended to be held in England and Wales, or(ii) one or more public assemblies that are being held or that are intended to be held in England and Wales, (c) the senior police officer reasonably believes that one of the conditions in subsection (1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the procession mentioned in paragraph (a), and(d) the senior police officer reasonably believes—(i) in relation to a procession mentioned in paragraph (b)(i), that one of the conditions in subsection (1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the procession, or(ii) in relation to an assembly mentioned in paragraph (b)(ii), that one of the conditions in section 14(1)(a) to (b) is met in relation to the assembly.(3B) The senior police officer may—(a) give directions under subsection (1) in relation to—(i) the procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a), and(ii) any procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(b)(i) in relation to which the condition in subsection (3A)(d)(i) is met, and(b) give directions under section 14(1A) in relation to any assembly mentioned in subsection (3A)(b)(ii) in relation to which the condition in subsection (3A)(d)(ii) is met.(3C) Directions given in accordance with subsection (3B) may impose the same or different conditions in relation to different processions and assemblies.(3D) In subsections (3A) and (3B) “the senior police officer” means—(a) where the public procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) is being held, the police officer responsible for managing the police response to the procession, and(b) where the public procession mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) is intended to be held, the chief officer of police.(3E) A direction given by a chief officer of police by virtue of subsection (3D)(b) must be given in writing.””Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause amends section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986 (imposing conditions on public processions) to make provision about when a public procession in England and Wales may result in serious disruption to the life of the community. The amendments also allow for conditions to be imposed in relation to connected processions and assemblies.
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, we now turn back to government Amendments 48 to 51, which relate to the definition of serious disruption within Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 and the reasonable excuse defence with regard to the offences of wilful obstruction of the highway and public nuisance. These were debated by the House last week, so I intend to keep this brief.

Your Lordships will recall the compelling speeches made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in defence of the amendments he had tabled. I am sure I speak for many in expressing regret that his amendments were so narrowly defeated. The Government’s amendments follow the noble and learned Lord’s by proposing many of the same amendments for other aspects of public order legislation.

In summary, government Amendments 48 and 49 alter the definition of serious disruption in Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. They do this by, first, carrying over the definition of “serious disruption” suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Secondly, they define the meaning of “community”. Thirdly, they will enable the police to consider the absolute impact of the disruption caused to the public. Fourthly, they allow the police to consider the cumulative disruption caused by protests. Fifthly and finally, they allow the officer responsible for managing the protest to place conditions on more than one connected procession or assembly.

Government Amendments 50 and 51 are similarly inspired by the reasonable excuse amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. Amendment 50 carves protest out of the offence of public nuisance, while Amendment 51 carves protest out of the lawful excuse of the offence of wilfully obstructing the highway. However, recognising that the offence is a low-level one, we do not carve it out in its entirety. Instead, the amendment removes protest from the reasonable excuse only where more than serious disruption is caused.

The Government’s amendments represent sensible, pragmatic changes that not only respond to a request from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service for further legislative clarity on the police’s powers to manage public processions and assemblies but bring aspects of public order legislation into line with recent case law. I would therefore like to test the opinion of the House.

16:40

Division 2

Ayes: 240

Noes: 254

16:54
Amendment 49 not moved.
Amendment 50
Moved by
50: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—
“Wilful obstruction of highwayIn section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (penalty for wilful obstruction), after subsection (1) insert—“(1ZA) Subsection (1ZB) applies where—(a) a person wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway, and(b) the obstruction causes or is capable of causing serious disruption to two or more individuals or an organisation.(1ZB) The fact that the person wilfully obstructed the free passage along the highway as part of or in furtherance of a protest on an issue of current debate does not constitute a lawful excuse for the purposes of subsection (1).(1ZC) For the purposes of subsection (1ZA) an obstruction causes “serious disruption” if it prevents, or would hinder to more than a minor degree, the individuals or the organisation from carrying out their daily activities.””Member's explanatory statement
This new Clause amends section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (penalty for wilful obstruction of the highway) to provide that where a person wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway and that obstruction causes or is capable of causing serious disruption, the fact that they did so as part of or in furtherance of a protest on an issue of current debate does not constitute a lawful excuse.
16:54

Division 3

Ayes: 239

Noes: 248

17:08
Amendment 51 not moved.
Clause 17: Power of Secretary of State to bring proceedings
Amendments 52 and 53 not moved.
Amendment 54
Moved by
54: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—
“Protection for journalists and others monitoring protestsA constable may not exercise any police power for the principal purpose of preventing a person from observing or otherwise reporting on a protest or the exercise of police powers in relation to—(a) a protest-related offence,(b) a protest-related breach of an injunction, or(c) activities related to a protest.”Member's explanatory statement
This new Clause would protect journalists, legal observers, academics, and bystanders who observe or report on protests or the police’s use of powers related to protests.
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, we now come to the totally uncontroversial matter of protecting journalists from abuse of police power. This is an amendment in my name and also those of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. We are honoured to have as our guest today the young LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch, who was arrested by Hertfordshire police for doing her job last November. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, will explain.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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I shall be brief, because I know that time is of the essence. I begin by reading a very short extract from a news report for 28 November 2022—a couple of months ago:

“The BBC said Chinese police had assaulted one of its journalists covering a protest in the commercial hub of Shanghai and detained him for several hours, drawing criticism from Britain’s government, which described his detention as ‘shocking’ … ‘The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai,’ the British public service broadcaster said in a statement late on Sunday.”


I shall substitute a few words here to make the point. I substitute “Charlotte Lynch” for “Ed Lawrence”, “the M25 in Hertfordshire” for “Shanghai”, and LBC for the BBC—and another world. Charlotte, like Ed Lawrence was handcuffed for doing her job. She was held in a cell with a bucket for a toilet for five hours; she was fingerprinted and her DNA was taken, and she was not allowed to speak to anyone. Her arrest took place just two weeks before Ed Lawrence’s. Is this the kind of world we want to live in?

As many noble Lords know, I have been a journalist and a newspaper editor. I have sent people to cover wars and protests, and I believe fundamentally in the right of anyone in the world, especially in our country, to protest about things they believe in. You protest only when you cannot get anywhere with anything else, when letters to MPs, to the local council and the newspaper have been explored and you take to the streets. But just as this is a fundamental right, so is it more than just a fundamental right—it is a duty— of journalists to report on demonstrations, because demonstrations are where we see where society is fracturing and where people really care. I cannot believe, as a former newspaper editor, that I would now have to think that it might be more dangerous to send a journalist to Trafalgar Square than to Tahrir Square. I urge noble Lords to vote for this amendment.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, it is hard to overemphasise the importance of this amendment. It is firmly rooted in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to … receive … information and ideas without interference by public authority”.


The word “everyone” which begins that article is extremely important because it applies the rights to everybody, whoever they may be. It may be suggested that the point being made by the amendment is so obvious that it is unnecessary, but I simply do not believe that. In the highly charged atmosphere of the kind of public protest we are contemplating in these proceedings, it is too big a risk to leave this without having it stated in the Bill and made part of our law. It should not be necessary, but I believe it is necessary, and it is firmly rooted, as I say, in Article 10 and those very important words. I support this amendment.

Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, I could not put a cigarette paper between the arguments of the two previous speakers and those I would like to make. If we are not careful, we will move to preventing the media from creating fair and accurate reports of our courts and even of this place. I do not believe I am exaggerating in linking the two sets of arguments and I very much support this amendment.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, I do not support the amendment, and I do this at some danger, because one of my roommates in the Lords is proposing it. I do not support it for a reason of principle and a reason of practice. First, on the reason of principle, I quite agree that a journalist should not be arrested for doing their job: it is very obvious that this should not happen. However, if I understand it correctly, the only reason a journalist might be challenged about their behaviour is if they are doing an act contrary to the Bill—in other words, they are locking on or they are protesting in a way that is illegal. That is the behaviour that is being challenged.

Secondly, whether or not you accept that argument for journalists, I do not understand how you define these other people in a way that the police will understand, particularly in a protest. An observer, somebody who is monitoring: how are the police to know who these people are? I guess that as soon as a protester is challenged, they might decide that they are a monitor, an observer or any of the groups that might be protected.

I understand the principle behind it. None of us wants to stop people holding the police to account, but that is not really the problem. Even if you accept that journalists should be protected in this way, I do not understand how you define the group in a way that allows the police properly to do their job without asking people how they fall into this category—they are not registered anywhere. Journalists complain that many people now claim to be journalists but are merely reporting online. Is that group included in this definition as well?

17:15
It is partly a problem of definition and partly the fact that journalists, unless they are committing a criminal offence, should not be challenged about their behaviour. I get that they are there to record the event, but I am not sure that this protection is needed, for the reason given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope: there is a protection in the convention that should allow them access to that defence anyway. I cannot support this amendment.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I disagree very strongly with the noble Lord, because I think he is wrong. Once you give the police the idea that it is okay to arrest a journalist, why would we expect them to understand—you cannot deny that the police quite often misuse the law because they do not understand it—that they can do so only if they are gluing their hands or something like that? In any case, what journalist would do that? I cannot think that they would want to.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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Mistakes are made; people are arrested wrongly. The police find acute problem-solving solutions when everyone else talks about “in six months’ time”. Someone has to make a decision; sometimes they make the wrong one—they happen to be human beings—and that is a problem. There is no general defence of being a journalist to any criminal offence. There is protection of legally privileged material, including journalistic material, and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides quite proper protection for that. However, that is not the same as providing a general defence for criminal behaviour to a journalist. In my view, that is what this proposes.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I speak as the mother of a journalist, so I have a vested interest here, but journalists do not go along to protests to join them but to watch and report on them. The Hertfordshire police and crime commissioner, David Lloyd, with whom I had the displeasure of sharing a panel the day after this all happened, said that protesters should not have the oxygen of publicity. That was his attitude: “Freedom of the press is fine, but not for protesters.” That is utterly unreasonable, as are the noble Lord’s comments. I support this very strongly. I do not see why anyone here would have a problem with it, except the Government. What are they frightened of? What do they think journalists will report that would look so bad for them? Obviously, almost anything.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, has said. This is really a matter of definition. We all agree that journalists should not be arrested while doing their job, but it is very difficult for a policeman to distinguish between A and B—

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Yes, but I do not think the noble Baroness has focused on the point that a lot of demonstrators would represent themselves as journalists to avoid the prescriptive provisions of the Bill. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, was talking about, and he is wholly right.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. The word “journalist” is not in the amendment—just “a person”, who is defined as “observing or otherwise reporting”. That is what it says, and it is very clear.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I appreciate that. I did not realise that the noble and learned Lord was intervening—I apologise for not sitting down at once. The point is surely that we are dealing with the need to protect journalists. The risk is that any demonstrator involved will say that they are a journalist or otherwise fall within the protection of this proposed new clause. That is what worries me.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, if anything illustrates why this amendment is needed, it is the last few exchanges. A number of noble Lords are already suspicious that people reporting on a demonstration are really malevolently pretending to be doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said that the police have said to him that people will pretend to be reporting and asked how they would know. That is the difficulty. If the police start off suspicious that journalists are really just people pretending to be journalists to get away with locking on and being disruptive, we have a problem.

What this amendment will do, and it is important to do so, is to state that it is a legitimate pursuit to be reporting on a demonstration, whatever your opinion of the demonstration. I have heard people say that all the people reporting on a demonstration who are not officially working for the BBC or LBC are actually demonstrators, but there are people who are opposed to, for example, Just Stop Oil who are reporting on it because they are trying to get support against the demonstrators. That is what is ironic. The point is that they are reporting. In a democracy, we need to know about such things. One of the great things about technology is that you can sometimes see it and know about it because somebody is there reporting on it or filming it.

We should stick by the principle of journalistic freedom. Those people who say people pretend to be journalists to get off scot free show how the Bill is already poisoning the well and making anybody associated with a demonstration in any capacity seem dodgy. What is dodgy is making that conclusion.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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May I respond to the noble Baroness, because I think she misrepresented what I said? I think I said that the officer would be intervening because of criminal behaviour, not because someone was a journalist or was suspected of being one. That would be the reason. There may be cases where an officer has intervened because they thought someone was a journalist and they did not want it to be recorded. I am not saying that has never happened; that would be wrong. There is no doubt about that. My point was only that the only reason for an officer to intervene should be—in principle, from the law—because the person is committing a criminal offence. That is what the Bill is all about: defining what is criminal and what is not. Therefore, I do not think it is fair to represent what I said as picking on someone because they are a journalist.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I wonder if I could help the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, because he has not, with respect, read the amendment—or at least not very carefully. To be clear, there would be nothing to prevent the arrest of a journalist, filmmaker, legal observer or anybody else if the officer suspected the commission of a criminal offence, including offences in the Bill that I disagree with. The protection is only against the use of police powers for the primary purpose of preventing the reporting. That is a judgment that is left to the officer, but what he cannot do is to say, “You’re a reporter. You’re giving protesters the oxygen of publicity, and I’m gonna arrest you.” That is the protection given here to people such as Charlotte Lynch, who could not possibly have been reasonably suspected of locking on or committing any other criminal offence. Such people could be suspected only of what they were actually doing: their job as reporters in a free society.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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And how is an officer to know?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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My Lords, I remind noble Lords that this is Report stage and they have one opportunity to speak.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has just said that, because it was the point I was going to make. I will make one brief intervention. I was always brought up on the proposition that it is better that someone who is guilty goes free than that someone who is innocent is punished. That ought to be our guiding principle, particularly when we are dealing with such sensitive issues and such an important Bill.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, spoke very briefly, and very powerfully, she began with a story from China. We do not want to be bracketed with that. We talk a lot in this House about the importance of freedom of speech, and we mean it—passionately. However, freedom of speech cannot exist properly unless there is a free press. It may often say things that we deplore or get the balance wrong, but it must have that freedom. A free society depends upon a free Parliament and free speech, and it depends upon a free press and free broadcasting. We are going in the wrong direction with this issue if we do not accept the amendment that has been signed by a very distinguished Law Lord: the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I would take his advice on this as much as I would take anyone’s. It would be better if the Government did not oppose this amendment.

Lord Patten of Barnes Portrait Lord Patten of Barnes (Con)
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I would like to follow what my noble friend just said, or at least the beginning of his remarks following the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. If the Chinese Communist Party, through its quisling administration in Hong Kong, was introducing legislation like this, we would denounce it. The Foreign Office would denounce it—it would be in its six-monthly report about attacks on freedom of speech and attacks on freedom in Hong Kong—and we would all cheer. It is astonishing that we are proposing in this country the sort of thing which we would denounce if the Chinese Communist Party were doing it in Hong Kong.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I may be labouring under a misapprehension, but surely there is a critical difference between this country and China. As I understand it, the proposed new clause would prevent a constable exercising a police power for the principal purpose of preventing someone observing or reporting on a protest. If we do not pass this amendment, that act—that is, arresting somebody for the principal purpose of preventing reporting on a protest—would still be unlawful: it would be an abuse of police powers to do that. The difference is that here we are being asked to pass legislation to make illegal that which is already unlawful. That is the concern I have with it. When I was a Minister, I was frequently told, “You should add this clause and that clause to send a signal”, and I kept saying, “The statute book is not a form of semaphore.” My problem with this clause is nothing to do with the content of it; I just have a problem with passing legislation to make unlawful that which is already unlawful.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, there cannot be any legitimate objection to journalists, legal observers, academics or even members of the public who want to observe and report on protests or on the police’s use of their powers related to protests. We have seen in incident after incident how video footage of police action, whether from officers’ own body-worn video or that taken by concerned members of the public, has provided important evidence in holding both protesters and police officers to account for their actions. The need for this amendment is amply evidenced by the arrest and detention of the accredited and documented broadcast journalist, Charlotte Lynch, while reporting on a Just Stop Oil protest. It is all very well for noble Lords to say, “Well, if somebody was arrested in the way that Charlotte Lynch was arrested, it was unlawful”, but the fact is that Charlotte Lynch was taken out of the game for five hours and detained in a police cell, where she could not observe what was going on. We need upfront protection for journalists and observers, and not to rely on a defence that they can put after they have been handcuffed, arrested, and put in a police cell even though they are in possession of a police-accredited press pass. We support this amendment and will vote for it if the noble Baroness divides the House.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB)
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My Lords, there is something to be said for semaphore in the wider sense. That is, one of the problems that I think many noble Lords have had with the Bill is that it is sending a signal, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, just suggested, against freedom of expression. Certainly, we need clarity in making law—I have changed my mind on two amendments today thanks to the interventions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. However, I will not change my mind on this one, because I think back to those women who were dragged around at the protest after Sarah Everard’s murder and who themselves filmed what was going on, to the disgust of the whole nation. Sometimes semaphore is very important. We are looking not just at the fine lines of the law today but at the message we are sending to the population: that we are a free society and that we want a free press. I will support the amendment.

17:30
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, we support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and if she divides the House, we will support her in the Division Lobbies. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, a free press is the hallmark of a democratic society; we should remind ourselves of that. In doing so, I reflect again on the really important point made by my noble friend. The amendment is not concerned with the police using their powers proportionately, where appropriate, if criminal behaviour is taking place. It states:

“A constable may not exercise any police power for the principal purpose of preventing a person from observing or otherwise reporting on a protest”.


It is not saying that there is carte blanche for anybody who is observing to do anything they want around a protest, to exploit it for their own reasons and to conduct criminal activity, or that it would prevent the police doing anything about that; far from it. It seeks to allow reporters and others to observe and report to the wider public, to different sections of the country and beyond, who may not even be there or understand what the protest is about. That is important, and this must be an unfettered, protected power. That is why we support the amendment, which is extremely important, among the many other extremely important amendments we are discussing today.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for my slightly tardy arrival.

Amendment 54, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Boycott, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, seeks to establish a specific safeguard for journalists and bystanders during protests. It follows the wrongful arrest and detention of the LBC journalist Charlotte Lynch in November. May I reassure the House that it is not okay? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that it is absolutely not okay to arrest a journalist who is doing their job.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for tabling this amendment, and agree with the need for journalists and innocent bystanders to be adequately safeguarded during protests. The Government are clear that the role of members of the press must be respected. It is vital that journalists be able to do their job freely and without restriction. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my noble friend Lord Cormack that a free press is the hallmark of a civilised society.

The police can exercise their powers only in circumstances where they have reasonable grounds to do so. Hertfordshire Constabulary has accepted that its wrongful arrests of journalists on the M25 were unlawful. Noble Lords will be aware that an independent review was conducted into Hertfordshire Constabulary’s arrest of journalists during the M25 protests. With your Lordships’ indulgence, I will go into a little of the detail on that. Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s report specifies that:

“The power of arrest is principally governed by PACE 1984 and to be lawful, the arrest must be necessary by reference to statutory powers set out within PACE 1984. Code G provides additional rules and guidance on the use of the power of arrest. Of particular relevance to this operation, it is important to observe the judgement laid out following O’Hara v Chief Constable of Royal Ulster Constabulary 1996—an officer cannot exercise the power of arrest based on instruction from a superior officer. In order to satisfy the requirements under section 24 of PACE 1984, the superior officer must convey sufficient information in order for the arresting officer to develop reasonable grounds.”


I went into that in some detail because Section 24 —“Arrest without warrant: constables”—is very clear. A constable may arrest without warrant

“anyone who is about to commit an offence; anyone who is in the act of committing an offence; anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence; anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence. If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, he may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it.”

Under those criteria, I struggle to see how the primary purpose of being a journalist, which the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, referred to, and reporting on a protest, would ever constitute reasonable grounds.

Going back to the Cambridge case, the constabulary also specified that code G of PACE 1984 gives some separate guidance on necessity criteria:

“The power of arrest is only exercisable if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary to arrest the person.”


It is very clear. We are all protected by those rules and that includes journalists. The review revealed that the issue was one of training and proposed several recommendations to fix this, including ensuring that all public safety officers and commanders carry out the College of Policing and National Union of Journalists awareness training. The constabulary has promptly implemented these recommendations. This is not an issue of law but one of training and guidance, which is already being addressed.

Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, PACE is nearly 40 years old. Is not the training completed?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble and learned friend makes a very fair point, but the College of Policing and the National Union of Journalists awareness training is a little more recent than the 40 year-old PACE codes.

The College of Policing’s initial learning curriculum includes a package of content on effectively dealing with the media in a policing context. In addition, the authorised professional practice for public order contains a section on the interaction of the police with members of the media. This includes the recognition of press identification. It should also be noted that it is entirely legitimate for a police officer to inquire why an individual may be recording at the scene of a criminal offence if they deem it appropriate. We do not want to suggest that this is unlawful.

In light of those factors, while I completely understand the direction and purpose of the amendment, we do not support it because we do not deem it to be necessary. These defences are already covered in law.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short but vital debate. Once more to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who I am not sure has read the amendment—

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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This amendment is not about preventing the arrest of anybody, journalist or otherwise, who is reasonably suspected of committing a criminal offence, including offences in this Bill. There is no definitional problem, because what is defined is the purpose of the arrest, not the identity of the person. This is important because even after Charlotte Lynch’s arrest, a Conservative police and crime commissioner took to the airwaves to say, “You are giving the oxygen of publicity to protesters.” In other words, “You are complicit in this kind of disruptive action by reporting it.”

If a senior Conservative police and crime commissioner took that view, it is perhaps understandable that some hard-working, hard-pressed police officers in difficult times might take the same view. The offence for which Miss Lynch was arrested was the very open-textured “conspiracy to cause a public nuisance”. Therefore, if a journalist has been tipped off that there is to be a demonstration that may or may not turn out to be disruptive and they go to do their job of reporting, some police officers, it would seem, and others may believe that in some sense to be complicity in causing or conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

I also want to thank the Minister and his Bill team for meeting me just yesterday—although of course the Home Office press office had already told various media outlets that the Home Office was doubling down on this amendment. At that meeting, I asked the Minister and his colleagues to explain the basis for Ms Lynch’s arrest being unlawful. By the way, many other journalists have recently been arrested; what was the basis for these being unlawful arrests? I got the answer that noble Lords just got from the Minister.

What is said to be unlawful about Ms Lynch’s arrest is not that she is a journalist, but that individual officers were taking direction from their superiors and not exercising their own judgment. That is a technical and very important matter, but it is not the issue at stake here. I asked the Bill team and the Minister: where is the authority, the legal provision, in primary or even secondary legislation, that says that journalists should not be arrested, for example for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, just for reporting on something that itself may be a public nuisance? There was no authority and no provision offered. So vague assertions about PACE codes that do not even deal with my specific point are really not going to cut it—not on something as important as free reporting in a free society.

I have moved this amendment and I seek to test the opinion of your Lordships’ House.

17:39

Division 4

Ayes: 283

Noes: 192

Amendment 55 not moved.
17:52
Clause 19: Serious disruption prevention order made on conviction
Amendment 56
Moved by
56: Clause 19, page 22, line 20, leave out sub-paragraphs (iii) to (v)
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would limit the trigger events for an SDPO to the commission of a protest-related offence and the breach of a protest-related injunction.
Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to propose a number of amendments to Part 2 of the Bill, which provides for serious disruption prevention orders, or SDPOs. These are civil orders, breach of which is punishable by imprisonment. Imposed by magistrates at the request of the police, their intended effect is to prevent people, who may or may not have been convicted of a protest-related offence, from participating in or assisting future protest-related activities by means of blanket restrictions on their movement, activities, association, and use of the internet—see the list of permitted requirements in Clause 21(2) and the rather forbidding list of permitted prohibitions in Clause 21(4), neither of which is exhaustive.

In Committee, the Minister said, rather colourfully, that SDPOs are targeted on

“a small group of individuals”

who

“repeatedly trample on the rights of the public without let or hindrance”.—[Official Report, 13/12/22; col. 639.]

For those individuals, we are asked to assume that the availability of bail conditions and of ever-longer prison sentences for an ever-growing list of offences are insufficient.

My objections to SDPOs are twofold. My first is, to use the Minister’s language, that they can imposed not just on those who trample on others but on people who tiptoe over the boundary or enable others to do so and, indeed, under Clause 20, on people who have never broken the law and in respect of whom there is no evidence that they ever will. The likely effect of these clauses in chilling the freedom of assembly is obvious.

My second objection is that there are remarkably few lets and hindrances on SDPOs themselves, even by the standards of comparable orders aimed at the prevention of knife crime, domestic violence and terrorism. In Committee, I pointed out the six central respects in which SDPOs are more severe even than the TPIMs, successors to the once-controversial control orders that we impose on a tiny handful of dangerous terrorists and that I was much concerned with when I was Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Yet the Government estimate that 400 SDPOs will be imposed every year: 200 after conviction for protest-related offences under Clause 19, and 200 under Clause 20 on people who need not have been convicted of anything at all.

I turn to the three categories of amendments in this group. The first category is the old stand part debates from Committee, renewed in the form of Amendments 59 and 63 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, which I have signed, along with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. These give effect to the views of bodies ranging from HMICFRS to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. They attracted wide and distinguished support when we debated them in Committee.

The second category of amendments are those tabled by the Government after the Minister’s promise to think further. Amendments 58 and 62 reduce from five years to three years the period in respect of which previous offences or other conduct may be taken into account before imposing an SDPO. That does not address the main concerns with SDPOs, but it is something. Amendment 65, with those consequential on it, deletes the express authority in the Bill for the use of electronic tags to monitor compliance with an SDPO. This removes one of the more eye-catching features of these orders but leaves unaffected the unlimited range of requirements that an SDPO may contain, limited only by the purposes broadly defined in Clauses 19(5) and 20(4). Finally, Amendment 69 provides that an SDPO may not be renewed more than once, although, since SDPOs can still be imposed for an unlimited duration, this might be considered a rather limited comfort. I thank the Government for these amendments, which are welcome. However, with respect, they do no more than nibble around the edges.

The third category of amendments are the seven that appear under my name, with the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and, as to six of the seven, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I hope that it is fair to describe them as modest. I will say a brief word about each.

Amendment 56, to which I draw the particular attention of the House, and Amendment 60 would limit the trigger events for an SDPO to the commission of a protest- related offence or the breach of a protest-related injunction by the person to be subjected to an SDPO. The effect of that change is that you could not be a target of an SDPO, as you could under the Bill as it currently stands, if you drove your daughter to a demonstration in which serious disruption such as delay or hindrance was caused to two or more individuals.

Amendments 57 and 61 would ensure that a second or subsequent SDPO made in respect of any person was founded on trigger events that had not already been taken into account for the purposes of the imposition of a previous SDPO. I would be amazed if anything different were intended by Government, and I persist in the hope that these might be accepted as simply clarifying or tidying-up amendments.

Amendment 64 would limit the requirements that may be imposed by an SDPO to those having the effects specified in Clause 21(2). That would no longer be an illustrative list but an exhaustive list. But note the modesty of this amendment too: it would leave unaffected the long and draconian list of permitted prohibitions in Clause 21(4).

Amendment 71 would limit the total maximum duration of any SDPO to two years, which could be extended to a total of four years under the Government’s Amendment 69. Of course, new facts could form the basis of another SDPO even beyond that point.

Amendment 72 would remove the Secretary of State’s power in Clause 30(2)(b) to give guidance to the police

“about identifying persons in respect of whom it may be appropriate for applications for serious disruption prevention orders to be made”.

That guidance power is an extraordinary infringement on the operational independence of the police, as I hope your Lordships will agree.

I am unrepentant in my opposition to SDPOs as unnecessary, disproportionate and dangerously broad. That is why I support the stand part amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and will vote with him if he so invites the House to remove Clause 20 from the Bill. If there is insufficient appetite to remove Clause 19 and the Benches opposite indicate their support, I propose to test the opinion of the House on my Amendment 56, which would ensure that the trigger events for an order under Clause 19 are limited to protest-related convictions or breaches of protest-related injunctions.

18:00
Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, I support all but one of his amendments. The one I do not support is very minor and, out of an abundance of caution, I decided not to put my name to it. A particular point I wish to draw attention to arises from his Amendments 56 and 60, which deal with the trigger events for the pronouncement of these orders. The noble Lord seeks to take out the third, fourth and fifth trigger events. He is absolutely right to want to do so because of the breadth of the expression, and of a particular point that I will come to.

The third trigger event concerns carrying out

“activities related to a protest that resulted in, or were likely to result in, serious disruption”.

That phrase describes a protest, but the word “activities” is so wide that it raises real questions about the certainty of this provision. The same point arises in respect to the fifth trigger event.

The fourth trigger event contains quite an extraordinary proposition, which is that the person

“caused or contributed to the commission by any other person of a protest-related offence or a protest-related breach of an injunction”.

An offence is defined in statute. Everyone is presumed to know the law, so it is fair enough to mention the “offence” in that particular trigger event, but injunctions are directed to individuals; they are not publicised in the same way as offences. A person might have absolutely no idea that the other person in question was in breach of an injunction, of which he had no notice whatever. That is absolutely objectionable. On any view, the fourth trigger event should be deleted from both these clauses, but for broader reasons and those given by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which I need not elaborate on, I support his amendments.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I will make three brief comments about these amendments. First, regarding the trigger points, I entirely agree with Amendments 56 and 60 from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which the noble and learned Lord spoke to. The reference to an injunction is particularly worrying because, for the reason the noble and learned Lord mentioned, members of the public would not be aware of it. In any event, what are or could be contemplated in the third, fourth and fifth trigger events are acts that are very remote from the mischief the Bill contemplates. Therefore, I very much hope that the amendments are put to the House, and I shall support them if they are.

Secondly, your Lordships need to keep in mind that the test of necessity, which is dealt with in Clause 20(1)(d), is quite a high bar. I deal with it in interim orders made by the regulatory panels, which are fully aware that “necessity” is different from “desirability” and requires quite a high threshold.

My last point is a query to the Minister, if he would be so kind. It is a very long time since I dealt with complaints before magistrates’ courts, so I apologise for not really being familiar with the procedure. In any view, these SDPOs are very serious. Does the complaint, which presumably has to be made both by the court and to the person named, specify the concerns felt by the senior police officer? Does it specify the relief being sought in the order itself? I assume that these are inter partes hearings, not ex parte. Does the person against whom the order is sought have the opportunity to make representations, give evidence, be represented and object to the relief being sought? This is ignorance on my part, but I fancy that quite a lot of your Lordships would like to know the procedure being invoked.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, as we have heard, most of the amendments in this group seek to restrict the proposed provisions in serious disruption prevention orders so that they are more in line with terrorism prevention and investigation measures. TPIMs are primarily designed for instances where the case against someone who is believed to be a serious threat to society—a suspected terrorist—is based on intelligence rather than evidence that could be given in open court. They are supposed to be a temporary measure while attempts are made to secure the evidence necessary to convict the person of a criminal offence. SDPOs as originally drafted were potentially limitless banning orders preventing people from involvement in protests, even if they had never physically been present at a protest before and, in the case of Clause 20, had never been convicted of a criminal offence.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton- under-Heywood, pointed out in Committee, these orders would remove people’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights if a court was satisfied on the balance of probabilities—depriving people of their human rights on the weakest of evidential tests. Even in the case of Clause 19, on serious disruption prevention orders on conviction, where the court is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that a criminal offence has been committed, the court needs to be satisfied only on the balance of probabilities that the offence was protest related. It then has to be satisfied—again, only on the balance of probabilities—of a second involvement in a protest. For example, if someone had contributed to crowdfunding to pay for coaches to take protesters to London and, in the end, there were not enough protesters and the coaches never went, but serious disruption was likely to have resulted if they had and the coaches had been full of protesters, on the balance of probabilities the court could impose an SDPO.

That many of the amendments in this group attempt to weaken SDPOs, making them merely outrageous rather than totally unacceptable, is no reason to support them—perhaps with the exception of Amendment 56, which seeks to limit those who would be made subject to an SDPO and which, frankly, goes nowhere near far enough. The House should not make legislation less bad when it has an opportunity to oppose it in its entirety. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, expressed his support for that by signing Amendment 59.

As His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services reported in its review of public order policing, the police’s view was that courts would be reluctant to deprive individuals of their right to protest by granting protest banning orders in the first place, and even more reluctant to impose any significant penalty should someone breach an order by peacefully participating in a future protest. If they caused serious disruption, they would be convicted of a substantive public order offence. As a result, SDPOs were seen as unworkable and having no real deterrent effect.

We support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede—to leave out Clauses 19 and 20—which have been signed by me, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. We cannot support depriving anyone of their human rights on an evidential test of the balance of probabilities, especially when the police believe that the courts would be unlikely to impose SDPOs or a deterrent penalty for any breach. We will support the noble Lord when, we hope, he divides the House on Amendments 59 and 63.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, to be clear at the outset, we will support Amendment 56 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and I will not divide the House on Amendment 59. I shall speak to Amendment 63, which is tabled in my name and has cross-party and Cross-Bench support.

I welcome the positive move that the Government have made on SDPOs, particularly removing electronic monitoring and limiting an SDPO’s renewal to only once to take into account some of the concerns raised in this House and the other place. Despite this, it remains my view that it is necessary to pursue the wholesale removal of Clause 20. It is simply not proportionate, necessary, Human Rights Act-compliant or good value for money to introduce a power to allow serious disruption prevention orders to be given without a conviction being made.

This is not just my view. The Joint Committee on Human Rights agrees that Clause 20 would interfere

“with legitimate peaceful exercise of Article 10 and 11 rights”

and that:

“The police already have powers to impose conditions on protests and to arrest those who breach them.”


Amnesty International also agrees, saying that Clause 20 is “wholly disproportionate”, restricting

“the exercise of a fundamental right of peaceful assembly based on past conduct and there is no requirement that the past conduct be of a serious nature.”

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner also agrees, confirming this week that “policing is not asking for new powers to constrain protests”.

Experts agree that, since the police already have the powers they need and since this new power would threaten the fundamental right to assemble peacefully, the Government would be wise to think again on this matter. The UK cannot condemn authoritarian regimes cracking down on protests and at the same time celebrate the bravery of protests such as the umbrella movement or the white paper protesters. I will divide the House on Amendment 63, and I hope the Government will use this opportunity to remove this harmful provision.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this shortish debate. This group contains notices to oppose, so I will start with those amendments which take issue with serious disruption prevention orders as a whole. The feeling expressed by noble Lords when speaking to these amendments is clear, but I do not support the full removal of these provisions, and it is important that I make clear the reasons why.

Peaceful protest is a fundamental part of our democracy, but causing serious disruption under the guise of a protest is not. Why should protesters who are determined repeatedly to inflict serious disruption continue to be allowed to do so, especially when their actions impact those who simply wish to go about their daily lives, and potentially risk the safety of our emergency services? SDPOs will give the police and the courts the powers that they need proactively to prevent protesters causing serious disruption, time and again. Those protesters found in breach of an SDPO will be liable for arrest, meaning that the police will not need to stand by until an act of protest-related serious disruption has already taken place before they can act.

Some will argue that many of these protesters are already arrested, but a small group of individuals who have been arrested during disruptive protest action have reoffended soon after. To deter this small group of individuals, SDPOs provide an alternative, non-custodial route to prevent those who have a track record of causing serious disruption in the name of protest. SDPOs will prevent protesters causing harm by subjecting them to proportionate and necessary restrictions or requirements. Such restrictions might involve stopping a protester who has previously locked on carrying an item that would assist them doing so again or require a protester, for example, to report to a police officer at the time when a planned protest is due to take place. I should make it clear that it will be up to the courts to consider what measures are put in place on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are both proportionate and necessary.

In Committee, concerns were raised that SDPOs are a harsh and intrusive way of preventing serious disruption. However, it is important to make it clear that a prohibition or requirement of a preventive order is much less intrusive than a prison sentence, which is a potential consequence of some of the protest-related offences that can lead to an SDPO.

Many noble Lords have asked whether anybody at a protest could be subject to an SDPO. As I hope I made clear in Committee, only those who have committed protest-related offences, breached a protest-related injunction or caused or contributed to protest-related activities on at least two occasions would be considered for an SDPO. It is for the courts to decide whether someone’s actions caused or contributed to serious disruption at a protest and meet the threshold of an SDPO.

In answer to my noble friend Lord Hailsham’s question, I say that the person potentially subject to an order may present evidence so, yes, the court may consider evidence from the person potentially subject to an SDPO and may adjourn proceedings if the person does not appear for any reason. I should also clarify that Clause 20(6) states:

“On making a serious disruption prevention order the court must in ordinary language explain to P the effects of the order.”


Therefore the person would need to be present.

18:15
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I interpreted that subsection to mean that the statement could be in writing if the person did not attend. Is that correct?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I will need to clarify that but, given the other things that I have said, it would imply—I stress “imply”—that the person needed to be there, but I will come back on that point.

I also stress that those who make their voices heard without committing offences or causing serious disruption would not be affected.

The evidential threshold of SDPOs was also the subject of discussion. I am sure that many noble Lords support the courts’ imposition of injunctions which are made on the civil burden of proof and ban large numbers of people protesting in certain locations, including, on occasions, “persons unknown”. The burden of proof is the same for SDPOs, and they are made against known individuals whose actions have shown that an order is necessary.

Noble Lords also raised the question of how SDPOs will be enforced. As I hope I conveyed in Committee, it will ultimately be for the courts to place necessary, proportionate and enforceable conditions on protesters subject to an SDPO and for the police to exercise any powers of arrest in relation to breaches. However, I assure the House that the Government will be setting out statutory guidance for SDPOs to aid the police and courts in due course.

The use of SDPOs is critical when equipping the police with powers to ensure that they can take proactive steps against prolific protesters. So in removing SDPOs fully from the Bill, we will continue to see the police struggle to get ahead of those protesters who are hell- bent on repeatedly inflicting serious disruption.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned the HMICFRS’s comments about banning orders not being compatible with human rights, but the report from the policing inspectorate considered only orders that would always ban an individual protesting. SDPOs grant the courts discretion to impose any prohibitions and requirements necessary to protect the public from protest-related crimes and serious disruption, so depending on the individual circumstances this may mean that the court will not consider it necessary to stop individuals attending protests.

Nevertheless, as I made clear when we discussed these measures in Committee, I recognise the strength of feeling expressed by your Lordships. In that vein, I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. I thank him for his continued engagement on this Bill as a whole. His amendments all seek to amend the SDPO regime in some way, be it limiting the trigger events for an order, limiting the maximum duration of an SDPO, limiting the requirements that can be imposed on an individual or amending some of the guidance that is to be issued by the Secretary of State concerning these measures. We still believe that SDPOs are an important and useful tool for stopping repeat protesters committed to causing disruption. For this reason we regrettably cannot support the amendments proposed, which we assess amount to a substantial dilution of the Bill’s effectiveness. However, we recognise the sentiment behind them, as well as the other concerns raised, which is why I committed to take the matter away.

As a result of that consideration, the Government have tabled amendments which seek to allay some of the concerns expressed by your Lordships. We have tabled an amendment which removes the electronic monitoring provisions from the Bill, meaning that no individual subject to an order would have the requirements and prohibitions imposed monitored electronically. This was a particular concern of your Lordships, and we have responded accordingly. The second amendment reduces the relevant period of past conduct which is considered for SDPOs from within five years to within three years. The final amendment addresses a criticism made by your Lordships concerning the renewal of an order. Indeed, many noble Lords expressed concerns that an order could be continuously renewed. The amendment we have tabled therefore addresses this by setting a limit on the number of times an order can be renewed to only once. It is the Government’s view that these amendments represent a substantive offer and address the main criticisms of SDPOs. I encourage all noble Lords to support the amendments in the Government’s name and to reject the others in this group.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
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The Minister will recall that I described my Amendments 57 and 61 as clarificatory. It seemed to me that the Government must surely have not intended that a second or subsequent SDPO made in respect of the same person could be founded on trigger events that had already been taken into account for the purposes of a previous SDPO. I understand that the Minister does not accept my amendments, but can he at least clarify that that is the Government’s understanding of the Bill?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I can clarify that that is the Government’s understanding.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
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I am grateful to the Minister for that and for his engagement throughout this process. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, in particular to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his extremely pertinent points on the three sub-paragraphs that my Amendment 56 would remove from Clause 19, and to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, for the broader point, which I tried to make as well, that those sub-paragraphs capture conduct that is simply too remote to justify the imposition of such a draconian order.

Very fairly, the noble Viscount made the point, echoed by the Minister, that a magistrate asked to make these orders under Clause 20, for example, must think it “necessary” for certain purposes—he noted the strength of that word. The noble Viscount is right about that, of course, but I simply ask the Government to have in mind, as I am sure they do, that the purposes for which it can be necessary are expressed very broadly indeed. For example, if you look at Clause 20(4)(c), you see that it can be necessary to prevent a person

“causing or contributing to … the carrying out by any other person of activities”.

One has all the same, very indirect language that I seek to remove by Amendment 56.

My amendments leave the police with a completely workable system to deter the small group of individuals who, in the Minister’s words, are hell-bent on repeating serious disruption; there can surely be no doubt about that. Both my amendment and the amendment relating to Clause 20 are too modest to impact on that objective. That is less than some of us would have wished, and I am sure the Government and the House of Commons will be well aware of that when it goes back to them, if these amendments are carried.

I have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who does not think that my Amendment 56 goes far enough. I would love to have seen other amendments put to the vote, but I am told that politics is the art of the possible. I think the noble Lord agrees that this amendment is a great deal better than nothing and that this improvement will be greater still if Clause 20 can be removed from the Bill. I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 56.

18:22

Division 5

Ayes: 259

Noes: 200

18:34
Amendments 57 to 59 not moved.
Clause 20: Serious disruption prevention order made otherwise than on conviction
Amendments 60 to 62 not moved.
Amendment 63
Moved by
63: Leave out Clause 20
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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I wish to test the opinion of the House.

18:35

Division 6

Ayes: 247

Noes: 192

18:47
Clause 21: Provisions of serious disruption prevention order
Amendment 64 not moved.
Amendment 65
Moved by
65: Clause 21, page 26, line 12, leave out paragraph (c)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment omits the provision in Part 2 of the Bill that provided for a serious disruption prevention order to include a requirement for a person to submit to electronic monitoring of their compliance with such an order.
Amendment 65 agreed.
Clause 22: Requirements in serious disruption prevention order
Amendment 66
Moved by
66: Clause 22, page 27, line 17, leave out subsection (5)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.
Amendment 66 agreed.
Clause 23: Further provision about electronic monitoring requirements
Amendment 67
Moved by
67: Leave out Clause 23
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.
Amendment 67 agreed.
Clause 25: Duration of serious disruption prevention order
Amendment 68
Moved by
68: Clause 25, page 30, line 17, leave out subsections (6) and (7)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.
Amendment 68 agreed.
Clause 28: Variation, renewal or discharge of serious disruption prevention order
Amendment 69
Moved by
69: Clause 28, page 32, line 32, at end insert—
“(8A) The court may not renew a serious disruption prevention order more than once.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides that a serious disruption prevention order may not be renewed under Clause 28 more than once.
Amendment 69 agreed.
Amendment 70
Moved by
70: Clause 28, page 32, line 33, leave out subsection (9)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.
Amendment 70 agreed.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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I cannot call Amendment 71 due to pre-emption.

Amendment 71 not moved.
Clause 30: Guidance
Amendment 72 not moved.
Clause 32: Data from electronic monitoring: code of practice
Amendment 73
Moved by
73: Leave out Clause 32
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.
Amendment 73 agreed.
Clause 33: Interpretation of Part
Amendment 74
Moved by
74: Clause 33, page 35, leave out lines line 22 to 24
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom at page 26, line 12.
Amendment 74 agreed.
Clause 35: Extent, commencement and short title
Amendment 75
Moved by
75: Clause 35, page 36, line 22, leave out “, 13 and 23” and insert “and 13”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Sharpe of Epsom that leaves out Clause 23.
Amendment 75 agreed.
Amendments 76 and 77 not moved.

Northern Ireland Budget Bill

Second Reading (and remaining stages)
18:52
Moved by
Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Caine Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Caine) (Con)
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My Lords, before I begin my comments on the Bill itself, I once again place on record my gratitude to your Lordships for considering this important Bill on a heavily truncated timetable. I recognise that we should be doing so only in exceptional circumstances. As I go through my remarks this evening, I hope noble Lords will agree that this Bill meets, and indeed goes beyond, that high threshold.

In moving this Second Reading, I once again speak with a strong sense of disappointment. At the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill 2022, I said:

“No Government would want to be in the position in which we find ourselves today. It is clearly not a satisfactory state of affairs.”—[Official Report, 5/12/22; col. 22.]


That sentiment still applies as I stand before your Lordships this evening. It is also a sentiment shared, I would venture, by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and my noble friend Lord Dodds of Duncairn, who have tabled regret amendments to the Second Reading Motion. With their permission, I will not seek to pre-empt what they might say when they come to speak to their amendments. Instead, I will endeavour to listen carefully to what they say and respond in my wind-up speech later on.

The Government are bringing forward this legislation because Northern Ireland has been without a fully functioning Executive since February 2022 and without a fully functioning Assembly since after the May Assembly elections in the same year; as a result, it has not been possible to set a budget. His Majesty’s Government stepped in shortly after 28 October last year, when Northern Ireland Ministers formally left their posts, and we subsequently worked with the Northern Ireland Civil Service to set a budget for 2022-23. I place on record my gratitude to those in it for all their hard work.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I set out the budget allocations for each Northern Ireland department in a Written Statement which I placed before your Lordships’ House on 24 November 2022. The purpose of this Bill is to put those allocations on a legal footing. Setting this budget was not an easy task. Northern Ireland departments and Ministers who were, up until 28 October, in post had not been operating within confirmed spending limits and had not implemented plans to deal with looming overspends. As a result, we found ourselves facing an unenviable £660 million black hole in the finances—subsequently reduced, through discussions and agreement, to £330 million.

In facing this situation, we have, in what I would describe as the best traditions of a one-nation Conservative Government, prioritised spending on health and education, with an overarching objective of protecting the most vulnerable. This budget therefore increases education spending by just under £300 million and delivers a £786 million increase on non-Covid-related health spending. I suggest that these are not insignificant sums. We are acutely aware of the difficult decisions that now have to be taken in relation to health and education, and right across the spectrum in Northern Ireland, to live within this budget but the Government believe that, in the very challenging and difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves, it is a fair outcome.

Clearly, consideration will now need to be given to a sustainable and strategic budget outlook for the financial year 2023-24. If the Executive have been restored in time to set a budget for 2023-24, the UK Government will continue to work constructively with executive Ministers, including on a sustainable budget that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and supports economic growth. However, if the Executive have not been restored, we are working closely with the Northern Ireland Civil Service to prepare for next year’s budget. I assure the House that the Government’s priority for that Budget will be to deliver a fair outcome for all taxpayers and citizens in Northern Ireland.

The pressures on Northern Ireland’s finances did not arise overnight. Many noble Lords will recall that both the Stormont House and fresh start talks in 2014 and 2015 were, in large part, driven by the need to deal with the Northern Ireland Executive’s finances. The Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Act 2016 included provisions to introduce further transparency around the budgetary process, including requiring the Finance Minister to set out how any draft budget would not exceed the money allocated to the Executive from the UK Government. Despite this, the Government still inherited a budget halfway through the year with, as I said earlier, a projected overspend of some £660 million, reduced to some £332 million following work between my officials and the Northern Ireland departments. Notwithstanding that, the situation is still, however, unacceptable and the unsustainability of Northern Ireland’s finances cannot continue.

I should point out that there are some who would have us believe that the main problem is that the UK Government have somehow starved Northern Ireland of cash. I would of course strongly refute that argument. Spending per head in Northern Ireland is already the highest of any region in the United Kingdom. In the spending review of 2021, which set the block grant for three years, Northern Ireland received record levels of financial support—the highest since the restoration of devolved government in 1998-99. Funding per head in Northern Ireland is some 21% higher than the United Kingdom average.

It would therefore be simplistic in the extreme to say that the issues facing Northern Ireland as we stand here today are simply down to a perceived lack of money. Rather, the difficulties in which Northern Ireland departments now find themselves are the result of difficult decisions not being taken—not just this year, but in successive years before it. I would add that that situation was of course not helped by the lack of a functioning Executive and Assembly between 2017 and 2020. The Bill before the House will place the budget that I outlined on 24 November last year on to a legal footing. It will allow departments and other listed public bodies to continue to deliver public services into the first half of the 2023-24 financial year, through a vote on account.

I turn briefly to the individual clauses. Clauses 1 and 2 will authorise Northern Ireland departments and other specified public bodies to use resources amounting to £26,656,975,000 in the year ending 31 March 2023. This includes cash items such as payment of salaries, the purchase of goods and services, and investment in the construction of new capital assets, as well as non-cash items such as the depreciation of existing assets and making provision for future liabilities. Of that total sum, £24,242,000,000 is authorised for current purposes and around £2.5 billion is authorised for capital purposes.

Clauses 3 and 4 will authorise the Northern Ireland Department of Finance to issue nearly £21.5 billion out of the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund for this financial year. This is a lower figure than the resources authorised in Clauses 1 and 2 because departments do not require cash for depreciation costs, provisions and other non-cash items.

Clause 5 will authorise temporary borrowing by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance, up to approximately half of the sum issued out of the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund under Clause 3. This is a normal safeguard against the possibility of a temporary deficiency, and any borrowing authorised under this clause is to be repaid by 31 March this year.

Clause 6 will authorise Northern Ireland departments and other listed bodies to use the income they receive from the specified sources listed in part 3 of their Schedule 1 estimate. The authorisations in Clauses 1 to 6 supersede previous authorisations in the Budget Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 and other legislation. In order to give effect to that, Clause 7 allows the authorisations in the Bill to be treated as having effect from the beginning of 1 April 2022.

Clauses 8 and 9 authorise the use of resources by Northern Ireland departments and other listed bodies amounting to some £17.5 billion over the course of the financial year ending on 31 March 2024. Of that total, nearly £16 billion is authorised for current purposes and around £1.5 billion is for capital purposes. The authorisation for this is a vote on account at 65%, to allow public services to continue to be delivered into the first half of the next financial year. This is greater than usual: 65% instead of 45%. The vote on account does not imply the setting of a budget for 2023-24; its purpose is to allow the use of resources to ensure that services can continue to be delivered, pending the consideration of a budget Bill for the full financial year.

Clauses 10 and 11 authorise the Northern Ireland Department of Finance to issue just over £14 billion out of the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund during that period. Clause 12 authorises temporary borrowing by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance. Just as borrowing during the current financial year must be repaid before the end of the current year, any borrowing during the next financial year under this clause must be repaid in full before 31 March.

Clause 13 provides for the Bill, if passed, to have the same effect as if it were a budget Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Clauses 15 and 16 are minor and consequential.

I will make a short statement on legislative consent. Clearly, we have been unable to secure a legislative consent Motion from the Northern Ireland Assembly given that it is currently not sitting—indeed, if it were, I would hope we would not have needed the Bill at all. But the continued absence of the Assembly and the Executive means that we have been left with no other option but to take action here.

I express my thanks again for the ongoing hard work of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, which now has a responsibility to ensure that Northern Ireland departments live within the budget limits set out in the Bill. I recognise that this is not easy and will require difficult decisions. People in Northern Ireland rightly expect to see those decisions taken at Stormont, and I agree with them. I state again my continued disappointment that, as a Government, we are having to step into Northern Ireland affairs and intervene in this way. I look forward, as I think do noble Lords across the House, to the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly at the earliest opportunity. However, until a functioning Executive return, the Bill will allow public services to continue functioning and help to protect public finances in Northern Ireland. I therefore commend it to the House.

19:05
Amendment to the Motion
Moved by
Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
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As an amendment to the motion that the bill be now read a second time, at end insert “but this House regrets the continued failure of the political parties in Northern Ireland to agree to form an Executive; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to introduce legislation that introduces new rules for executive formation in Northern Ireland, such that any political party eligible to join a power-sharing Executive, but which refuses to do so, will have withheld from it (1) its Assembly party funding, (2) the salaries of its Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), (3) the salaries of its MLAs’ staff, and (4) MLA office and travel expenses”.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I particularly welcome that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, is in his seat. I wish him and his family all the best. I thank the Minister for moving Second Reading. I fully support his Bill in these circumstances.

This amendment is procedurally unusual and puts down a marker only in order to highlight a deeply troubling gridlock in Northern Ireland’s self-governance that is relentlessly ravaging the very foundations of the Good Friday agreement. From 2007, when a settlement I helped to negotiate under Tony Blair brought the unlikely duo of Ian Paisley senior and Martin McGuinness to share power, there was a decade of DUP/Sinn Féin- led self-government as stable as Northern Ireland was ever likely to get. That was then collapsed by Sinn Féin for three years. Now, post Brexit, Stormont has again been collapsed, this time by the DUP, for over a year. I hope that the current UK-EU negotiations over the protocol will resolve that, but I am not sure they will.

Meanwhile, public support for the carefully negotiated system of self-government is in danger of collapsing completely in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis for generations, the NHS in Northern Ireland facing a worse crisis than anywhere else in the United Kingdom—costing lives—and other manifestations of dysfunctional public administration causing serious problems.

This amendment does not point fingers or apportion blame. Any political party has a right to refuse to serve and to use that as leverage. The problem is that the political architecture necessary to achieve the Good Friday peace accord requires cross-party government, so a refusal to serve collapses everything and amounts to a veto. There has to be a cost for doing that, and my amendment would impose one, not so much as a penalty but more as a deterrent.

I fully understand why the DUP believes it was betrayed by Boris Johnson and the noble Lord, Lord Frost. No doubt Sinn Féin believes it had good grounds for collapsing Stormont in January 2017. But this amendment stipulates that, if any party did that in the future, it would lose the millions of pounds that come with doing the jobs that the vast majority of the electorate in Northern Ireland rightly expect it to do. At current levels, that would total over £5 million for the DUP alone and a similar share for Sinn Féin. I urge the Government to consider legislation to that effect.

A situation in which one party or another can simply walk away and paralyse Northern Ireland’s self-governance because it does not get its way is anti- democratic. This issue will have to be addressed by the Government if the devolution settlement, which was so hard won, is to survive. I urge the Minister and his colleagues in the Cabinet seriously to consider this. I beg to move, although I will not seek to divide the House at the end of the debate.

19:08
Lord Dodds of Duncairn Portrait Lord Dodds of Duncairn (DUP)
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My Lords, I will speak to my amendment to the Motion and make some more general comments about the budget the Minister has brought forward. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Hain, in his remarks about the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and his family. I offer him our best wishes at this time.

It is important to remember how we got to this sad point, because we certainly believe that the budget for Northern Ireland should be set in the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont. It is a matter of deep regret that we find ourselves in this position this evening because the Government brought forward the Northern Ireland protocol and continue to implement it, albeit with significant grace periods and other measures that have not been fully implemented.

For the purpose of context, we should remember that, when the Executive ceased to function in Northern Ireland, the Sinn Féin Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, had been working on a budget from October 2021 to the spring of 2022. When he brought forward a budget, he failed to find any other party in the Northern Ireland Executive, which discussed the matter, to agree to it. So nobody should run away with the idea that having the Executive and the Assembly back will lead to some kind of wonderful outcome as far as the budget is concerned, because Sinn Féin brought forward a budget which was rejected by all the other parties—that was the state of play when the Assembly and the Executive finished. I remind your Lordships that at the start of 2017, Sinn Féin again held the Finance Minister position and the then Minister and his colleagues collapsed the Assembly and the Executive and refused to bring forward a budget for Northern Ireland, even though we were facing a very short timescale. It is important for context that your Lordships are aware of those points.

On the amendment to the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I fail to recall that any such amendment was brought forward at any point during the three years when Sinn Féin collapsed the Executive. Indeed, I asked the Library to check how many vociferous statements had been made by members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Northern Ireland spokespersons, people who take an interest in Northern Ireland, and Front-Bench spokespersons, and I found very few examples of them being prepared to come out and say, “Sinn Féin is at fault for the collapse of the Assembly”, or to seek any kind of punishment or redress. Instead, it was dressed up in all sorts of talk about the parties needing to come together. So it is interesting—and it will not be lost on unionists in Northern Ireland—that we have this approach to unionist parties, at a time when unionists are making the point that they cannot operate a protocol which is injurious to the union, the very thing we are there to defend and promote. The purpose or import of the amendment to the Motion would be, in effect, to expel a party from the political process: it would have no resources for offices, no staff and no salaries—nothing.

It is interesting, again, that when Sinn Féin refused to take their seats in the other place, extraordinary efforts were made to ensure that they received all the benefits of office, including salaries and staff. They even get a parliamentary allowance; it is not Short money, but it is actually looser than Short money and can be spent on all sorts of political promotion, courtesy of the UK taxpayer. Not a word is said about any of that; there is silence. That too is not lost on unionists.

The fundamental reason we are in this position this evening is the Northern Ireland protocol. The Minister said that he was disappointed about the lack of a functioning Executive, but I thought he would have mentioned the protocol and the disappointment we all feel in the unionist community in Northern Ireland—and, indeed, people beyond that—at the damage done by the protocol over the last few years. To suggest that we should now, in effect, expel parties—including the main unionist party—from the political process in Northern Ireland, which is the real import of the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, is a fundamental rewriting of the Belfast agreement. We are that told that it is important to have all these safeguards for the agreement, but the very things that are now being suggested are completely undermining any basis on which the Belfast agreement, as amended by St Andrews, is predicated. People talk about protecting the Belfast agreement, but they are quite happy to jettison at the first opportunity the fundamental requirements of the agreement when it suits them. When the rules come up with a result they do not like, they then change the rules. Yet we are told that the protocol is necessary to protect the agreement.

I have set out in the amendment to the Motion the reasons why the Bill is, unfortunately, necessary and why the Northern Ireland protocol, in our view, has to be replaced. It is incompatible with the Belfast agreement, as amended by St Andrews; it breaches the principle of consent; it undermines the three-strand approach of the political process in Northern Ireland, which has been the basis of people’s approach to the Northern Ireland situation for many years; and it undermines the cross-community voting mechanism. The idea that we have any kind of democratic consent in the Northern Ireland Assembly to the protocol, many years after it was implemented, but only on the basis of a majority vote—the only vote of any significance, which cannot be held without a consensus, or which is capable of being turned into a consensus with a cross-community vote—again undermines the agreement. It is undemocratic.

It is important to spell this out, because anyone listening to this debate, having heard the Minister outline the position, would think, “It is all just some arcane dispute between the Northern Ireland parties in Belfast; if only they would get their act together”, but it is far more fundamental than that. The Northern Ireland Assembly, if restored, will be denuded of powers to legislate over vast swathes of the economy: agri-food, manufactured goods and so on. VAT will be applied differently in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. We have already seen some of the outworking of that in the Budget Statement by the former Chancellor, now Prime Minister. State aid rules are applied completely differently, as we are under the EU regime. What self-respecting elected representative of the Northern Ireland Assembly, of whichever party, wants to celebrate and argue for a situation where they are deprived of the ability to make laws in over 300 areas of legislation that, rightfully, are mainly devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, but reserved to Parliament in some cases? It defies logic, it is not democratic and it is contrary to the New Decade, New Approach agreement, the basis on which the devolution settlement was restored in 2020 and which committed to the restoration of the United Kingdom internal market.

As has been illustrated in the court action taken by the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, among others, the protocol has breached the Acts of Union themselves. Of course, we will no doubt hear more about that tomorrow in the Supreme Court. The Government have vigorously defended the argument that the Acts of Union have been subsumed or derogated from to accommodate the Northern Ireland protocol.

For all those reasons, unionists who have any concern whatever for the future of Northern Ireland, or indeed anyone who is concerned with democracy and the betterment of the people of Northern Ireland, should have concerns about the protocol. Over many months before the Executive ceased to function, when the Democratic Unionist Party actually held the position of First Minister, we warned that we were coming to the point where we had to have some progress on these issues—and eventually that came to a head, as we know. Other noble Lords will no doubt talk about the costs of the trader support services, the digital assistance scheme and the movement assistance scheme, and all that. Taxpayers are paying out almost half a billion pounds—£500 million—and that is purely taxpayers’ support to help people fill in forms digitally, and all the rest of it. That sum could be in this budget, but it has been diverted to deal with the complications of the protocol. That is before adding in the costs to business and all that—and those of us who sit on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Select Committee will have heard from companies such as Marks & Spencer, which has spent up to £30 million setting up facilities for moving goods to Northern Ireland. That is just one company. These are extraordinary amounts of money—£500 million on that alone will go a long way to helping some of the problems that we have in Northern Ireland with education, health, policing and so on.

I hope sincerely that we can make real, significant progress towards finding a solution to the protocol problem. The Government have laid out their position in the Command Paper of July 2021, and the Explanatory Memorandum for the protocol Bill said very clearly what needed to be done to have a permanent, sustainable solution. I hope that the Government will hold firm to those commitments. They were not made by the DUP; they were not tests set by us. These were statements made by the Government of what needed to be done, and they cannot easily be put forward and then retracted. Indeed, the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, when he came to Belfast, at a meeting in Bangor when he was running for the leadership, committed to the objectives of the protocol Bill. We will measure what comes out of the talks against those commitments and against our seven tests.

If we are hearing, as we seem to be, that we will be left in a situation going forward where we will still be under EU jurisdiction and EU laws, with the oversight of the European Court of Justice at arm’s length, or whatever it is, that gross breach of sovereignty, as I have already outlined, will be something that unionists cannot accept. We are entitled to be part of the United Kingdom, to have our laws made by our elected representatives and to have internal trade of the United Kingdom flow freely between all parts of the United Kingdom. So we have to have something that will work, going forward.

Some of the talk about green lanes and red lanes and all the rest of it means different things to different people. It seems to us that it is very much based on the proposals put forward by the European Union last October. It could be that it has moved on from that—but we should remember that, even if we solve the issue of red and green lanes and all that, it does not get to the heart of the problem of the differences in terms of divergence and diversion of trade, and the problems that will exist if you have a lot of the laws of Northern Ireland being made by a foreign political entity in its interests, and not in the interests of Northern Ireland, and with no say or vote by anyone in Northern Ireland. That cannot be sustainable going forward.

If we find ourselves in a position whereby the Government do not hold fast to their stated position and the commitments that they have made to the people of Northern Ireland and that they have made about the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the free flow of trade within the UK internal market, we will be in a position of looking to the longer term governance of Northern Ireland without an Assembly and an Executive. That is unfortunate, but it will be the reality of the situation.

There may be attempts, as we have heard already, to chuck out the Belfast agreement, St Andrews and all the rest of it. I would suggest that that is a very dangerous course to embark on—a very dangerous course to embark on. We need to work to try to restore those institutions, but on the basis of agreements that are already there. As we heard previously from the Dispatch Box and on the Front Bench, the only means of making changes to the current arrangements is by a sufficient consensus of unionists and nationalists to make those changes, and anyone who suggests that you breach that fundamental principle of political decision-making and institution-making in Northern Ireland is going down a very dangerous path, as I said.

So what should happen? We cannot have a return to the situation where, over a long period, civil servants are left to run Northern Ireland, even with so-called guidance. We cannot have years of stasis with no political guidance. This is the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Ministers in His Majesty’s Government are responsible for the good governance of Northern Ireland. Indeed, I think that those words were part of a previous election manifesto commitment of the Conservative Party, where it was made clear that, in the absence of devolution, it is the responsibility of the Westminster Government to make decisions—decisions that will be accountable, whereby we can question and query and hold Ministers to account. Civil servants cannot be put in that position; it is unfair to them and to the people of Northern Ireland.

The choice is not between having no Executive and therefore no Government. There is an alternative—we can have government—and it is up to the Government here to take on that responsibility. I have to say that some people may say that that means that there is decision-making from London as opposed to Belfast, but, over recent times we are already seeing a constant working against the devolved settlement, in any case. We have seen it with abortion regulations and with the legacy proposals, and we have seen it with changing the voting mechanism for the protocol. We have seen it most recently in relation to the statutory instrument due to be brought forward soon in relation to border control posts. All those are devolved issues, yet the Government decided to intervene. So they are already doing it, but it seems that they pick and choose which areas to override the devolved settlement on. So what I am saying is that we cannot go back to the situation where civil servants are running Northern Ireland; we have to have a situation where there are accountable Ministers, if not at Stormont then here.

It is important that these matters are explored in detail, and they have to be explored in this House in this Parliament by the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

19:28
Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Lab)
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My Lords, first I offer my support and the support of these Benches to the noble Lord, Lord Empey, Lady Stella and the family at this time.

The debate on the Second Reading of the budget Bill should be happening in the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly following approval in the Executive; it should not be happening here. But I suppose those words are self-evident. All parties in Northern Ireland have to take devolution and power sharing seriously and see it as a duty and obligation to represent everyone on a fair and equal basis. I support this Bill as it deals with the financial necessity for the people of Northern Ireland. Other necessities have already been referred to, along with the positive outcome required to the UK/EU negotiations on the protocol and the restoration of our political institutions.

There is no doubt that we in Northern Ireland face challenging political circumstances, where the political institutions to which people have been elected are lying dormant due—and I say this in the kindest possible way—to the disproportionate opposition from the DUP over the protocol to the hurt that is being caused.

Reference has already been made to the fact that this is not the first time the institutions have lain dormant: it happened in 2017, when Sinn Féin brought down the institutions. Again, that was disproportionate and unacceptable. Both actions do nothing to assist the body politic or communities in Northern Ireland which are facing a constant, piercing cost of living crisis, as is characterised by the budget under debate this evening. They have ongoing problems with health waiting lists and inadequate funding for our police and education services. Nobody is served by the policies of abstentionism, as currently practised by the DUP in the Assembly, by Sinn Féin previously in the Assembly and by Sinn Féin in the other place. I believe that no political principle is worth withholding participation in democratic institutions or not allowing them to function properly.

My noble friend Lord Hain’s amendment reflects in many ways the frustration, anxiety and weariness of many people and communities throughout Northern Ireland about the lack of political institutions operating to their full potential. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, as I thought it would, reflects the DUP’s opposition to the protocol. I just gently say that the DUP, along with the ERG, supported a hard Brexit which the people of Northern Ireland did not vote for. The majority voted to remain within the EU, the protocol is a consequence of Brexit, and the problems emerged on leaving the European Union. But let us leave that aside, because we could cast lots across the Chamber about the benefits and disbenefits of the protocol.

I know the Minister met with the dairy industry in Newtownards and was given presentations by Dr Mike Johnston and senior representatives of Lakeland Dairies. They showed quite clearly, as they showed me when I met them back in November, the benefits and difficulties and challenges presented by the protocol Bill. When members of the protocol sub-committee were in Newry and Belfast, we heard evidence in Newry about how it benefits, in a financial way, the cross-border economy, while we heard evidence in Belfast from the haulage industry about the problems and challenges of the protocol, but I hope that those challenges and difficulties are currently the subject of negotiations. I ask the Minister to provide us with a little update on those negotiations: are they in the tunnel or near the landing zone? I hope they will lead to a resolution of the current difficulties and a restoration of the institutions.

But we are dealing with a budget Bill and we have strange political circumstances: we have an indirect form of direct rule. The budget is for this financial year, which will expire in four or five weeks, and Permanent Secretaries are facing funding decisions within their own departments over spending priorities. The budget is being set by a Conservative Party, despite little electoral support in the region, because of the political circumstances of Northern Ireland. While the Bill includes a vote on account for the upcoming financial year, it does not provide clarity on the resources that Northern Ireland departments will have available over the next financial year, which is just a short time away. Undoubtedly this leads to an inability to plan, which has significant implications for the delivery of public services.

For example, the Department of Health does not have the necessary confidence and clarity to invest in staffing teams to help deal with waiting lists, which are some of the worst in the UK. Many people in Northern Ireland, and maybe some in your Lordships’ House, are waiting to access those waiting lists for surgical and other types of medical, clinical procedures. As we discuss the budget, it is worth remembering that the UK is the only nation in the G7 whose economy will shrink in 2022-23, according to the International Monetary Fund. Have the Government any reason for this? Has the analysis carried out by the IMF been shared by the Treasury with the Northern Ireland Office?

I will take a little snapshot on health. Spending on the transformation of the ambulance service is urgently required. GPs are facing an existential crisis: they are doing more and more work to ease the pressure on our hospitals, but there is not the money to enable them to do so. Mental health figures for Northern Ireland are some of the worst in the UK and Ireland, some of which is attributed to the legacy of the Troubles. A commissioner has been appointed to deal with this and he developed a strategy, but now the plan cannot be funded. An above-inflation pay increase is required for our nurses and, as far as I know, nurses in Northern Ireland of comparable grades, qualifications and training receive less in their salaries than those in the same categories here in Britain.

I support the Bill. I deeply regret that we find ourselves in circumstances where we are discussing these issues. I hope there is a resolution to the protocol negotiations and a restoration of political institutions that will enable people who are elected by the people of Northern Ireland to the Assembly to form an Executive, to make recommendations around that executive table for budget allocations and for the Assembly to debate and agree the Bill, which would be given detailed scrutiny in committee and on the floor of the chamber. I just regret that we are discussing this, not the people whom we elect to do it on our behalf in Northern Ireland.

Horn of Africa: Famine

Tuesday 7th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question for Short Debate
19:37
Asked by
Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to alleviate the consequences of the famine in the Horn of Africa.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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My Lords, it is perhaps fitting that this debate takes place on the day of the memorial service for the late Lord Chidgey, who was so passionate about all things to do with Africa and would have shared many of the concerns that I suspect are going to be talked about in our one hour together.

It is with sadness that I stand here today to address this problem, although I hope that our debate may in some small way raise awareness of what is an extraordinary tragedy unfolding before us. As many noble Lords know, this region is currently experiencing one of the longest and most severe droughts on record. This, coupled with conflict and displacement, has led to an unprecedented food and nutrition emergency affecting almost 40 million people. The UN has already said that

“Famine is at the door”


in some parts of Somalia.

We are already seeing the effects of this crisis. UNICEF estimates that up to 5.7 million children in the region require treatment for acute malnutrition, with 1.8 million already experiencing it. This famine, initially caused by climate change, has been compounded by a series of other factors, making it far worse than what we have seen before. An outbreak of locusts, described by the UN as the worst in 25 years, has ravished crops across the region. The ongoing civil wars in Ethiopia and Somalia have displaced millions and made provision of food aid even more difficult.

The reverberations of President Putin’s terrible war in Ukraine have added to the problem. We now face the worst global food crisis of the modern era, with the UN reporting that global food prices hit a record high in March 2022. This has hit those in the Horn of Africa hardest. Russia and Ukraine are both ranked among the top three global exporters of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower seeds. Prior to the conflict, Somalia imported 92% of its grain from Russia and Ukraine. However, the impact of the war on farming and export, alongside the blockade on Ukrainian seaports by the Russian navy, has almost completely halted their food supply to the Horn of Africa. Only a few months ago, a ship containing 40,000 tonnes of wheat heading for Ethiopia could not leave its port simply due to a blockade.

In these challenging times, it is important that the UK works with its international partners to mitigate the effects of the crisis in Ukraine and its food security impacts on global supply chains. It is very clear that, if the world does not act quickly and decisively, hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, will die. I again highlight my deep regret at His Majesty’s Government’s cuts to official development assistance spending. In a time of such global misery, when the entire world seems to be facing unprecedented turmoil, we need to ask ourselves whether this is the time to be stepping back or stepping up and taking a lead. We as a country have a proud history of supporting those less fortunate, particularly in the Horn of Africa, where we have a long and deep history of engagement and support.

Even in recent years, the UK has demonstrated swift and decisive leadership, such as in 2017 when the speedy provision of £861 million to east Africa helped avert a famine, saving lives. We stood at the forefront of international efforts to provide food, water and emergency services. It is to be regretted that the UK has been cutting its international aid to east Africa. For example, in 2017 we invested £282 million in Somalia; by 2021, this had dropped to £232 million, despite inflation.

It is therefore with great regret that we hear of the Government’s confirmation of an allocation of a very modest £157 million this year across east Africa—less than a fifth of what we provided in 2017. We have demonstrated how capable we are of providing help in the past, but now I fear we may be turning our backs. The food crisis faced by those in the Horn of Africa is severe. Where we have acted slowly or indecisively in the past, it has led to countless losses of human life. In 2011, the inadequate global response to the famine in Somalia led to 260,000 deaths, half of them children.

Having worked with many food banks and voluntary groups in this country, I recognise that we are facing a severe cost of living crisis. It is deeply worrying to hear of the difficulties that people are facing at home. I am aware of them in the communities in my diocese. I share the concern of His Majesty’s Government and a great many people that we spend our money frugally and carefully. However, I am constantly reminded that we are a generous people; the British public have already raised over £400 million in donations for Ukraine.

We are witnessing one of the worst famines that our world has faced for 40 years, with a potential for unimaginable loss of human life. In the short term, our first step needs to be drastically scaling up our emergency response. An imminent, looming famine is projected to be at the door. The UK must demonstrate global leadership and spearhead further aid spending. I would be very interested if the Minister could tell us what representations we have made to our partners in Europe and other parts of the world, as I know that the World Bank is getting involved. We all have to work together; we must not presume that we have to do it all, but this is a time that calls for leadership. We are uniquely positioned to encourage African Union member states, global financial institutions and the private sector to provide funding and support for the Horn of Africa.

Learning from the lessons of prior famines, we need to take an approach of supporting and empowering local actors. These are often the first, most efficient and most effective responders to crises. In many cases, it is local church leaders who have the confidence of their communities and are best placed to give a lead. We have seen this, for example, in the educational programmes being rolled out for Ebola in other parts of Africa; a UN team in white hazmat suits simply scares people, but local leaders whom people know are best placed to help teach them the best ways—in that case around health prevention and here around growing crops and organising themselves. We are standing by to help with our own links in Africa through our dioceses and are in touch with many of the leaders there.

In the long term, our focus needs to be on addressing the impacts of climate change and demonstrating the global leadership that we are already giving. At COP 26, a great deal of importance was placed on loss and damage compensation for the global South—regions such as the Horn of Africa, where our climate impact is causing serious harm. We need to support the Glasgow climate pact, which calls for a commitment to climate finance for developing countries to help them better develop infrastructure that is more resilient to these climate shocks, such as famines.

As a nation, we have stood out as global leaders in the past. It is important that this Government continue this great tradition. We have been fundamental in saving millions of lives. I urge the Government to do the same again in this crisis.

19:48
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for the way in which he has opened this short debate. I also echo his remarks about the late Lord Chidgey. I think all of us who knew David Chidgey well and were able to attend the wonderful celebration of his life today in St Margaret’s know how sorely his voice is missed. Earlier today, there was a meeting of the All-Party Group on Sudan and South Sudan; he and I were fellow officers of that group, and his absence was keenly felt.

I currently chair the APPG’s inquiry into Darfur. I also took part in the International Relations and Defence Committee’s inquiry into sub-Saharan Africa and initiated debates in this House on the effects of Putin’s Ukrainian grain blockade and the war in Tigray, where between 600,000 and 800,000 lives have been lost. The UK Government have said that the use of food as a weapon of war in Tigray could constitute a war crime. Can the Minister tell us what has been done to establish the case against those responsible and bring them to justice? How have we taken forward UN Security Council Resolution 2417 on the starvation of civilians and unlawful denial of humanitarian access as tactics in warfare?

Two weeks ago, I chaired a meeting of the APPG for Africa in collaboration with the Royal African Society, where we heard disturbing first-hand accounts from Tigray. I will be particularly keen to hear the Minister’s assessment of what humanitarian aid is reaching Tigray, and indeed the bordering regions of Afar and Amhara.

Time is short this evening and it is impossible in a few minutes to do justice to all the excellent briefing material about the situation across the Horn of Africa which has been sent to us ahead of the debate. In case the Minister had not seen all the briefings, I took the liberty of giving him hard copies just before the debate began. He will see there some consistent messages—indeed, messages that are also in the excellent House of Lords Library Note we have received. It describes how the Horn of Africa is experiencing, as the right reverend Prelate rightly told us, the longest drought in four decades, with no end in sight.

Recovery from a drought of this magnitude will presumably take years. Exacerbated by soaring food prices, political instability, conflict, locusts—as we have heard—Covid-19 and the effects of climate-induced drought, or floods in the case of South Sudan, which I will mention, it is causing people’s lives across the region to be devastated. It has led to 36.4 million people suffering from hunger across the region and 21.7 million requiring food assistance. A famine has de jure yet to be declared, but de facto one has already come into existence. Famine is knocking at the front door.

The United Nations says that 36.4 million people, including 19.9 million children, have been affected by the drought, and that 21.7 million people, including 10.8 million children, need food assistance. UNICEF says that 5.7 million children require treatment for acute malnutrition, with 1.8 million subject to life-threatening malnutrition. In Somalia, the situation remains particularly critical, with 5.6 million people currently acutely food insecure; that figure is expected to rise to 6.4 million by March. Some 1.8 million children under the age of five are expected to face acute malnutrition by July 2023.

Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether the Government accept these figures and what numbers he has for current levels of death from hunger and malnutrition. Specifically, when does the Minister’s department predict that the 20% threshold used to formally declare a famine—when at least 20% of the population face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%, and at least two in every 10,000 people die every day from hunger—will technically be reached? The World Food Programme says that it urgently needs $689 million until May 2023

“to prevent widespread loss of lives”,

and that as it tries to respond to 8.8 million people, funding shortfalls have already forced the WFP to prioritise who receives assistance and who goes hungry. Does the Minister accept the World Food Programme’s estimate?

Notwithstanding a rapidly mounting death toll and what seems like acceleration towards a human catastrophe, the 2022-23 funding allocation for the Horn of Africa is lower than the 2021-22 allocation and less than a fifth of the £861 million provided by the UK Government during the last famine in 2017-18. That intervention, to the credit of this great country, saved millions of lives. With a desperate population again living on the brink, I hope the Minister can tell us whether we will re-examine the level of support and at the very minimum offer to match pound for pound an appeal to the generous people of this country via the Disasters Emergency Committee. Can he also clarify what proportion of the £372 million pledged for countries facing severe hunger crises will be disbursed to east Africa?

Let me ask specifically about Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea. This afternoon, our two excellent ambassadors in Sudan and South Sudan, Giles Lever and Jonny Baxter, briefed the APPG. Mr Lever told us that in Sudan “15.8 million people—one third of the population—will need humanitarian assistance”. He described insufficient supplies of bread and wheat and how what was available was priced out of the range of the majority of the population. He also said that increased displacements in Darfur—now at the rate of 200,000 people each year, in addition to all those already displaced—are adding to the challenges in a region which was subjected to a genocide in which 300,000 people died and more than 2 million were displaced.

In South Sudan, Mr Baxter spoke warmly of the ecumenical visit last week but sombrely spelt out the effects of violence and displacement on tens of thousands of people. While we all earnestly hope for peace, South Sudan has had four years of floods, not drought, and seen another 1 million people displaced. Mr Baxter told us that “9 million out of 12 million people are in need of help, 74% of the population are in need of humanitarian help and 63% are dependent on food aid”.

However, on a more hopeful note, the ambassador said that South Sudan could once again become a net exporter of food, and indeed meet all the food needs of the region, but that such development will require old warlords to become real leaders. It will require reconciliation rather than conflict, not least the appalling violence done in South Sudan to women. If the expectation is of help from outside, there must really be a commitment to self-help from within, and that means tackling the double curse of conflict and corruption.

In the case of Eritrea, the country is endowed with 1,500 kilometres of Red Sea coast, with huge potential for a viable and highly productive fishing industry which could help to boost food security, yet that was arbitrarily closed by the Eritrean regime. Instead of feeding its people, the dictatorship is more intent on conscripting 50% of its working population into the military, running a police state, generating a mass exodus of refugees, pursuing military conquest and committing atrocities, undermining food security in the region. Internally it provides very weak social protection but no end of curfews, restrictions on movement, power outages in Asmara and limited running water. NGOs have been denied access to deliver help and support, while fleeing refugees report starving families and destitute women begging on the street. Remittances from the diaspora to help relatives are reported to often end up in the Government’s coffers. That must all change.

Across the region, we need to tackle root causes, whether it is tackling corruption and the diversion of much-needed resources into manmade conflict, or creating greater resilience and sustainability by harnessing renewable energy, for instance, to create desalination for better crop production.

Famine will not wait on Budget decisions. Jeremy Hunt and Andrew Mitchell know Africa well, and they know the consequences of failing to urgently scale up the emergency response so that we can do the development things that are required. I know I join others in the House in thanking the right reverend Prelate for enabling us to debate this important subject today.

19:57
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, as always, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord in a debate like this. I am very glad that he mentioned Sudan, which I will touch on in a moment. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on ensuring that we have this important debate and allow the Minister to update the House on the Government’s actions. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, indicated, we received comprehensive briefings, which are greatly valued. The right reverend Prelate introduced the debate in a very comprehensive way; I will not repeat some of those comments.

The right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, also referenced that this debate is lesser because it does not have my noble and late friend Lord Chidgey taking part in it, which he most certainly would have if he was still with us. David was able to contribute to debates like this with a hinterland of experience and knowledge, as well as a Liberal passion, and we all miss him.

It is, to some extent, incongruous that we are debating hunger and famine in what only the House of Lords could indicate to be a dinner break debate. It struck me that if this debate is an hour long, according to the briefing from Action Against Hunger, 100 children will die of starvation in the Horn of Africa in that time. That put it into context. I was trying to find equivalents of some of the statistics, because with some of these debates, as we have indicated before, relaying the figures can be numbing.

The World Food Programme has estimated that 5.1 million children are acutely malnourished. That is not much more than the entire population of 10 to 14 year-olds in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the context we have to be aware of is that that entire age group in the UK would be malnourished. What kind of mobilisation would that have across the entire body politic of our country to try to resolve it? That is the scale of the challenge that exists.

I declare that I will be in Africa next week—I am a vice-chair of the All-Party Group for Africa—and I hope that I will soon return to Sudan. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, indicated, famine can be caused by both drought and floods. I have been to Gedaref in Sudan, which is an area afflicted by floods that can then bring about a degree of hunger, which drought can also cause. As the right reverend Prelate indicated, there is a 40 year-old seriousness about this, so for the Government to slash their support by 80% is not a response which any Government who want to be held in high esteem for their humanitarian responses should be proud of.

This is also in the context of the Russian Government in effect weaponising grain and using it geopolitically— I will be talking more about that in our debate on Thursday. I have raised in previous debates that a second front is opening in the conflict in Ukraine, in the east and in the global south. The UK is not responding appropriately to this second front, which is being used by Russia and, to a lesser extent, by China. We will, unfortunately, pay the price in the long term. But the real price is being paid by the people in the Horn of Africa region. As the statistics say, 22 million people are facing acute hunger.

I hope that the Minister can clarify what the current level of support is. As the right reverend Prelate said, the reduction in support in 2017 from over £800 million to now just £156 million is shocking. Can the Minister clarify what the current level of support is for this region? I would be grateful also if he could give an update as to what we are doing with our allies and friends, in particular those in the near region of this area. In the past, the UK was able to lever a quite considerable diplomatic and humanitarian response action. There is the famine prevention initiative from 2021, and the G7 famine prevention and humanitarian crisis compact, but what is the UK doing to lever in additional support? My big concern is that not only have we reduced the direct level of humanitarian cash assistance but that we are not levering in the diplomatic influence that we had in the past. I have not seen anything to indicate that we have been speaking to our Gulf allies, with their humanitarian support, to ensure that there is the necessary type of support. I would be grateful if the Minister could state in clear terms what we are doing.

As has been indicated before, the region has also been afflicted by conflict. We have debated the Eritrean and Ethiopian situation, but what is the Government’s current view of the likely consequences of that conflict and of where we are on peace discussions?

We need to look to the future, as has also been indicated. This region contributes 0.6% of greenhouse gases in the world, yet the people who live in this area are the ones who are affected most by climate change. This injustice is stark. What are the Government doing to lever in climate finance which will be used in this area? Again, there have been very few updates from the Glasgow climate compact. There was a $100 billion target with regard to commitments for the global south, with 50% of that for adaptation. Can the Minister give us an update on the current level of commitments for that? I know that he is particularly passionate about that area, so I hope he will be able to update us.

As has been indicated, this region can be self-sufficient in food. Tanzania and Uganda could be self-sufficient themselves, but there are issues with cost, quality and predictability of supply. The UK can play a pivotal role in supporting trade facilitation that focuses on local farmer sustainability. Therefore, the World Food Programme does not have to source its food from overseas. One of the ironies of this region, which could be self-sufficient, is that emergency food supplies are bought in from elsewhere, so we need to focus on support within that area. That means that the region would be much more resilient to shocks such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Therefore, the support on standards, the certainty of supply, safety of supply and reducing trade barriers would facilitate this.

A UK organisation which is funded by overseas development assistance, TradeMark East Africa, is pivotal to that support. One example, which TradeMark East Africa raised with me, is with regard to transfers of maize supplies between Tanzania and Kenya. At the moment, for one truck of supply there is a cost of $200 to cross the border. If we move towards more digital procedures, reducing some of the bureaucracy and supporting the process, we can work as partners with the countries themselves to ensure that supply. TradeMark East Africa’s support has also been greatly reduced at exactly the time when planning for the future needs to be paramount. I hope the Minister is able to give an update on our support for TradeMark East Africa. It is regrettable that our humanitarian and development assistance have been reduced, but that is not irreversible. The focus needs to be on ensuring that the Government live up to what we want to see in the world, which is a partner in a time of crisis and a partner in investment for the future.

20:06
Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank the right reverend Prelate for initiating this debate and reminding us of what is going on in the world. Sometimes we forget, and particularly this sort of crisis. I also want to associate myself with the remarks of the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords about Lord Chidgey. Unfortunately, I could not attend the memorial this morning due to another commitment, but my thoughts were very much there. We worked very closely together and he is sorely missed, particularly on issues about Africa, and in particular Africa’s potential—that was his focus.

I also declare my interest as co-chair of the APPG on Nutrition for Development. I think the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords mentioned that this is not a crisis that we cannot do anything about; it could be changed, and nutrition is also an important aspect of what is holding back African countries. Certainly, in the Horn of Africa there is the impact of malnutrition and the fact that stunting is still a huge issue that affects education, the ability of workers to contribute, and brain development. All those things have a huge economic impact that could be addressed. However, our focus tonight is also on the urgent humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa. It is facing its longest drought in four years, compounded, as others have said, by years of conflict and instability, the impact of climate change and Covid-19, as well as rising food prices due to the war in Ukraine. Millions in the Horn of Africa face acute hunger.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, highlighted, climate change impacts communities that contribute the least to it and have the fewest resources to respond to it. In east Africa, climate change is bringing a succession of extreme weather events to a part of the world that is currently ill-equipped to withstand them. Unpredictability of seasonal rains, causing droughts and increased floods, has resulted in local harvests failing, leaving countries reliant on imports. Women and girls are facing the terrible brunt of this crisis. Often responsible for collecting water, they face longer and more dangerous journeys to find it. Girls are often the first to be pulled out of school when families are struggling to survive.

Along with other noble Lords, I pay tribute to all the briefings that we have received, particularly from the World Food Programme, which estimates that the impact of the drought on food and nutrition security has left 22 million people facing acute hunger. This is almost double the 13 million people at the beginning of 2022. In its November review, the UN reported that 36.4 million people, including nearly 20 million children, were affected by drought, and that 21.7 million people needed food assistance. We have seen reports from UNICEF which estimate that up to 5.7 million children in the region require treatment for acute malnutrition. As I said, these are preventable things and, if we do nothing, they will have terrible lifelong effects. That is what we should be addressing.

I have repeatedly said to the Minister that the UK has provided excellent leadership on nutrition, particularly leading up to the Tokyo summit. I also welcome the pledges that the Government made on nutrition. What we want to hear, if not tonight, is that we regularly report on those commitments made at Tokyo, so that we can see what impact they have and encourage others to join in.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has said that the famine early warning system estimates that there is a famine in the Horn of Africa now. I do not disagree with him. The official response is that the Horn of Africa will face a famine in this year. Although Ethiopia has demonstrated economic growth over the past two decades, and we have often focused on it as a place of progress and development, what has halted that is the insecurity that has grown mainly from the serious malnutrition that remains a concern there, which is caused by the horrific conflict in Tigray. The famine early warning system has said that the Tigray region and the bordering regions of Afar and Amhara remain of high concern—and that is putting it mildly.

In the current situation, there is hope. I hope that the Minister can respond to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about what assessment we currently have of the November 2022 agreement, when the regional forces and the Ethiopian federal Government agreed to a permanent ceasefire or cessation of hostilities. I also hope that the noble Lord can tell us what his response is to the recent reports that, despite organised withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, small units remain in the region. I hope that he can reassure us on that.

We have seen in the briefings many calls for action, particularly from the UN, setting out the $3.7 billion in requirements for response funding, with a target of 27.4 million people. I hope that the UN has also focused on the efforts of the humanitarian organisations which have swiftly responded to those reports. As we have seen, there is a target, which I hope the UK Government are also working with allies to deliver. Of course, the problem is that funding is always going to be an issue. Faced with delayed and inadequate funding, it is inevitable that another potential drought will cause an even greater humanitarian crisis. Many of the humanitarian workers have been struggling to respond to all the needs of the affected population.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has acknowledged, in 2022-23 the United Kingdom allocated £156 million to humanitarian support for the Horn of Africa, of which £93 million has already been spent. On 17 January, the Minister for Africa announced an additional £17 million funding package to support people affected by the drought, with £5 million for Ethiopia, £1 million for Kenya, £8 million for Somalia and £3 million for South Sudan. What percentage of the £156 million pledged to address the humanitarian crisis has gone to local NGOs in Ethiopia? Besides funding, in what other ways are we supporting the locally led humanitarian response? Here, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that it is local NGOs and local community leaders who can lead the way.

On that, I am visiting Kenya again next week. I visited two years ago, when I saw the importance of civil society in changing things in the local economy and agriculture and in supporting the basic building block of universal health coverage. That was delivered not simply by government diktat, but by working with local communities and ensuring that community nurses and health workers were able to be based in those communities, changing things in practical ways.

I want to ask about the Government’s issue with addressing climate change. Will they consider prioritising climate action in directing more climate finance to fragile and conflict-affected areas? The noble Lord, Lord Alton, highlighted Somalia, which currently receives an 80th per capita of the climate finance that flows to non-fragile states. With a reduced ODA budget, will the United Kingdom consider increasing funding for catalytic investments to expand social protection programmes across the Horn of Africa?

I very much welcome this debate. It will not be the last word on this issue, but we need to respond to this crisis not in terms of hopelessness but with a determination to change things. As we have heard, the Horn of Africa can be a thriving economy and it can certainly deliver for its own people.

20:18
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for tabling this hugely important and timely debate. I am also grateful for the insightful contributions of other noble Lords who have spoken. I echo the tributes that previous speakers have paid to the late Lord Chidgey, with whom I had a number of exchanges; he was always polite, positive and constructive, usually on issues relating to the environment, which was a passion for him. Although I have not been here as long as other noble Lords in the Chamber today, I know that he will be missed.

The humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa has pushed tens of millions of people to a cliff edge, driven by a combination of conflict, the worst drought in 40 years and the rocketing prices that have resulted from Russia’s illegal war—a point made by the right reverend Prelate.

Before I continue, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the regular information he provides via email and the bundle of reading material that I will take away after this debate. Having looked at it, some of which I had seen before, it makes for grim reading but is enormously important. In answering his question specifically, I say that we agree with the World Food Programme’s assessment of needs across the region. Unfortunately, we think that these figures are correct, but we wish that they were not.

Across east Africa, more than 71 million people are in need of aid. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others said, rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are, sadly, soaring. In drought-affected areas across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, almost 24 million people cannot access enough drinking water and over 9 million livestock have died. In the Horn of Africa, more than three-quarters of a million people are predicted to fall into famine-like conditions by March, with millions more teetering on the edge. The situation is grave and at risk of deteriorating much further.

In Somalia, the number of people facing extreme food insecurity is likely to double by April. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I will pinch an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, who touched on this. Famine declaration is a matter for the independent classification process. However, we know that, if aid is not sufficiently scaled up by June, famine is very likely to return.

The UK Government are committed to alleviating suffering and are playing a lead role in the international humanitarian response. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, I say that this financial year we will provide at least £156 million of humanitarian aid across east Africa, which will benefit millions of people.

Last month, the Foreign Secretary and the Development Minister both travelled to Ethiopia and Somalia, although separately. They saw the impact of the crisis, heard sobering testimonies from some of those affected and saw how UK aid is providing a lifeline.

In Ethiopia, nearly 30 million people—more than in any other country in the world—are in need of emergency aid. Since April 2021, the UK Government have helped over a million Ethiopians, with more than £100 million of UK aid. On 20 January, the Minister for Development announced a new £16 million package of UK support that will reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Tigray is another issue that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raises diligently and relentlessly—in the positive not negative sense, certainly from my time as a Minister. It is difficult to give a precise response. We are cautiously optimistic. We cautiously welcome the peace agreement and the commitment that both sides have made to facilitating humanitarian and aid access. Based on what we know and believe, access is improving, so this is more than just a paper agreement, but the situation, as he knows better than most, is extremely complicated.

In Somalia this financial year we will allocate more than £61 million for life-saving humanitarian, health and nutrition programmes, and in Kenya we have provided more than 30,000 children with life-saving nutrition. This latest support builds on years of UK government humanitarian work in the region. Since 2018, over 9.3 million people in Somalia have benefited from humanitarian and resilience-building programmes supported by the UK. From 2018 to 2022, we provided nearly 1.9 million people with better access to water and 3.9 million people with support for agricultural production.

In drought-prone areas of Ethiopia, we have worked since 2015 with the Government to provide financial support and means of conserving water to 8 million people each year. In Kenya, a similar programme in drought-prone areas has reached over half a million people.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, mentioned trade. I thank him for doing so. While we are on Kenya, I was looking to provide him with a decent answer to this question, but, if he does not mind, I will give him only part of a decent answer. Since 2017, the regional economic department for investment and trade programme, which we support, has successfully supported tariff reform and facilitation of development of physical infrastructure with a view to boosting the prosperity of Kenya and the wider region. That is not aid, although aid has a role. The noble Lord is absolutely right to focus on trade. Although I am not a Trade Minister, I am having increasingly frequent exchanges with colleagues in the Department for International Trade as a Foreign Office Minister, because there is no doubt that effective facilitation of trade can so often be more effective than deployment of aid. So I thank the noble Lord for raising that point.

Noble Lords will be all too aware that climate change increases the risk of prolonged droughts. Indeed, everyone who spoke raised the issue. The UK Government have stood by their pledge to commit up to £11.6 billion of climate finance between 2021 and 2026. It is absolutely essential that the Government honour that pledge. I encourage all noble Lords to keep a very close eye on us: Governments can be tricky things. It is absolutely critical that the pledge is honoured, for so many different reasons, beyond even climate change itself. Our reputation as a country hinges absolutely on our having made that pledge and having used it to leverage generous commitments from other donor countries. Without it, we would not have secured the kind of increase in finance commitments that we have seen at and since Glasgow, so it is really essential.

It is not just about reputational issues. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, climate change is not an academic discussion point for the countries that we are discussing today. For so many on the front line, it is an existential issue. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, made the point that Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia contributed around 0.6% to the problem. I think that that was the figure he used—I hope that I did not get it wrong. Yet those three countries have had just two normal rainy seasons since 2016. It really shows that those countries most on the front line tend to have contributed least and urgently need support.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, made the point that we should be focusing much of our support on those countries that really are on the front line, the poorest and most vulnerable. He is right, although our climate approach has to be balanced on prevention and mitigation of climate change; we will not always be focusing on the very poorest countries. We all need the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Indonesia’s forests and peatlands to be protected and restored. Those do not necessarily coincide with the poorest people in the world, but if they go, we are all finished. However, when it comes to adaptation, it is about the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. He is absolutely right to make that point. I hope that that is reflected in the way we invest in the commitment I mentioned earlier.

In response to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, we are working in tandem with our international partners to address the risk of famine and help the region build resilience. For example, our humanitarian aid partnership with Saudi Arabia has led their humanitarian agency to provide match funding of £1.7 million in Somalia. We are also expanding our work with Germany and the World Bank to strengthen agriculture and the response to droughts.

I fully acknowledge the impact of the ODA cuts, as I have done many times in this House. The point was initially raised by the right reverend Prelate, then by other speakers. I will make just two points. Despite that reduction, the UK is the third-highest spender of ODA in the G7 as a percentage of GNI, spending more than £11 billion on aid in 2021. In recognition of the unanticipated and significant costs incurred supporting people from Ukraine and Afghanistan, the Government are also spending an additional £1 billion in 2022-23 and £1.5 billion in 2023-24 to try to accommodate those costs. I agree with the speakers today that we absolutely must return to 0.7% as soon as we possibly can. There really should be no delay.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, made a point about the quality of investment, not just the quantum. He is right there as well. We need the quantum, but we also need transparency and monitoring. That applies very much to the Tokyo commitments. So that point is very much noted, and he is right to have made it.

The severity of the drought and food insecurity facing the Horn of Africa is crystal clear. The situation is at risk of getting, and is likely to get, worse. Our humanitarian support to East Africa is providing millions of people with essential services, and we will continue to work with partners to save lives and build resilience. Once again, I thank noble Lords for their insightful contributions and the right reverend Prelate for initiating the debate.

Viscount Waverley Portrait Viscount Waverley (CB)
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I thank the Minister. It really has been a most distressing tale that we have heard this evening. I, too, wish to thank everyone who has brought such an insight into this area. Concentration has been made on many of the countries and regions within the Horn of Africa, but very little attention or mention has been given to Djibouti and Somaliland, which are two very important parts of countries within that region. Would the Minister care to offer any message of lessons learned as a result of their circumstances in that region?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Viscount for raising that point. I certainly would not want to pretend to be an expert on either country. One of the problems with Somaliland is that technically and legally it belongs to Somalia. Therefore, when we talk about Somalia we are often talking about Somaliland, but they are really two very different countries with different Governments. In so many respects, Somaliland is a beacon: it is a place where elections are held, people shake hands afterwards and do not contest them. Iris technology is used to avoid fraud. Despite its really horrific back story, which the noble Viscount will know well, and all the cards being stacked against it, it has flourished and succeeded. There are lessons to be learned there and I hope the UK will be able to increase its support for that region.

While we are on this issue, I did not mention the ever-present threat of al-Shabaab, which is a key driver of the humanitarian crisis. I do not think that anyone else mentioned it, either; I apologise if they did. I reiterate that the UK is supporting the African Union’s efforts to counter al-Shabaab. We are looking for opportunities to continue to do so with the African Union and elsewhere. We provide aid to Somalia in a way that avoids enriching the wrong people. That is an issue that all deployers of aid need to be very aware of at all times.

I thank the noble Viscount for raising Somaliland. It is a remarkable place and a story that needs to be told more often.

Northern Ireland Budget Bill

Second Reading (and remaining stages) (Continued)
20:31
Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Portrait Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I refer noble Lords to my register of interests, in particular the fact that I am a member of the board of governors of Enniskillen Royal Grammar School and that a member of my family is a serving member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

I begin my contribution in perhaps an unexpected way. I pay tribute to all those who have made Northern Ireland the place it is today: an innovative, exciting place to do business, with a well-educated, energised population looking to the future and living in what I think is the most beautiful part of the United Kingdom.

Some of us got involved in politics to advance Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and to protect it from those who sought to destroy it. That is the context in which I make these remarks. It saddens me greatly that we are where we are, but I believe we need to refocus on what we can achieve if and when the protocol’s intrusion on the Belfast agreement is resolved.

We have been told that the Northern Ireland protocol was designed to do two things: protect the internal market of the European Union and the Belfast agreement. It has been hugely effective in the first of those, to the point that you cannot get a sandwich across the border, but it has had the opposite impact on the Belfast agreement, as indicated in the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Dodds of Duncairn. The protocol has undermined, misrepresented and inserted words and phrases into the Belfast agreement, and left us with a breakdown in the delicate balance created by it 25 years ago.

The European Union’s response to all this has been to put its fingers in its ears and its head in the sand. In an echo of David Cameron’s negotiations prior to the referendum in 2016, the answer to any challenge is “more Europe” and, in our case, “more protocol”. For decades, the European Union just ignored the Irish constitutional claim on Northern Ireland—part of another member state. Now, it does not just ignore the plain fact that it is interfering in an independent third country, the United Kingdom, but actively pursues interference in the United Kingdom’s internal market.

Minister, when will His Majesty’s Government realise that the European Union does not respect the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom as per the Belfast agreement? What actions are His Majesty’s Government going to take to educate the European Union on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland? What actions have His Majesty’s Government taken to educate the European Union about the actual contents of the Belfast agreement, as opposed to those made up, which have apparently taken hold? And when will His Majesty’s Government honour the commitment in New Decade, New Approach to protect the internal market of the United Kingdom?

All these answers would help inform the return of devolution, but the return to devolution is when the real challenges actually begin. The Minister of State speaking in another place said that the pressures on the Northern Ireland finances did not happen overnight. He is absolute correct. In 2016, the then Health Minister Michelle O’Neill, received a review of the Northern Ireland health service by a team led by Rafael Bengoa. The report made it clear that unless there was reform, health service need would continue to grow as a percentage of the block grant. We were told that reform was not an option but a necessity. Despite that warning, Sinn Féin collapsed the Executive in January 2017 and we were without devolved institutions for not one, not two, but three years as Sinn Féin refused to deal with real and meaningful pressures on everyday citizens. Health service need did indeed continue to grow, while Sinn Féin kept government down in order to achieve additional language rights. Regarding the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I note that, as the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, has already commented, there was no pressure to have Sinn Féin back in government during the three years when there were huge pressures, particularly on our health service. I remember it very well.

Another reason for the huge deficit in the Northern Ireland finances referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Caine, is that no Sinn Féin Minister of Finance has ever succeeded in presenting a Budget which other parties could support. Given the nature of mandatory coalition in our devolution in Stormont, Finance Ministers have to look for support and consensus on the Budget that they bring forward. Every other coalition Finance Minister was able to achieve that, but no Sinn Féin Minister was able to—neither Máirtín Ó Muilleoir nor Conor Murphy.

Those of us who live in local government areas controlled by Sinn Féin know only too well of their actions when they are in the lead. Last month, in Mid Ulster District Council they even blocked a letter to His Majesty The King, such is their hatred for all things British. So I say very deliberately that if devolution is to return, real, sustainable power-sharing will require a complete change in attitude from Sinn Féin. Consensus and collaboration are not ideas which come easily to them. Noble Lords should not forget that the then Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, currently styling herself as “first Minister for all”, blocked the victims payment to innocent victims of the Troubles until the matter was ruled upon by the High Court in Belfast. Just let that sink in: blocking a payment to innocent victims of the Troubles. I listen to Ministers in the other place saying that devolution should return, implying that that will solve all the governance problems in Northern Ireland, but unless and until Sinn Féin embraces power-sharing, I am afraid the problems will remain.

Turning to matters in the Northern Ireland Budget Bill, on policing, under the New Decade, New Approach agreement of January 2020, Police Service of Northern Ireland numbers were to increase to 7,500. As this Budget takes hold, the chief constable has indicated that the number of officers will fall to 6,700, making the service the smallest it has ever been. As the Northern Ireland population continues to grow, our police service diminishes. Workload is increasing and police numbers are reducing, meaning policing is smaller, less visible, less accessible and less responsive, with slower investigations, reduced services to victims and, of course, knock-on delays in the criminal justice system. Service to the public is under threat.

Individual police officers will be under even more pressure from a welfare and well-being point of view, and I am sure the Minister knows that cost of living pressures are already biting on a number of the more junior police officers in our service. Many are having to take second jobs, something completely unheard of in past days, to make ends meet. It is absolutely incredible.

While government is investing in more officers in England and Wales—and recruitment is increasing in the Republic of Ireland, I understand—in Northern Ireland numbers are decreasing to their lowest ever level. It is simply unsustainable. Even during the worst times of the Troubles, policing happened right across Northern Ireland. Now, “many rural areas have virtually non-existent police forces”—not my words but those of an experienced officer who recently spoke to the Police Federation of Northern Ireland.

The Minister knows Northern Ireland probably better than any other government Minister, having spent a long time there in various guises; he knows its geography. I want him to really think about this and to give a commitment to those of us who live in rural areas in Northern Ireland that, regardless of where you live, you will be able to have effective and sustainable policing. It is very worrying. The federation is very concerned about what is going on at the moment, and it is important that Members of this House hear those concerns.

Turning briefly to education, I am proud that we have the best results in the United Kingdom. That does not happen by accident; I pay tribute to our leaders, teachers and governors across Northern Ireland, and of course to the hard work of our brilliant young people. Northern Ireland has invested in our young people, and our investment record shows that many of our foreign investors are impressed by the level of education and ability available to them when they come to invest in Northern Ireland. However, that is all at risk if the education budget goes ahead in the manner suggested by this Bill. We will be damaging our most successful system. Most importantly, I am concerned that we will be damaging our young people as well.

No one should shy away from reform or savings anywhere in public service but, as the Minister knows, when some in government try to bring forward reform in Northern Ireland, it is usually blocked by those who are afraid to make the argument to their voters. I regret that, because much more reform should have taken place. We could have begun the change to our health service in a planned and open way in 2017, but that was not done for the reason I have already referred to—the collapse of the Executive for three years due to the action of Sinn Féin. Noble Lords should remember that when they make their contributions today.

In closing, I regret the necessity for this Bill. I say this to the Minister as gently as I can: I very much look forward to His Majesty’s Government giving the citizens of Northern Ireland the same rights as those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

20:43
Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I totally support everything the noble Baroness said about the need for more financial support for policing. Our police force in Northern Ireland has very different pressures from those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

We are here again, late at night, discussing Northern Ireland with more or less the same people we see at every debate. I sometimes think that if only the Conservative Party—sorry, the Conservative and Unionist Party—and the Labour Party had spent much more time over many years taking a genuine interest in Northern Ireland, getting properly organised there and standing for election, we might be in a very different position. The Labour Party does not even allow candidates to