Baroness Fox of Buckley debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Baroness Fox of Buckley Excerpts
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, what a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, with whom I agree. I felt that the Minister’s opening remarks were so full of mistakes that I shall go through them tomorrow in Hansard with a red pen and pass them back to him, if that is all right, so he can see exactly where I think he went wrong.

It was expected that the other place would take out all our important amendments, but at the same time you have to say that it was not the move of a democratically minded Government but that of an authoritarian, tyrannical one. This Government are choosing tyranny over democracy in this instance. We now have the job of revising the Bill again. As the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said, the British public are actually kinder and more concerned than this Government. The Government do not represent the public any more, and it is time they went.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am not a fan of the Bill but I think it is time for it to pass.

I want to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, who asked if it is always right that the elected House must prevail. The truth is that the elected House must prevail and that yes, that is always right. We are an unelected House. We have a job to do, but at some point it has to be the elected House that decides in a democratic society.

I want to comment on the remarks made about compassion. I too disapproved of Members of the other place who tried to suggest that anyone arguing against the Bill lacked compassion. That is a ridiculous accusation and does not hold. However, I also make the point that the inference in reply—that anyone who is trying to push the Bill at this point lacks compassion—is equally low politically. It is irritating to have a situation where people start to try to compete with each other in the kindness stakes. The big political issue is that this country has lost control of its border and the asylum system is not fit for purpose. This Bill—not one that I support—is trying to tackle that. No one is doing it because they are lacking in compassion.

There are double standards here. I have heard that anyone who supports this Bill must be verging not just on the right but on the far right, does not care about anyone crossing in the boats and is actually a racist. I have heard that said by people active in political life. I ask that, for the remainder of the discussion that we have, we take each other seriously enough not just to dole out insults but to say that, if we are genuinely committed to tackling the problem of border control, this is the Bill that is on the table now and has been accepted by the House of Commons a second time, and, even if we disagree with it, we have to go along with it.

As for the people who have argued that this was not in the manifesto, the suggestion that there is no public concern about control of the borders has no finger on the pulse of any public. However, it is true that there will be elections shortly. It seems to me that people who feel strongly that this is the worst piece of legislation ever passed will stand on that in their manifesto and will commit, here and now, to overturning the Bill once it goes through. Then we will see where the votes lie and, if the Opposition become the Government, whether they stick with that and tear up the Bill. Fair dos if they do.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to answer one question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. He asked your Lordships to ponder the position of the Rwandan Parliament and said that we must not second guess what it may do. What he forgot to mention is that Rwanda has a monist system, so a treaty entered into by the Government of Rwanda is capable of being relied upon in their domestic courts. As I previously informed the House, the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda has ratified the treaty, and we now learn from my noble and learned friend the Minister that the Senate of Rwanda has also ratified it. The only matter that remains is for the president to agree the ratification and when that happens, the safeguards in the treaty will apply.

Anti-Semitism in the UK

Baroness Fox of Buckley Excerpts
Wednesday 21st February 2024

(2 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend asks a number of questions which I am afraid impinge on the operational activities of the police. I am obviously not able to comment on those. On whether we are satisfied that the police are sufficiently aware and have sufficient powers to stop marches and control public protest, we are, and I went into that in some detail earlier. Crowd policing is a very difficult thing to do, for obvious reasons. In some cases, I would absolutely defend the police’s right to carefully gather evidence and consult the experts whom they have available to them before potentially inflaming tensions—this is me dangerously straying into operational areas; I probably should not say even that—because the decisions that the police take have to be context-specific. It is not right for us to second-guess those decisions; the police could of course be challenged on them afterwards if they are found wanting.

We need to be careful when talking about these things, but we are confident that the police have the right powers. I am not aware of any particular incidents today. I did not feel particularly intimidated, although I completely accept that my noble friend might well have done. I am sure all those feelings and thoughts are being taken into account by the House authorities and by other police when they keep us safe.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I really thought that the noble Lord, Lord Mann, spoke very powerfully and that it was not hyperbole. We almost cannot describe how serious the mood is at the moment. This is a serious time, historically, in terms of anti-Semitism, and this is not just some rhetorical flourish. I want to have that on record.

I am not frightened by the phrase “Free Palestine”, and I do not want to give the Minister any more excuses to clamp down on demonstrations or free speech, because goodness knows he has done a fair amount of that over the period I have been here. However, it is grim, or maybe fitting, that this Statement on the frighting rise of anti-Semitism is against the backdrop of the debate today on a Gaza ceasefire in the other place—albeit performative, because I note that not one life will be saved and there will not be a ceasefire as a consequence of this. That debate descended into a nasty mood of sectarianism. Worse, tonight we are hearing dark allegations that physical threats were made to elected Members, poisoning the democratic procedures of this Parliament. You associate anti-Semitism with those kinds of dark stories. We are in a building that has witnessed it today, never mind the protestors outside.

A much smaller incident that I would like the Minister to comment on is one that cheered me up. It might sound minor, but, after the unpleasant incident earlier this week of the Star of David necklace on the statue of Amy Winehouse being covered up, which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, rightly referred to—it was so shocking, even though it seemed so small—I was pleased to see that a non-Jewish member of the public had gone out of their way to skive off work and scrape off the sticker from the statue. I know that because it was reported by the group Our Fight, a new grass-roots campaign of non-Jews challenging British anti-Semitism, which was set up after 7 October.

Would the Minister agree on the importance of such solidarity, which cuts across identity politics and all sorts of party tribalism? This was summed up by the New York mayor, Eric Adams, when he said in a speech:

“Israel, your fight is our fight”.


So much of the anti-Semitism we are seeing today, and much of the reaction to the war in Gaza, is, I am sad to say, around religious and racial identity and some of the most divisive, regressive sides of society. We should call for a universal condemnation of the racism of anti-Semitism.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I agree entirely with the noble Baroness. She will know that I am not brave enough to restrict her freedom of speech in any way. I think this goes back to what I said when I quoted Rabbi Sacks. He pointed out that anti-Semitism may begin with the Jews but it does not end there, so it is for all of us to combat it.

Protest Measures

Baroness Fox of Buckley Excerpts
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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First, I did not say that it was irrelevant. I said that this is a very specific set of circumstances and I accept that there is a whole separate debate about facial recognition that we need to have in the near future—I accept that it is a matter of urgency. I cannot honestly recall seeing the noble Baroness’s letter to the Home Secretary. I will track it down and, if I may, I will come back in writing on that question because I genuinely do not know the answer.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, one of the reasons why there is this problem is that the police appear over a period of time to have been confused about what is a criminal act or not, sending messages on social media defining jihad in the most peculiar way, as some kind of inner struggle, or more recently saying, “We have looked at that flag, checked it out, and it is not a threat”, even though it is being used by ISIS. This makes the public more inclined to think that the criminal law might be needed, rather than the enforcement of existing laws.

Does the Minister concede that we have a deeper problem than climbing on statues? We earlier discussed the horrors that children in Gaza are enduring—weaponised by demonstrators walking around with dolls covered in blood, shouting “Blood on your hands” at our fellow Jewish citizens. We talked about disinformation earlier and we now know that conspiracy theories are mainstreamed to political parties—no facemasks required. Would the Minister concede that maybe we should enforce the laws we have, but avoid criminalising other behaviour? There is the bigger problem of a growth of anti-Semitism in society, which really needs to be challenged as much as any other racism that is a scourge.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I agree entirely with the remarks of the noble Baroness about anti-Semitism which I find personally disgusting, as do the Government, as she will know. On police confusion, it would be unwise for me to comment on the matters the noble Baroness describes, not least—as we frequently say from the Dispatch Box—because of the operational independence of the police, which I am very happy to defend. As for glorification, which she effectively talks about, the UK has a strong counterterrorism framework —one of the strongest in the world. It is important to recognise that. It is an offence to encourage an act of terrorism, and that includes glorifying—including by praising or celebrating—action in committing or preparing acts of terrorism where others may be encouraged to emulate that action, and that offence can be committed recklessly. As I said earlier in answering the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, some 30 people have been arrested since the start of these protests for offences under the Terrorism Act. The police are not confused when it comes to policing those sorts of marches; the statistics prove otherwise. These measures are proportionate to the sorts of activities we are describing.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, for that speech. He did not pull any punches, which I liked, but I did not like anything else that he said. I find myself with “Sophie’s Choice” here. This is a Bill that I intensely dislike, but I dislike the Opposition’s arguments against the Bill even more.

I am no fan of the Rwanda plan. The absence of a much-promised review of safe routes means that there is no flexibility about who is permanently deported, and there is no ability to appeal. The Bills feels performative, very expensive and unworkable, but mainly I object to a narrow discussion on Rwanda as a substitute for tackling what should be obvious to all by now: the need for a complete overhaul of our current asylum system and a review of often outdated international laws and treaties that are regularly used to limit sovereign law-making.

Here is my dilemma: too often, opposition to any or all government proposals on migration—certainly since I have been in this House—leads to swathes of immovable blocks that effectively tell voters, “You can’t do that”. I am worried when this House plays that role itself, of being one of those blocks. Certainly, treaties and laws internationally made that no one in the UK voted for feel like a slap in the face of the electorate. I am glad to hear that, across the House, there is an understanding that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord German, is potentially improper overreach, a sort of cancel culture applied to the scrutiny of legislation. Despite this, however, when the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, told the House that the Labour Benches would treat the Bill like any other Bill, I am just not convinced that this Bill is being treated like any other Bill. In fact, all migration legislation and debates that I have sat through have felt less like scrutiny and revising in good faith, and more as though they are opposing because of a fundamental disagreement on immigration. Amendments that are being put forward even now, I fear, will gut the original aim of the legislation, and that seems to me to be anti-democratic.

There has been a lot of noise ahead of today’s debate. In fact, I was reading Politico, and one anonymous Labour Peer told that publication that the Lords were preparing for “trench warfare.” He then listed the Bill’s sins: overturning the Supreme Court, being contrary to international law and human rights and so on. He said:

“All these things are likely to put lead in the Lords’ pencil.”


It is interesting that those tools of governance are what excite the juices of noble Lords in this House and get them worked up, whereas they seem rather indifferent to public concerns and rarely reference them, and then only to dismiss with a sneer the “will of the people” phrase.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury stressed the important issue of individual dignity and the value of each and every individual, and of course, he is right. However, that was very much with a focus on those seeking asylum. I ask noble Lords to broaden their focus. It insults the dignity of the British public when their concerns about the potential security threat posed by those entering the country illegally in the absence of proper checks are given second-class status versus international treaties. I can also imagine how vulnerable people feel when they discover that, for example, universities are offering visas to overseas students for lower grades than their kids need to get on to a degree course in this country.

Just a few other issues are bothering me. We are trapped here for hours and hours debating the safety of one African country. I feel uncomfortable reading the plethora of briefings sent out by NGOs detailing horror stories from Rwanda full of human misery, even with accusations of torture, but I seriously worry about demonising a country for the purposes of opposing a UK policy and defeating a Bill. Maybe I am being too cynical, but I cannot help but notice that, only recently, many of the same NGOs and commentators were cheering on and lionising another African country for taking Israel to The Hague. Why did they then turn a blind eye to South Africa’s horrendous record of corruption, massacres of its own workers and standing by during pogroms of Zimbabwean immigrants, and so on? It just seems a bit like picking and choosing.

Then there is the focus on whether the Bill will damage our reputation with international institutions. Should such institutions be treated as sacrosanct? Much play has been made of the condemnation of the Bill by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the fact that he denounced any UK lawmaking that wants

“to keep people away from your borders”,

saying that that “will always meet” with the UN’s disapproval. It would mean we would never be able to control our borders. However, I object to taking moral instructions from the UN on refugees after the weekend’s exposé that one of its agencies was implicated in the 7 October anti-Jewish pogrom. I will leave it there.

Abortion Clinics: Safe Access Zones

Baroness Fox of Buckley Excerpts
Monday 20th November 2023

(5 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend should probably consult some of the providers to find out the precise types of behaviour happening outside their clinics. Plenty of examples are available online. The most recent I saw was on 4 November from BPAS. However, training will have to reflect Article 9 of the ECHR; as the House knows, that is around the freedom of expression and manifestation of religion and belief. I also say that those rights are heavily qualified.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, having spent many an hour debating the clause, I think it requires careful consideration. I want to talk about context. First, people have been arrested for praying outside abortion clinics. However wacky we might consider it, that is a free-speech matter. Secondly, as the police do not seem to be able to know what intimidation is—whether outside a Labour MP’s office or on the streets in terms of anti-Semitism—I hope the consultation will be as helpful as possible so that they arrest the right people and do not end up policing easy targets instead.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Baroness invites me to speculate on operational policing. As we discussed many times from this Dispatch Box recently, I cannot and will not do that. What I can say is that, in my understanding, some of the context around previous arrests is that they are more to do with breach of PSPOs than with the behaviour that she describes. In that case, I think it was repeated breach of a PSPO, so I am not sure that she is completely correct in her assertion, but I take her point.

Illegal Migration Bill

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Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, I had not planned to speak in this debate, but I feel I must rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

The Prime Minister repeatedly talks about “stopping the boats” as one of his top five priorities—you often get the feeling that it is in fact his top priority. If this Government really wanted to tackle the villains, the traffickers and the modern slave owners and, along with the French Government, round them up and put them where they need to be, they would have done it. Instead of doing that, however, the Government think, “No, we will leave those guys alone; we will focus on removing the rights of the victims, the trafficked people, the modern slaves, the unaccompanied children, the people escaping persecution and appalling treatment”.

This amendment is unusual. In all the debates we have had, the focus has been on the victims and on removing the safeguards for the victims. This amendment is appealing to the Government to give a duty to the NCA to round up the traffickers, the modern slave owners, and so on. It seems to me that the Government cannot say, “Oh, sorry, we cannot do that, it is too difficult; we just have to make life hell for the victims—that way we will deter them from coming”. I really hope that everybody in this Chamber will support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, as being the single attempt—throughout all these debates—to have the Government focus their efforts where those efforts should be focused.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I rise in support of Amendment 168AZA. The noble Lord, Lord Swire, has explained why it is a very modest but important part of this discussion.

One reason why I think there is substantial public support for the Bill, at least in terms of the headlines and broad brush strokes, if not the detail—we have heard from the wide range of amendments the potential problems when looking at the detail of the Bill—is that people feel as though things are out of control. That is viscerally expressed by people seeing the boats arriving. The difficulty is that, in a discussion—even in this Chamber, but certainly beyond this Chamber—about what is really going on, many people feel as though they are confronting smoke and mirrors. They do not know who is here and under what status they are here.

I said at Second Reading—or at some stage, anyway—that many people feel as though they are being gaslit. When they raise concerns, they are told—as we have just heard a bit of—that these are trafficked people and victims. One reason why I support the amendment introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, a moment ago is that I feel that the terms “asylum seeker” and “refugee status” are being sullied by being used in a way that is unhelpfully broad and vague, often quite promiscuously and illegitimately, in order to say to the British public, “What are you worried about?” The problem is that the generosity of spirit around refugees is being tested, to say the least.

Therefore, we need to have a sense of proportion and to know what is going on. It is quite straightforward: we do not, which means that people bandy around emotive headlines and accusations against the British public—often unfairly—as though they are all xenophobic, they do not care, and so on. Also, quite grand statements are made. I think people want to know very clearly who is here illegally and in what category they are here.

I commend the noble Lord, Lord Swire, for making the point that it is the obligation of this Government—or a Labour Government or any Government—to know who lives within our borders. If you do not know, then you do not have national sovereignty. You cannot run a country in which you say, “Oh, sorry, it is too difficult to know”. Anyone who says, “Find out for yourself” has not tried. We have all tried and we want to know that the people who run this society do know and therefore have a handle on it.

Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, before I speak in support of my noble friend’s Amendment 168AZA, which I supported also in Committee, I want to make two very quick points about Amendment 168 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. I entirely sympathise with the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, but it strikes me that there is already a responsibility on the National Crime Agency to tackle organised crime of all types, not just immigration crime. I think we go a step too far if we legislate the internal administration of a police authority. There can be a debate and a disagreement about whether that is right; and perhaps the supporters of Amendment 168 are making a rhetorical point, and I can accept that; but I just caution against passing legislation that imposes a duty on the National Crime Agency that already exists.

Turning to Amendment 168AZA, I complained in Committee that, absent this information, we had government by guesswork, and government by guesswork is not a very attractive way of running anything, let alone an immigration system. For some of the reasons advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, a moment ago, ignorance creates suspicion, and suspicion leads to poor community relations and general dissatisfaction in the way in which the governed look at the governors. So I urge my noble friend on the Front Bench to provide us with a convincing response, which I have not yet heard; nor have I been given any information by any Minister since we last debated this in Committee. It cannot be suggested that the Government do not like annual reports. One has only to look at Clause 60(1):

“The Secretary of State must, before the end of the relevant period … prepare and publish a report on safe and legal routes by which persons may enter the United Kingdom”.


The detail of what that report is supposed to contain each year is set out in Clause 60(2), and it has to appear within six months of the Act being passed.

The information that we think should be made public and brought together in a single annual report is set out in proposed new subsections (a) to (e) of our amendment. Proposed new subsections (b), (c), (d) and (e) cover information that is available somewhere in the government system: some clever person can press a button and the numbers will come spewing out—easy. I accept that counting the number of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom presents one or two more problems, because not every illegal immigrant is going to present himself at a counting centre; however, they can make an intelligent estimate.

I ask the Government to condescend to move a little bit towards us and provide the public with the information they feel they need to see and which the Government must know in order to run a sensible, humane and legitimate immigration system. That is all this is about, so let us get on with it.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, first, I address the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Swire. He wondered why the amendment had not captured the imagination of the House. Speaking for those of us on these Benches, the Bill is entirely focused on refugees and asylum seekers, who form a very small proportion—a tiny fraction—of the 1.3 million people given leave to remain in the country last year. So while I agree in principle with what the noble Lord says—that we should have a much firmer grip on the number of illegal immigrants in this country—his amendment is not germane to the Bill.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am very sorry, but on Report noble Lords are allowed to speak only once.

As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, said, the Bill is focused entirely on criminalising the victims of people smugglers and not on the people smugglers themselves. We intend to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker: if his amendment is carried, at least there will be one line, or a few lines, in the Bill that will focus on the real problem, which is the criminal people smugglers and those who are carrying out modern slavery and trafficking, as the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, said.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, said, in effect, that this amendment was not necessary because under Section 1(4) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, one reason for the National Crime Agency to exist is:

“The NCA is to have the function … of securing that efficient and effective activities to combat organised crime and serious crime are carried out”.


People smuggling, people trafficking and so forth are clearly organised and serious crime, but that then leads to the question raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, about priorities for the National Crime Agency. The strategic priorities for the National Crime Agency are set out in Section 3 of the 2013 Act, which says:

“The Secretary of the State must determine strategic priorities for the NCA”.


I have looked at the current strategic priorities for the National Crime Agency, as set by the Home Secretary, and people smuggling, trafficking and people facilitating the sorts of things that the Bill is supposed to combat are nowhere to be seen; there is nothing in the strategic priorities about it. How can the Government say that it is a priority of the Prime Minister to tackle small boats coming across the channel when it is not a strategic priority set by the Home Secretary for the National Crime Agency? The only way we can get the National Crime Agency to focus on people smugglers is to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which is what we on these Benches will do.

UK: Violence Against Women and Girls

Baroness Fox of Buckley Excerpts
Thursday 29th June 2023

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I too welcome this debate, although with one caveat. I speak at lots of sixth-forms and universities, and I am increasingly struck by how scared young women are. They see threats everywhere and are convinced that rape, sexual assault and male violence are rampant and a real and present danger. Often, this is based less on real experience than on their being taught that headline-generating horror stories are the norm. This can be debilitating, so I am aware of our responsibility to be proportionate and avoid the unintended consequence of undermining young women’s resilience. We need to be wary of reinforcing the narrative that all women are vulnerable victims and all men are a threat.

It is worth remembering that, historically, scaremongering about women’s safety was society’s excuse for limiting their freedom and equality. The so-called weaker sex needed constant paternalistic protection, to be chaperoned everywhere and confined to the safety of the home. The fight for women’s liberation insisted that women should be free to take risks and able to live in the world autonomously, without being inhibited by fear.

However, my main focus today is when real victims are let down by our refusal to confront one fashionable policy priority that undermines efforts to tackle violence and sexual abuse: gender ideology. As the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, has discussed, a boy has just been arrested at an Essex school over allegations of serious sexual assault in gender-neutral toilets. At a recent Westminster Hall debate on equality legislation, Jess Phillips MP explained the crucial role that women-only refuges play for victims of domestic violence. However, these are now under threat because councils and charities have embraced the elision of biological sex and gender preference. We have seen similar scandals in rape crisis provision and are all familiar with the mess that the criminal justice system is in, with convicted male predators being housed in women’s prisons.

I will share a personal injustice of what happens when a male sexual abuser leaves prison as a woman. Ceri-Lee Galvin is a 24 year-old mum who was systematically raped and abused by her own father for nine years from the age of eight. In 2016, Clive Bundy was given a 15-year sentence. The first shocker was that the Parole Board recently released him after he had served only seven years in jail. The second shocker was that, before his release, his daughter Ceri-Lee got a call from her victim liaison officer telling her that her incestuous father had been given permission to change gender. The prison provided make-up, female clothing and a wig, and Bundy was segregated to protect “her” from male prisoners. His name change by deed poll was paid for; his new name is Claire Fox—my name.

Even more shockingly, as a free Claire Fox, Clive Bundy can distance himself from his crimes. Changing his gender means that his criminal checks are compromised by a legal loophole created by gender orthodoxy closing down any challenge. A sex offender changing their name would officially show up on Home Office Disclosure and Barring Service records, a safeguarding device used to check previous convictions. However, something called a “sensitivity application clause” gives transgender job applicants the choice not to record any information that would reveal their previous identity. We are all supposed to collude with this new gender identity on pain of being accused of transphobic misgendering.

Kate Coleman, author of the Keep Prisons Single Sex report on these enhanced privacy rights of trans people, notes that the likes of Bundy can change their name and gender on official documents such as passports and driver’s licences, which can be used as proof of identity to the DBS. Bundy’s privacy rights also mean that his own daughter—the victim—was told by the authorities about her father’s name and gender change only because he gave permission. As a postscript, since his release Clive Bundy—aka Claire Fox—has been seen in Ceri-Lee’s hometown looking suspiciously like the man he is, with no wig and no pretence, but on paper the authorities tell us that we all have to pretend that he is female.

Ceri-Lee bravely broke her anonymity to speak out so that other abuse victims will not be hurt by this loophole. I hope that we as legislators can honour her courage by amending the forthcoming victims’ law to ensure that no more people like Clive Bundy can get away with gaslighting their victims or mocking all safeguarding initiatives. We must oppose gender ideology.

Public Order Act 1986 (Serious Disruption to the Life of the Community) Regulations 2023

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Tuesday 13th June 2023

(10 months, 1 week ago)

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Our inaction and unwillingness to stand up and call this out in 2019 has had consequences. The consequences are legislation. The Government have tried to pass that legislation in as straightforward a way as possible and it has proven to be incredibly difficult for all sorts of reasons, as we have heard and discussed this evening. If we believe that there is an opportunity for us as a House to show that we really want to respect the law- abiding citizen, who wants this clarity, and show them we are on their side, I hope that all noble Lords will join me tonight in supporting my noble friend the Minister by following him through the Division Lobby.
Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, raises some important broader questions to consider but I think she has overcomplicated what is a more straightforward problem. These instruments were brought into this House by the Government on Report, which was extraordinary enough in itself; the Government lost, and they have come back again. We are told that they have to come back because something really dramatic has happened: there is a whole new set of circumstances and the police do not have the powers to police this really difficult situation. Then, we find out that the new tactics are basically a load of people walking slowly in the middle of the road. People think, “Why don’t the police just arrest them, then?” They have a huge amount of power under public order legislation.

I was speaking at a meeting the other night and somebody said, “Why are the police not using the Highway Code to stop people walking slowly down the middle of the street?” It makes no sense that the only way the police can deal with this is if a statutory instrument is brought in that, constitutionally, completely warps the way the law should be made.

There is a serious danger that the law, and secondary legislation in particular, is being used because there is somehow a failure of the police to police and a failure of the Government to ensure that the police police. The frustration in all this is that while the police say that they do not have the powers to stop people marching slowly in the middle of the road, blocking everyone off, they suddenly spring into action rather quickly as soon as a member of the public gets frustrated and starts pulling down the barriers, dragging that person off, arresting them and so on. You can see that this is a mess. The Government have made the situation worse, and using the law in this way is discrediting in every possible way.

I saw somebody waving a placard at me on the way in that said, “Kill the Bill”, and I agree. I want this Bill to go away. I would love it to disappear. I hate everything about a lot of the things that were brought in through that policing Bill. Any civil libertarian does not want to lose liberties in the way we did; I agree with all of that. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has said—and I take her at her word—that she has not brought in her fatal amendment lightly. She has lost sleep over it. That is fair enough; she is doing what she thinks is right in good conscience.

In the end, if the Government are behaving constitutionally irresponsibly and tearing up conventions, I am not prepared to imitate them. As far as I am concerned, the only way that we can behave, in good conscience, is to condemn the Government for what they have done, call on them to get the police to do their job and stop using the law inappropriately, and ultimately express our regret. We should not imitate them by unconstitutionally asserting in an unelected Chamber that we overthrow the elected House.

I so often disagree with the elected Members up the Corridor that it is boring. Who cares what I think? I am here not through the electorate or the public. We are all here because somebody put us here—goodness knows, that is a controversial enough matter—and we have no more legitimacy other than that somebody somewhere thought we were a crony at some point. They made a mistake there with me, let me tell you.

I am afraid that we should not put a fatal amendment through. However, this should be condemned absolutely through the regret amendment. I support the Labour amendment.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, I will be very brief, your Lordships will be grateful to know. I support the regret amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which I think is the right thing. I think the arguments made by the noble Lords, Lord Reid and Lord Rooker, are profound. The vote last night was clear. The Commons had the chance to get rid of it and did not.

The comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, made me think that it is important to remind us of just one thing. All the criticism of the police has been that, in the past, they have done too little when protestors have been doing too much. They have not done that just because they were being incompetent—although some may argue they were—but because the Supreme Court made a decision a few years ago which left them with some dilemmas. It said that obstruction of the highway was not merely a simple offence anymore. Obstruction of the highway requires no intent or recklessness. It is an absolute offence; you either block the road or you do not. But the Supreme Court said that far more than that has to be considered when making a decision about arresting someone. Is there an alternative route? Is there something else you could do to avoid this obstruction? That is fine if there is a planned protest. It is not fine if, at 5pm today, some poor inspector is confronted with a problem and has to resolve it. That is why this Act has been really important.

Part of this conclusion is about the definition. I agree entirely that this is the wrong way to include this definition. I do not think anyone, even the Government, argued that it is the right way. That is why I support the regret amendment. Providing an increased lack of clarity for the police is likely to lead to more problems rather than less. The problems were not just around the lack of clarity from the Supreme Court decisions but due to some of the protests that were taking place and the disruption they were causing—for example, around Heathrow and many significant things we need to keep our people safe and secure. The law was being abused in a way that was hurting too many people.

For all those reasons, I support the regret amendment put forward by Labour. I cannot support the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, although in my humble view it was the most powerful speech she has made while I have been here—though I am sure she has taken other opportunities that I have not seen.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, first, I apologise for not having been able to participate in the Second Reading of the Bill. I support Amendment 4 very strongly because I believe it goes to the heart of the problems presented by the Bill.

The list of the international conventions which we should not infringe is pretty long and very important. I will start with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is perhaps sometimes a little overlooked in debates. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, spent some very valuable time explaining why the Bill will contravene some of our obligations there. I had the honour of sitting beside the late Baroness Thatcher on the day she signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child— 28 September 1990. I can remember that as it is my birthday. I do not think she would have been terribly happy with legislation that cut across an international convention she had signed. I would like to hear from the Minister when he winds up how he answers the criticisms made by UNICEF, which is the body set up by all of us to adjudicate whether or not countries are living up to their obligations under the convention. I would like him to answer the question of the areas of the Bill which appear to be in contravention.

Then there is the refugee convention, which has been referred to on several occasions. The Minister has tried on previous occasions to say that there is nothing in the refugee convention being countered by the Bill, but I am afraid that, like many other statements he has made on the matter, it is a bit like the Red Queen in Alice. He is saying, “It is so because I say it is so”; that is not usually a convincing argument. I would like to hear from him which explicit provision of the convention allows us to extinguish the right of someone on our soil to claim asylum.

Of course, we have the right to reject that claim; if we do so, and if they cannot be sent back to their country of origin due to a risk of torture and death, we have to find an alternative place to send that person. I would like to hear what explicit provision in the refugee convention permits us to extinguish the right to claim asylum—not to have it, but to claim it.

A lot has been said about the European Convention on Human Rights. I will not weary the Committee with much more, except to say that the route down which the Government will go seems clear. They might say that they do not intend to get into a position of confrontation with the European court and so on, but they are either bluffing—and bluffing does not usually work terribly well—or they are setting off down a slippery slope, which will lead us into direct confrontation with the European Convention on Human Rights and with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

If we do that, we put at risk a substantial and extremely important chunk of the trade and co-operation agreement with the European Union. For that to fall away would be to have jumped out of the Northern Ireland protocol pan into the fire of losing a large chunk of justice and home affairs legislation, on which we worked together with the European Union.

Why do all these international complications matter? I would suggest that they matter a great deal because our Ministers—I applaud them for it—are standing at the Dispatch Box and going to international meetings, and they are saying that Britain stands for the rules-based international order. We are spending a lot of money and providing a lot of weapons—quite rightly so—to Ukraine to uphold the rules-based international order; but the list of obligations in Amendment 4 is a substantial part of the rules-based international order. If we contradict those obligations, what credibility will we have when we go around the world trying to uphold that rule? Not much, I would think. I would not fancy going to the countries of the global South and saying, “You really must take a stronger line on Ukraine”, to be told, “You say you are supporting the rules-based international order; well, here is a list of areas where you are breaking it”.

This is a serious matter that goes way beyond the responsibilities of the Home Office itself. Like others who have spoken in this debate, I do not wish for one minute to suggest that unlimited immigration is a good thing—that we do not want to stop the boats and so on. That is, frankly, not serious; it is just debating. I hope that, when the Minister replies to this debate, he will take on some of these international points and answer them in detail, with precision, and in a way that can convince us. Until that point in time, I remain a strong supporter of Amendment 4 and hope that it will stand in the Bill.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I apologise that I did not get to speak at Second Reading. I misread the Order Paper and thought that the day started with Questions. However, I listened to all the speeches and I certainly got a sense of the mood of the House; I note that, perhaps, that mood is at odds with the mood beyond the House. A previous point was made about unanimity; well, unanimity can be a cause for celebration but it can also be an echo chamber.

However, there are specific problems in the Bill that undoubtedly need to be tackled during scrutiny in the House of Lords. They need to be tackled if the Government are to fulfil their promise to the electorate to get to grips with controlling the borders of our country—controls that people feel are being flouted by an inability to stop the small boats. If this House can ensure that the Bill works, all to the good.

One aspect of that is that we are going to need some clarity about what and who will be affected by the Bill, and why. In that context, I am sympathetic to Amendment 1 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, because it is a valiant attempt to provide a definition of illegal and unlawful migration and it could be helpful in improving the public debate on the issue, which often gets in a muddle. So often when the issue of channel crossings arises and people say that they are illegal crossings, they are scolded and told that they are not illegal and that they ought to know the law better. If there is a way of clarifying what the law is, all to the better, because that can be frustrating. Many people feel they are being gaslit on the question of the law. Amendment 1 may give us some clarity, but achieving such clarity probably cannot be done just via definitions.

There is certainly an impression outside this House— I am sure that people will put me right—that whole swathes of lawyers, along with NGOs and their legal advisers, provide those in the boats with legal get-out clauses and exemptions such that, frankly, it looks like an organised system to game the system, and that is coming not from the people in the boats but from the legal minds that are sympathetic to their cause.

I can completely understand why anyone from many of the countries that they are travelling from would want to live in the UK and to improve their circumstances, but by any reasonable definition, many or at least some of the people in the boats are not refugees in need of asylum, even if they are desperate to improve their standard of living to get away from countries that they do not want to live in. I understand that they can be encouraged to follow a script to find a way to stay in this country—we can empathise with the desire to do that—but we can also note that, frankly, that tests the bounds of legality, and in the process there is a serious danger of discrediting, for example, what we mean by modern slavery, which I think is being exploited, and what we mean by legitimate asylum status.

I wonder what the noble Lord, Lord Best, would make of the legal rows that happen within the legal and judicial community about definitions—what words mean. It is not as though if you put it down it is always clear. We keep hearing about eminent lawyers, fine minds and so on. Believe it or not, among those fine minds, there are eminent lawyers who disagree with each other. I listened to a lively row between two fine, eminent legal minds about the legal interpretation of Article 31 of the refugee convention. One read it to say that refugees must come directly from a place of danger —that is, not France—present themselves immediately, show good cause for their illegal entry and so on. Then the other person explained that coming directly, among some judges, would mean having come through other countries. Anyway, the row went on and I am not saying I understood it all, but it is not as though, every time, great legal minds give a sense of legal certainty. All this legal confusion can and does lead to cynicism that people are illegally breaching border controls, and that illegality is not being tackled. There is a danger that this can discredit the rule of law itself. I certainly agree with the shadow Immigration Minister, Stephen Kinnock, who has talked about the whole process being slowed down and clogged up by legal challenges and the problems that that causes.

In a way, my question to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope is: even if we establish a clear legal definition, how do we tackle the various loopholes and spurious claims that can create incentives for illegality which we cannot deny happen? Adults claiming that they are children when they are adults in order to stay, destroying papers proving country of origin and so on—are we just to say that that never happens?

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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Is the noble Baroness really suggesting that this country should depart from treaty obligations without much of a qualm?

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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Having no qualms is something that I would never do, but I am also suggesting that having qualms, or using those qualms, to undermine what the British public would like to do is something that other people should have qualms about. I think that people are tearing their hair out outside of here being told, “You cannot do that; you may have voted for that, but that cannot happen”. When international treaties are used in that instrumental way—which is the way I think they are being used—that is difficult.

May I ask noble Lords to put aside the specifics of this Bill just for one moment? I know that people are very emotional about this Bill, but what if, on another topic, the UK Government—perhaps another Government, not this one, whom more people in this House might be sympathetic to—brought in a different Bill? Just imagine if such a worthy Government, with a popular mandate, tried to bring in a radical, novel, innovative law; for example, enhancing workers’ rights or improving women’s reproductive rights—things that I would support. Just imagine if that Government tried to bring that Bill in and it got to the Lords, where they were told, “You cannot do that because there are all sorts of international treaty clauses that prohibit you doing it”. Imagine your frustration: would you break your promise to the electorate in that instance? I just want us to acknowledge that asking the Government to break a promise on the small boats—

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Would the noble Baroness like to remind the Committee which limb of the constitution takes responsibility for negotiating and revising treaties on the world stage? Is it the judiciary? Are they the wicked people who run off, committing us to all these international obligations? Is it parliamentarians who go and negotiate these instruments that she is finding instrumental, or is it the Government who negotiate, renegotiate and, in some cases, even walk out of international obligations?

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I do not think there are evil people involved in this and I have not gone down the moral/immoral route. I am concerned, genuinely, with ensuring that the electorate and citizens of this country do not feel that parliamentary discussion uses international treaties as an excuse to not do what they anticipate that Parliament was asked to do. For example, this could be about the abolition of the Vagrancy Act. Let us be honest; a lot of promises have been broken recently. I have heard excuses made for why we have not yet abolished that Act. I have heard excuses for why we can no longer get rid of tuition fees, and for why leasehold will not be abolished—

Lord Balfe Portrait Lord Balfe (Con)
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The noble Baroness will recall that we had a referendum to leave the European Union. Many of us opposed that, but it was the clear will of the democracy of this country that we left. Surely, on these international obligations that we are saying we are bound by, if the demos—the people of Britain—feel that they wish not to be bound by them, that is perfectly legitimate. We have to find a way to carry the wishes of the people into legislation and not use international agreements to say that the wishes of the people must be ignored.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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I am coming to an end. I understand the noble Lord’s point and I am endeavouring to explain that I think those international agreements are being used in a particular political way on this issue. I have suggested that breaching promises to the British electorate—I was trying to give some examples across party lines, so that nobody would think I was having a go at any one party—is leading to cynicism and bitterness in the electorate. The low turnout at the local elections was an indication of the fact that many people feel politically homeless.

I do not necessarily support the Bill. I want it to be scrutinised by this House, but I felt that the amendments I was referring to were almost avoiding scrutiny by simply ring-fencing the whole nature of the Bill and saying, “You can’t do that because of international treaties”. That would seem to render us even trying to scrutinise the Bill a waste of time and it will lead to even more cynicism about the lack of democracy. That is my point and it has nothing, as it happens, to do with Brexit or the EU. Although the desire to control one’s borders and one’s laws was undoubtedly part of that, I was not making that point in this instance.

Public Order Bill

Baroness Fox of Buckley Excerpts
Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, gave us a passionate reminder of the reason why there is so much public hostility to a lot of the types of tactics that have been used by protesters over the last year, which have undoubtedly fuelled support for the headlines associated with this legislation. As it happens, those arguments have been well rehearsed in this Chamber by all sides. It seems that, despite that, the demand for stop and search without suspicion will do absolutely nothing to tackle the problems that are described. I want to state that again: stop and search without suspicion. It seems extraordinary to me that anyone would imagine that that would have any impact whatever on the protesters that the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, described, but it will definitely have a chilling impact on protest in general.

As it happens, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is incredibly reasonable. It does not fly in the face of anything the Government are trying to do. It asks for some checks and balances, which, having read the report of the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, you would think that the Government would welcome. In all seriousness, anyone reading that would have to think, “Oh my goodness—what happened?” To have a balancing amendment, which is what Motion A1 is, seems very sensible.

Finally, on Sunday, a group of women, some of whom I know, went to Speakers’ Corner as part of the Let Women Speak campaign. They were kettled and mobbed by hostile opponents. Regardless of what you think of that event, I mention it because the police stood by and did nothing. At one point, when things got really hairy, they walked off, leaving those women facing a lot of aggression.

The difficulty is that the police have acted inconsistently, erratically and almost in a politicised fashion when policing different demonstrations. I would like the police to use the powers they have—goodness knows, they have plenty of them—to police this country and protect those under attack. We do not need to give them new powers that they do not need to police this country or to police any aggressive demonstration that disrupts the lives of everyone, as noble Lords have said. We just need the police to do the job that they are paid to do. They do not appear to be doing so, and that is what the Casey report shows.

It is worse than that. We will do damage to the reputation of the police if this House, just for headlines, thinks that the Government will improve things—they will not. I urge your Lordships to support the police by not being disproportionate, and to support the public by asking the police to do their job without bringing in suspicionless stop and search, which is draconian in any country.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, having been mentioned by both Front Benches, I thought I ought to speak for myself, just to make clear my position.

We are not debating whether there is suspicionless stop and search but the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. To make clear my position, I support smart, effective stop and search, done according to the law, but it can cause problems, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, mentioned, and sometimes it causes a problem disproportionate to the benefit it produces. For as long as I was involved—certainly in London, but wherever I have worked—I have always supported its being used wisely.

In 2017, after the riots London experienced, one of my conclusions was that one of the causes or aggravating factors was the amount of stop and search being carried out. Over the two preceding years, people had either been stopped and searched or, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, mentioned, stopped and accounted around 2.6 million times. Bearing in mind that, at the time, there were only 8.4 million people in London and the vast majority stopped were men, that was an awful lot of times that some people were getting stopped. For that reason, we reduced stop and search by about two-thirds, and Section 60 searches—the suspicionless option—by 90%, and yet we arrested more people and reduced crime. So it is entirely possible to do it better and less. I support stop and search when done properly; that is my broad point.

On the back of what I just described, I introduced 23,000 officers with body-worn video. It can make a difference. It reduces complaints and proves that either the officer was performing badly or there was a lie being told about the officer. Either way, it should improve police behaviour, and on the whole it has. I go on to say that, at the moment, it is being switched on when there is an event to be filmed. I think there is a growing argument for it to be on all the time.

There are consequences to that, not least in cost and intrusion into privacy, particularly, perhaps, when an officer talks to a family or anybody with a child. The first thing they have to say is just that straightforward discussion that they are going to film it. It is not the best introduction anybody could have, but I think that the wider use of body-worn video is probably wise.

On a point that the Minister raised, I am glad to see the acknowledgement that there might be more communication of this suspicionless stop and search at protests. I do not support suspicionless stop and search in the Bill, and I voted against it, but that was not the amendment that was brought back, so I could not do anything about that. My point in that debate was that the communication should happen at the border of an area that people are about to enter where suspicionless stop and search is about to be exercised. Currently, whether it is a Section 60 or a protest, if you walk into that area, you just do not know. I do not think it is good enough to say, “Well, if you’d consulted the website, you’d have found out. Somebody has published a notice”. It is entirely possible, either digitally or by putting up posters—there are any number of ways. If you say to someone, “If you go into this area, there’s a protest or we have got Section 60 as there’s a lot of violence, and you run the risk of a without-cause stop and search”, I think you assist the officer in carrying out their job. So my point is about communication at the boundary at which you cross and where the suspicionless stop and search might be exercised.

That said, I do not entirely agree with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. There is one part of it which I do, but I am really not sure that this is the right way. I take the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, that this might be a way to send a signal, but I am not sure that this is the way for me.

In terms of officers exercising the powers conferred by subsection (6), the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, has made the point that she would prefer these particular amendments. Actually, within the Bill and the code, I think there is a stronger set of rules for the officer. They have to say what they expect to find, give a reason, explain why they are legally allowed to use the searches—Section 1 or Section 60—and that you can have a record of that search at that time or subsequently, within a year. Now, it seems to me that these are strong powers, and if you want to amend the things the Government have said they want to, the way is to amend the code. If you put these conditions in the Bill, you will end up with Section 1 and Section 60 searches going by the code and the protest ones being covered by the Bill. I think that there is at least a risk of confusion, and there needs to be consistency. The code might be amended in the way described but I am not sure that these powers alone form an awful lot of additional powers or, frankly, reassurance compared with what is already in the code.

The amendment says:

“Within one year of the passage of this Act, all police forces must establish a charter on the use of the powers in this section”


and that must

“be drawn up in consultation with local communities”.

My concern is that that runs the risk that it will be inconsistent across the 43 police forces that cover this country. Then you are going to end up with confusion: if you protest in Birmingham or London, you end up with a different set of charters. I do not think that is a very wise thing; if there is to be a charter, it is perhaps wise to have a national charter. But to have different circumstances in different parts of the country about protest, I just do not understand how that is going to work for the protesters or the police officers.

The amendment also says:

“Each police force must produce an annual report on the use of the powers”.


I think that could be put into the police’s annual report, which is produced each year anyway, but it could be more bureaucracy if we have another report to publish every year. What I do think is a good idea is:

“Within one month of the powers in this section being used, the authorising officer must publish a statement giving reasons”.


That seems entirely reasonable and something that I do not think anybody could object to. In fact, I think it should be published at the time that the power is declared. If you are going to tell the public that this power is going to be used, you can explain why you are going to use it. I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing, but I do not necessarily think that this amendment enhances what is already in place. I accept that it could send a signal, but I am not sure that it is a wise signal to send at the moment.