Debates between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford during the 2019 Parliament

Hate Crimes

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 21st February 2024

(2 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it is the turn of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, will the Minister acknowledge that there are real problems in terms of legislating against hate as a crime, because it can be used to silence opposition? One of our fellow Peers has recently been accused of, and in fact punished for, bigotry, when bad-faith activists wilfully labelled a tweet against Islamists—that is Hamas—as Islamophobic. Conversely, while I consider that the virulent rhetoric and abuse directed at Zionism is often—usually—thinly disguised anti-Semitism, the same legitimate criticism of Israel is being curtailed. Should we avoid using the law, and instead argue back and condemn loudly?

Russell Group Universities: Foreign Student Admissions

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 1st February 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and then the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I fear the problem is that we have lost sight of what universities are for. Does the Minister agree that it is a con when new university degrees are created as a substitute for high-quality skills training—the latest being estate agents’ degrees—while academic study is suffering? For example, there is the tragic closure of the music department at Oxford Brookes. Is not this university growth propelled by credentialing schemes, leading to the exploitation of overseas students who are effectively buying visas/degrees to pay for this ridiculous, non-academic growth?

Horizon: Compensation and Convictions

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 10th January 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Can we let in the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, from the non-affiliated Benches, please?

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, one of the reasons this has resonated so widely is not just because it was a brilliant drama but because so many ordinary people recognise what it feels like to be fighting the establishment and getting nowhere. We have all spent hours shouting at the phone on those helplines on the computer—that is in relation not just to HMRC but to the NHS and everything you deal with—but people were also treated as though they were criminals, not believed, and gaslit by these experts who know what they are talking about.

Anyway, there is an issue here. The whole establishment, not just the Post Office but the judiciary, seems to have a lot to answer for. I therefore ask, if the judges believed the computer, how we feel about the fact that the police national computer is maintained by Fujitsu. Britain’s criminal records database is run by Fujitsu. It has all the details of convictions, cautions, fingerprints, DNA data and—something I have been banging on about for a while—non-crime hate, when you have not committed a crime but you are on a database run by the police. Fujitsu has it. I do not feel safe in these circumstances, and I identify with the little man against the establishment.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for intervening again, but the rules found in the Companion are very clear about speaking once on Report.

Prisons: Education

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 23rd March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it is the turn of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, in my experience with broader education projects such as Debating Matters Beyond Bars, I have found that private sector prisons can be more flexible and less bureaucratic than some state-run prisons. Does the Minister agree that we should focus less on who provides prison education and that education should be given far more priority? Does he also agree that prison education should not be limited to literacy, as it often is, but should be far more imaginative?

Mr Mike Veale

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 7th April 2022

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I note my noble friend’s comments. There is a process ongoing, and it would be wrong for me to opine on that process other than to say that it is ongoing. The Home Secretary has herself initiated a review into the IOPC, which will be commencing shortly, but I must stress that the police are operationally independent of the Home Office.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, if I may say so to the Minister, the sense of urgency from the House, in preference to what is happening in real life, is partly due to the police having created a mood of taking false allegations seriously and the undoing of that mood not being taken seriously. Does she recognise that those false allegations make it harder for real allegations to have credibility? That is why it is so important that this is not shoved down the road. In all seriousness, why are PCCs bringing in outside consultants and strategic advisers at any level? Would she at least tell us that this is a waste of time, part of a bureaucratic state and lack of responsibility and accountability?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think the noble Baroness makes a very good point about false allegations. On the other hand, we must be mindful that allegations that are brought forward to the police must be thoroughly investigated. Clearly, there have been many convictions for non-recent child sex abuse. She asked me another question, which I cannot remember—

Live Facial Recognition: Police Guidance

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 4th April 2022

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The Bridges case tested this; it went to the courts. As the noble Lord says, it is absolutely important that the police comply with the public sector equality duty to maintain that public confidence. There have been various tests for evidence of bias; SWP and the Met have found no evidence of bias in their algorithms.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, we should remember that the reassurances from the Minister fall after we had a very lively debate in this House about the College of Policing’s guidance on non-crime hate incidents. Due to the campaigns of groups like Fair Cop, Free Speech Union and Big Brother Watch, the powers have now been rolled back; they were being abused and that was recognised. Is the Minister in any way worried about enabling guidance that gives the police huge powers to survey and criminalise non-crime harms of any sort, hate or otherwise? Secondly, the number of live facial recognition watchlists has gone up from 42 in 2017 to 5,000 now. Is that overreach, success or abuse? Who decides, when on those watchlists will be victims or witnesses?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I reassure the noble Baroness that the people who can be on watchlists include those wanted by the courts or subject to bail conditions or other restrictions that would be breached if they were at that location, as well as other suspects; and they may indeed include vulnerable people. If my relative was missing and I could avail of this technology, I would be very grateful for its use.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It could encompass both, but in the context of what I am talking about, some serious organised crime is outside of terrorism.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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Can I just a question that relates to that? A picture has been painted of a group of people darting over borders with their passports, getting away with serious organised crime and terrorism. I wondered why somebody did not stop them if they were involved in serious organised crime or terrorism and bring them in, as it were. What about those people involved in serious organised crime and darting over borders who do not have a parent or grandparent that means they are potentially able to live in another country? Are the Government suggesting that the harm British citizens are being protected from is all committed by people who are coincidentally related to somebody which means that they can go and live somewhere else? Are there no home-grown, with nowhere else to go types doing any of this harm that threatens British citizens?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Of course there are home-grown people trying to do harm to our British citizens, but this is one of a number of powers to try to reduce high harm activity against the people of this country.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend has jumped the gun on what I was going to say. We are confident that the statutory disclosure guidance, the latest version of which was published on 16 November, sets out clearly the criteria and principles which chief officers must have regard to in making decisions to disclose non-conviction information.

The safeguards in the statutory disclosure guidance are very robust. Should a chief officer consider that information ought to be disclosed in line with the guidance, the applicant is invited to make representations. Should the decision to disclose be confirmed following any representations given, that information will be included on the certificate that is sent to the applicant only. Importantly, the applicant also has a right to appeal that disclosure through the independent monitor, who considers cases where an individual believes that the information disclosed within an enhanced criminal records certificate is either not relevant to the workforce they are applying for or that it ought not to be disclosed.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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A question was asked earlier about what will happen to people who already have their information—what can we do about that? It is important that drafting takes time; in Committee I spoke about the problem of the drafting of these guidelines and said I wanted good drafting. But I was a bit concerned, as the Minister said that free speech is already protected by the Human Rights Act, but that does not console me because free speech is under attack. We have heard of many instances of where non-crime hate incidents are being used to chill free speech and this—

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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I did not understand that, and I apologise. The guidelines are reputation destroying and they need to be reviewed.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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On Report, questions and interventions are generally for points of elucidation and the Back-Bencher will have spoken before the Minister. That aside, in terms of what happens to historic cases, I think that will be determined upon the updating of the guidance. I will write to noble Lords as I think it is an important point as there may be many examples of it. I will write to the noble Baroness and put a copy in the Library because it is an important point of clarification.

Getting back to what I was saying about the safeguards, it is important that they balance the rights of job applicants with those of the vulnerable people they might have contact with. This goes back again to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Alongside the existence of this strict statutory disclosure guidance, I can reassure noble Lords further. As I mentioned in the previous debate, DBS records suggest that, in any event, it is rare for non-crime police information of any sort to appear on an enhanced criminal records certificate supplied to a potential employer. This type of information featured in only 0.1% of the 3.9 million enhanced checks issued by the DBS between April 2019 and March 2020.

My noble friend has also, helpfully, raised with me before today whether the government amendment may encompass disclosure within its remit by referring to the processing of data. While the Home Secretary’s code will set out the rules for those who process NCHI data, there is no obligation for the code to address every conceivable act of processing. We have been clear that the Government’s intention is to not include disclosure within the code of practice; as such, the issue of disclosure will not be covered or referenced in any way in the code of practice.

It is imperative that we do not set an unhelpful precedent by legislating in such a way as to undermine the police’s ability to build intelligence on possible offending and risk to life more broadly. I stress again the often vital role that this data plays in helping to safeguard the vulnerable. It is not there to enforce correct opinions—referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox—nor is it there to serve a purpose unconnected with policing; rather, it is part of the police’s function to prevent crime.

In conclusion, again, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan for raising these important issues. I hope that he can see that the Government have taken him very seriously; the government amendments, together with the assurances that I have given in response to Amendments 109C and 109E, will, I think, address the concerns raised, by bringing parliamentary oversight to this process while protecting fundamental police functions that are already subject to strong safeguards. I hope, therefore, that he will see fit not to press his amendment—he has indicated that he will not—and that he will support the government amendments as drafted. I beg to move.

Hate Crimes: Misogyny

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord that it is not just about looking at the recommendations, but about seeing how we can put them into legislation and how they become part of our efforts to fight hate crime in whatever form it exists.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, first, even before we decide whether we should bring in hate crime for misogyny—hatred of women—could the Government clarify that they understand what women are and untangle the definition of women from the confusion around gender? Secondly, is there a danger that, in talking about an epidemic of misogyny, we might frighten young women into thinking that all young men hate them?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We need to strike a balance. On defining what women are, I do not think that the time that I am allotted today is long enough—the noble Baroness is tempting me, but I shall not be drawn into that. However, I think that the language that we use should be very clear so that everyone knows what we are talking about. Balance is incredibly important here as well, because we do not want a generation of terrified women.

Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It does not seem to have come up as an issue before, and that is precisely why this group is meeting to see if there are any gaps in the guidance issued to police to deal with such incidents.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, one of the cruellest aspects of the lockdown was the denial of visits from priests to give last rites to those dying in care homes. For Catholics, at least, that was as awful as not seeing beloved family. The official advice was to say prayers by Zoom. Would the noble Baroness note that, while there is an Amess amendment as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, this is less a regulatory or legislative matter and more a deficit of cultural capital when it comes to Christian practices? Would she also note that the overtechnocratic approach illustrated by some of the replies today misses what really matters in society?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Not only do I empathise with what really matters to some people at the point of death—it made me think that, if I was in such a situation, I would want a priest there—but I am very glad that Cardinal Nichols is meeting with the NPCC. That group will consider a more nuanced approach that can be reflected in police guidance about facing such a situation.

Terrorist Incident at Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am afraid to say to my noble friend that they do. Noble Lords will remember the Reading attack, which was one such case. In fact, the Reverend Mohammad Eghtedarian raised concerns about asylum seekers cynically posing as Christians way back in 2016, as did the Right Reverend Peter Wilcox, admitting that people had mixed motives for conversion to Christianity. People wanting to frustrate the system will use a range of different reasons to do so. What is sad about this is that it stops some of the more genuine asylum claimants coming to this country.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, a number of noble Lords have mentioned trust and confidence and reassuring the community. On reassuring the whole community of the United Kingdom, can there be a little less concern about specific communities and more open debate and discussion about the threat of Islamist extremism? People are nervous that they will be accused of being unfair to Muslim communities when actually many Muslims are worried about Islamist extremism. We need more open debate, because there is a feeling that we are not able to have that discussion. After the terrible murder of David Amess and all the things that we have faced, we need that to be openly discussed in this country, among all of us.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right. I have said so many times at this Dispatch Box that the vast majority of people who are Muslim and who live in this country are law-abiding, share our values and contribute to society. We have just celebrated their role in helping us in the First World War. We talked about free speech yesterday or the day before; I totally agree that, in these discussions, there should be respect for free speech.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Fox of Buckley and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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To back that up, I point out that Oliver Mears, Samson Makele and Liam Allan were three young men who were nearly the victims of miscarriages of justice in those circumstances. If we say that a victim’s phone will be looked at, we are assuming that they are the victim, but it is an ambivalent point while somebody is innocent until proven guilty. We just have to be a little cautious about the language we use, because in one instance the police suppressed information—they had the phone details but did not put it forward—but in the others, it was on the phone that the proof was found. We just need balance. I do not want digital strip searches, but I do not want miscarriages of justice. People are squeamish about looking for evidence on people’s phones because they are presented as victims.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Perhaps I should have said “alleged victim”; that goes to my noble friend’s point. Each case is different, but usually the remedy is through the court process and it is established where the perversion of justice might be taking place. But I thank my noble friend for his point about the alleged victim.