4 Baroness Mallalieu debates involving the Cabinet Office

Wed 7th Dec 2016
Policing and Crime Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

House of Lords: Membership

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Tuesday 5th May 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Senior Deputy Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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Lord Blencathra. No? I call the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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While I welcome the brief and robust way in which the Minister has answered this Question, will he take a moment to put to bed a couple of other stories circulating in the news at the moment which are alleged to be future government policy and are causing worry particularly to our older people: first, that the triple lock on pensions is to go and, secondly, that 9 million people over 70 are to remain incarcerated after lockdown is eased? Does he agree that these stories have caused increased anxiety and entirely justifiable anger and outrage? Will he assure us that both stories are also fake news and that there is no reality in them now or in the future?

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, again, I understand where the noble Baroness is coming from, but her questions go slightly wider than the Question before the House. On future arrangements on lockdown, the Government have promised further advice shortly. As noble Lords will know, the position is that everyone is being asked to stay at home at the moment however old they are, but I will not speculate here on what may be considered appropriate in the next phase.

Civil Society and the Democratic Process

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Tuesday 27th June 2017

(6 years, 12 months ago)

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Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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The stakes are rising by the minute in this exchange about electoral expenditure. As I said a few moments ago, if transparency of income is one of the recommendations, it will be addressed by the Government. The whole House will have noted the challenge laid down by my noble friend Lord Lawson.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, the report by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, on the flaws in this piece of legislation was published some considerable time ago. In view of the clear evidence of chilling on the part of the charities who felt unable to conduct their proper campaigning during the last election and the one before, will the Minister tell us when those recommendations will be implemented?

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness. It is indeed the case that the Hodgson review was published in March last year. Since then, we have had the report by the Select Committee and one of its recommendations was that the Hodgson report should be implemented in full. In due course, we will respond to the report and, by implication, to the Hodgson review, but at the same time there are other pressures on the Government in this field. We have had Eric Pickles’s report on electoral fraud and the Law Commission report on electoral law. We have also just had a general election and it might be useful to look at the experience of civil society during the recent election before we come to a final decision on whether legislation needs to be reviewed.

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 7th December 2016

(7 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 72-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report (PDF, 324KB) - (6 Dec 2016)
Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, I support these amendments, and I am particularly grateful for Amendments 166 to 169 and for the Minister’s explanation. The Minister has done everything she possibly can to meet my concerns. Unfortunately, however, she has to react to EU legislation, and the current regime will still have serious effects on collectors and businesses. But there is nothing we can do about it—it is a matter for the EU. In Committee I mentioned the Minister’s excellent officials, and I hope that she will encourage them to engage at EU level to try to get the EU to see that it ought to adopt our system of deactivation, which has worked so well for so many years. However, I am grateful to the Minister.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister for introducing Amendment 169A on the lending of a firearm by someone who has a certificate. I am well aware that this has caused a great deal of confusion and uncertainty, and I very much hope that this clear amendment will receive publicity in both the farming and the sporting press, which will mean that that confusion goes. I declare an interest as president of the Countryside Alliance.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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Before speaking to my Amendment 169B, I would like further clarification of government Amendment 169A and the extent to which the provisions are new or simply reiterate the existing position. I am grateful for the Minister’s letter to me of 6 December, but the fact that I raise further points indicates that I do not necessarily feel that I have found the answers within that letter. I make these points simply to ascertain the answers to the questions I raise, nothing more than that.

On the face of it, this amendment appears to say that it is acceptable for a 17 year-old who does not hold a certificate to borrow a rifle or a shotgun on private premises from a lender who is aged 18 and may have had a certificate under the Act for presumably a very short period of time. It will be helpful to know if that is an accurate interpretation or whether it shows a misunderstanding on my part. If it is basically correct, what checks have to be carried out on the 17 year-old—or on any other person—to make sure that they are a suitable person to borrow a rifle or a shotgun when they themselves do not hold a certificate under the Act? How will it be known whether they have, for example, a criminal record containing offences of violence or even illegal possession of a weapon? What check will there be on that, and who will undertake it before such a person is allowed to borrow a weapon? Will it be acceptable for a person with a criminal record to be able to borrow a rifle or a shotgun under the terms of this amendment or is that precluded anyway under the lender’s certificate, to which reference is made in the amendment?

The amendment states that the borrower must be in the presence of the lender during the period for which the rifle or shotgun is borrowed. As a serious question, is that literally the case, including—to put it bluntly—if they want to go to the toilet? Does,

“in the presence of the lender”,

mean that the borrower must at all times be within the sight of the lender? What will be the penalties if a rifle or shotgun is lent and the conditions referred to in the amendment are not adhered to, and if those conditions are breached, is there any statutory requirement to report such a breach to the police or any other authority?

I would be grateful for responses to those questions, and if they cannot be provided today, obviously it will be perfectly acceptable for them to be given in correspondence subsequently. It may be that I have so misunderstood the situation that there is a one-sentence answer to the points I have raised anyway.

On my amendment, which we discussed in Committee, the issue we raised was that the cost to the police of firearms licencing was much greater than the income coming in from the licence, which effectively meant that the issuing of such licences was being subsidised. The Government spoke in terms of being able to look at this issue following the introduction of the police’s online system for handling applications for civilian firearm and shotgun certificates. In Committee, I asked when the online system would be introduced, whether it would lead to the police recovering the full costs of their role in administering applications and whether the fees would be increased in the interim to cover the costs now being incurred. The Minister very kindly undertook to write to me and I thank her for the letter which I subsequently received. The letter states that the fees have now been set at a level that will enable the police to recover the costs of firearms licensing once an online system is in place. Therefore, I ask the Minister to confirm for the record in Hansard that, once the online system is in place, there will be no further subsidising by the taxpayer of the cost to the police of firearms licensing and that the fees will be set at a level that will enable the police to recover the full costs of their role in administering applications.

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd October 2013

(10 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall speak only on Part 2. I must first declare some non-pecuniary interests. I am a member of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, which was set up under the chairmanship of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who spoke earlier. We will produce our report next Tuesday in time for the Committee stage of the Bill. I very much hope that all noble Lords will make a little time to have a look at it because during the past few weeks we have listened to a vast amount of evidence, including from the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and we have taken, as it were, views from all parts of the United Kingdom.

What I am going to say tonight is a personal view because the report is not yet finalised. However, having listened to and read all the evidence, there have been times when my reaction was very much that of Victor Meldrew in “One Foot in the Grave”: that is, “I don’t believe it!”. How could a Government, any Government, make such a hash of an issue on which we are almost entirely united—that of transparency at election time? None of us wants money to be able to buy votes. We agree that there should be clear limits on spending and the public should be told who spends what. If anything, we should be looking tonight at a short Bill with all-party support, which makes some amendments to the Political Parties Act to improve its clarity. That would have all-party support. Instead, undue haste has produced a quite dreadful piece of legislation which has managed not only to divide the political parties but has united charities and organisations of every kind against it. How do you manage to alienate the Women’s Institute, Mumsnet, the National Trust, Greenpeace, the British Legion, the Countryside Alliance, the nurses, the RSPB and so on against you so that they combine together? You could not do it if you tried, but this coalition has managed it. When listening to the evidence, I did at times wonder whether someone with a sense of humour had slipped Part 2 into this Bill to test whether anyone in this House was awake, but the 40-strong speakers list shows that we are. If there are notably few Back-Bench coalition speakers, I can attribute it only to a number of those who normally stand up for free speech having adopted the maxim, “If you can’t say anything good, then say nothing at all”.

Part 2 is not wholly useless. It could serve a professor of politics very well as an example to his students of how not to legislate. It contains just about every error that a Government could make. There is not time tonight to detail them all, so I will take a selection of the major ones. The first thing you do is legislate in haste. Part 2 seems to have its origins in a meeting between the Prime Minister and his deputy in July, when they realised that unless something was done pretty quickly this autumn, a Bill would not reach the statute book a year before the fixed date of the next general election. There was no real urgency whatever about Part 2. We have been told by Members in the other place that Members of Parliament were not clamouring for it, and neither was anybody else.

Although the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 had its critics, and various improvements could have been made to it, it has worked reasonably well in two general elections. We were told that there has been no raft of complaints about it. There has been no formal investigation or inquiry and no prosecutions. It is not perfect: there is some lack of clarity and the Electoral Commission’s review has suggested improvements, but it is workable. Nevertheless, Part 2 was shoved into this Bill and, as we have heard, it was put before the Commons just as the House rose for the Summer Recess—indeed, the very day before.

The second error the Government made was not to consult those directly affected. They did not consult charities or campaigning organisations. Indeed, they did not consult properly those with responsibility for setting up and policing the new legislation. The Electoral Commission were, it seems, told what to do, not asked. Of the 50 recommendations it made in its review, only one was put into the Bill, and that was done in the opposite way to that which it had suggested. The Electoral Commission advised that staff costs should come into the equation, but suggested that if it were done, the limits should be raised. The Government have, indeed, included staff costs but are now trying to lower the limits.

Others have commented on the next error, which is particularly strange coming from a coalition which speaks of making “a bonfire of regulation”: that is, a massive increase in the regulatory burden and, by lowering the limits, an increase in the number of those to whom it applies. We should not forget that criminal sanctions will be applied, which are wholly disproportionate given the sums involved in many cases.

A further error is to try to push through a Bill which is so badly drafted that a specialist lawyer giving evidence to us told us that she could not conceive that it had ever been seen by a parliamentary draftsman. Lack of clarity and the sheer incomprehensibility of its wording mean that any organisation without an in-house specialist will have to seek expensive legal advice simply to understand what it means. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred to that issue. I treat your Lordships to a few lines by way of a sample. Clause 28 on constituency limits at page 17, line 5 of the Bill, says:

“Subject to sub-paragraphs (5) to (7), the limit applying to controlled expenditure which is incurred by or on behalf of the recognised third party in the relevant period in any particular parliamentary constituency is the relevant proportion of the limit mentioned in paragraph 3(2A) … For this purpose “the relevant proportion” means— A/B where— A is the number of days in the relevant period; B is the number of days in the period which is the relevant period for the purposes of paragraph 3”.

How is somebody sitting in a small charity to make head or tail of that? The result, of course, is that they will be frightened off—they will be terrified of doing anything that puts them over the limit—

Lord Phillips of Sudbury Portrait Lord Phillips of Sudbury
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Does the noble Baroness not realise as a lawyer that this is a goldmine for lawyers?

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu
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That is the other possibility, which I had not considered. It will undoubtedly increase the work of people who advise charities, such as the noble Lord.

Where are we on the rest of the so called clarification brought about by the amendment to Clause 26 in the Commons? I am the president of the Countryside Alliance. We have no idea what we might or might not be able to do as the Bill is currently worded. At the previous election we produced a rural manifesto that outlined our policies. It was widely distributed and not aimed at a particular party. We are told by the Electoral Commission we could not do that. It is clear that we could not organise a march, but could we organise hustings or have pledge cards? What of all the other public events where campaigning organisations put forward their views and express their wishes to their elected representatives? Who can tell? It is not only badly drafted; it is not readily understandable by those who need to know.

Yet another error was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—putting forward legislation which is bound to increase the number of complaints made to the Electoral Commission during an election period but providing no extra resources to enable the commission to investigate or deal with them. The Electoral Commission has had something to say on that and has asked the question and, as far as I am aware, has not received a satisfactory answer.

I could go on but I will not. I will just turn to the Government’s biggest mistake of all, one which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby mentioned. At a time when there is a deep mistrust of politics and political party membership is falling, trying to scare off the political involvement of the public who in their millions—literally in the case of some charities such as the National Trust and the RSPB—have turned to supporting extra-parliamentary campaigns is an affront to democracy. The voluntary sector’s involvement in public debate is to be encouraged, not stifled. It informs MPs and candidates. It informs the electorate. It enriches debate and very often, and perhaps most importantly of all, it provides a voice for groups that are otherwise powerless. Campaigns can at times, I have no doubt, be irksome to Governments but they are positive for democracy. Freedom of expression should be protected, not gagged.

This is a bad Bill, which I suspect in its present form is incapable of being corrected properly by amendment. We are, of course, giving it a Second Reading tonight. It misses the point. It is a wasted opportunity. It does not even begin to deal with modern ways of campaigning such as Facebook and Twitter, because nobody has consulted the people using those tools now. The Government, or whoever drafted this Bill, have not taken them into account. In common with others who have already asked for it, I hope very much that the Government will see the sense of taking this Bill away, consulting and then returning with a Bill which we could all support. After all, that is the way in which constitutional changes should properly be made. If they do not do so, I hope that Peers from all parts of this House will raise their voices and, if necessary, walk through the Division Lobby to make sure it happens.