10 Baroness Williams of Trafford debates involving the Cabinet Office

Wed 7th Dec 2022
Wed 7th Dec 2016
Policing and Crime Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 9th Nov 2016
Policing and Crime Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - part two): House of Lords & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - part two): House of Lords
Wed 11th Feb 2015

Gaza: Humanitarian Situation

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 8th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Hussein-Ece Portrait Baroness Hussein-Ece
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the current humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we are about to go into a Question for Short Debate with 27 speakers, which means a necessary time limit of one minute for Back-Bench contributions to ensure that there is enough time for the Minister to respond to the very important points that will no doubt be raised. I am acutely aware of the importance of this topic and I well understand the interest from noble Lords across the House. That is why I am pleased to say that we have separately arranged a general debate on foreign affairs, with the Foreign Secretary closing the debate, on Tuesday 5 March. Members can sign up to speak in the usual way. This will provide a further opportunity for longer contributions on this matter should noble Lords wish to make them then.

Industrial Strategy

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 1st February 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. I remind noble Lords that speaking on mobile phones is not permitted in the Chamber.

Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Portrait Lord Watson of Wyre Forest (Lab)
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We will be the only advanced nation unable to make steel, in a time of global turmoil and uncertainty. This would represent criminal negligence. I note the announcement that Tata will close the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot in a few months and install an electric arc furnace, which would cut productive capacity. This is mindless vandalism to our manufacturing base. The salt in the wounds is that the Government are throwing £500 million at Tata, to lose 3,000 jobs in steel manufacturing. British Steel in Scunthorpe is looking to close its blast furnaces. These twin actions will mean that we have to import primary steels, with huge costs to the environment.

The trade unions have a plan to transition to cleaner, greener steel production and safeguard local jobs. Community union and the GMB have a workable, serious plan. Is the Minister aware that Tata indicated that this plan is credible and viable but was rejected by the Government on the grounds of cost? Can he comment on the exact nature of the £500 million offered to Tata, and whether this is in any way related to Tata’s battery plant in Somerset? Does the Minister know that electric arc furnaces cannot produce the base steel that is needed for tin manufacture—yet 30% of Port Talbot’s output is for tin cans? It has the orders, but the means to fulfil them are being removed. Has he read the rescue plan?

I do not want to make the case just for saving jobs in this part of Wales, nor focus on the bitter human cost that will be paid by working people and their families in these proud communities. I do not want to point out just that 20,000 jobs in the supply chain rely on this plant. I am sure others will want to point out the similarities with the destruction of our manufacturing base in the 1980s, with the price paid by miners, steel-workers and skilled engineers and their families in that dark decade of deindustrialisation and demoralisation of whole towns and cities. I want to link what is going on with steel today with my central argument for the need for an industrial strategy.

An industrial strategy must seek answers to the central questions of our age: our negotiation with rapid technological change, our need to decarbonise, our desperate need for growth and the big shifts in our society. An industrial strategy can mitigate the risks, manage the transition and soften the hammer-blows that rapid change can bring. This is not top-down statism, but not free-market fundamentalism either; it is a true partnership with communities, companies, industries and government.

An industrial strategy must view the steel industry as part of a bigger landscape of manufacturing, and manufacturing as part of a bigger landscape of economic activity. It must view economic activity as the basis of our society, culture, well-being and national character. All the moving parts interact and interrelate, just as all humans do. What happens in Port Talbot, in Scunthorpe, in the long-ignored corners of our country and in the left-behind towns and estates happens to us all. This is an essential truth that the Government seem to have missed. I beg to move.

Homelessness: Veterans

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, shall we hear from my noble friend Lady Lampard, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Browne?

Baroness Lampard Portrait Baroness Lampard (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as the chair of GambleAware. Veterans are 10 times more likely than non-veterans to experience gambling harms, and to gamble as a way of coping with distress. The financial consequences of gambling harms are more than likely to contribute to homelessness among veterans. Third sector organisations such as Beacon Counselling, which was commissioned by GambleAware as part of the National Gambling Support Network, do brilliant work to reduce the impact of the heightened risk to the Armed Forces community. Can the Minister tell the House how the Government intend to address the need to protect veterans from experiencing gambling harms and, to that end, how they intend to work in partnership with charities doing vital work in this area?

Strike Action

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 7th December 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, looking at my notes, I see that it is the turn of the Conservative Benches.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Lord Clarke of Nottingham (Con)
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Noble Lords may recall the long ambulance strike of the 1980s that lasted six months and more. The military actually enjoyed the experience because it had real casualties to deal with instead of the pretend ones used in paramedic training—the military then had more paramedic training than the civilian ambulance drivers in the NHS. Is not our recollection of the 1960s and 1970s that, if the Government intervened in every strike to ensure that some improved offer was made above what the employers wished to make, it made every strike seem successful and encouraged people to vote for more strike action in the succeeding round? Whatever happens this year—and we hope we can resolve these issues—we must not return to the old wage-price spiral that was so destructive in those days.

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford 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)
Moved by
151: Schedule 17, page 350, line 42, leave out sub-paragraph (4)
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Moved by
156: After Clause 109, insert the following new Clause—
“Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime as member of local authority
(1) Section 1 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (disqualification and political restriction of certain local authority officers and staff) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (9) (references to a person holding a politically restricted post under a local authority include every member of the staff of an elected local policing body) omit “, except for a deputy police and crime commissioner”. (3) After that subsection insert—“(10) The reference in subsection (9) to every member of the staff of an elected local policing body does not include a deputy police and crime commissioner.(11) For the purposes of subsection (1) only, the reference in subsection (9) to every member of the staff of an elected local policing body does not include the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime appointed under section 19(1)(a) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.””
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Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I think that if the Government agree that the matter can be reconsidered at Third Reading, it does not need to be a government amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I do not doubt the sincerity of the intentions behind this amendment. The new clause comes directly from the experiences of the Hillsborough families, and anyone who has heard of their long fight for justice cannot fail to be moved. I entirely accept, however, that the issue raised by the amendment is of general application.

As noble Lords will be aware from the debate in Committee, the Government’s position on this amendment is that we should wait for the report commissioned from Bishop James Jones on the experiences of the Hillsborough families. In commissioning the work, the then Home Secretary asked Bishop Jones,

“to ensure that the full perspective of those most affected by the Hillsborough disaster is not lost”.—[Official Report, Commons, 27/4/16; col. 1436.]

The families will have numerous experiences, including views on legal representation, and this will be reflected in Bishop Jones’s report, which he aims to publish next spring.

I entirely accept noble Lords’ points about the coroner, and we will bring them to the attention of Bishop Jones, but I reiterate that it is appropriate that the Government have the opportunity to consider his conclusions and recommendations fully before deciding what action to take. It would therefore be premature to proceed with the amendment at this stage.

It must be right that any consideration of this amendment takes account of the financial implications. The cost of the legal representation for the 103 Hillsborough families at the fresh inquests amounted to £63.6 million. Clearly, the Hillsborough inquests were an exceptional case, but they provide at least an indication of the level of financial commitment such an amendment could imply. While it is the case that the Hillsborough families received public funding for their legal costs at the fresh inquest, it was a bespoke scheme, instituted due to the exceptional nature of the events that took place 27 years ago.

Recognising the exceptional nature of the Hillsborough inquests, it is also right that we look at other data. We cannot say for certain in how many inquests the police are named as an interested person. However, we know from the Independent Police Complaints Commission report Deaths During or Following Police Contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2015/16 that in the last financial year, 200 persons died following contact with the police. All of those deaths would have been subject to an inquest. Of course, the financial implications of this amendment are but one of the matters noble Lords will wish to take into consideration, but we cannot be blind to the impact on the public purse.

However, I come back to my core objection to this amendment: that this is neither the time nor the place to pursue this matter. As I have said, the Government are firmly of the view that we should wait for Bishop Jones’s report and then determine, in the light of that, the most appropriate way forward. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will accept that this is the proper way to proceed and agree—

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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Before the Minister sits down, I would like to be quite clear. Is she rejecting the wise advice from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern? Is she saying that this is not a point of principle but a point of public expenditure?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am not disagreeing with anything that noble Lords have said. I have said that, in the light of the review by Bishop Jones, this is not the time to press the amendment. I hope, on that note, that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and will just make one or two comments on what the Minister had to say in reply. What is recorded in Hansard is that,

“the former Home Secretary commissioned Bishop James Jones to compile a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families”.

It does not say there that he has been asked to compile a report on the much wider issue raised in this amendment. As far as the timescale is concerned, I can only repeat what the Government said in Committee not so long ago, on 2 November, which is that Bishop Jones has only reached the stage where:

“He is considering the terms of reference for his review with the families”—

presumably the Hillsborough families—

“and intends to publish them shortly”.

He must be some way from that, if it is going to be a detailed report looking at the situation as a whole, rather than just the Hillsborough situation. Certainly, if there is a suggestion that he is going to publish something within a very few months, it would suggest very much that it is going to be concentrated on what happened at Hillsborough and the experience of the Hillsborough families, and not on the much wider issue covered in this amendment of representation for bereaved families at inquests generally where the police are legally represented. The issue of costs has been raised by the Government, which must raise some further doubts. I refer again to what the Government said on 2 November, which is that the Government wish to,

“put on record that these amendments would place a significant financial burden on the Secretary of State … The cost of the legal representation for the 103 families at the fresh inquest into Hillsborough amounted to £63.6 million”.—[Official Report, 2/11/16; cols. 757-59.]

The Government incurred that cost without the terms of this amendment being in operation. But it is quite clear that cost is a major consideration as far as the Government are concerned, rather than the fundamental issue of principle—parity of funding—which is addressed in the amendment. We also of course have not had any commitment from the Government in principle to what is in this amendment, and there is a reference as well to it being considered in due course.

I will come on to the comments that were made. Because there has been no indication that we can bring this back at Third Reading, I believe that we are no longer in a position where we can come back then with an amendment to our amendment. But if the issue is that this should be decided by a coroner or through some sort of judicial decision, rather than by the police and crime commissioner, and if the Government were prepared to give a commitment to bring along an amendment of that nature, I am quite sure that we would support it. The issue for us is not whether it is the police and crime commissioner making the recommendation. The gut issue here is parity of support for bereaved families at inquests where the police are legally represented. Since I do not think I have had a sufficient response from the Government, I beg leave—

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Moved by
159: Clause 111, page 132, line 22, leave out from “description” to end of line 24 and insert “which—
(a) is designed to discharge only a small plastic missile (whether or not it is also capable of discharging any other kind of missile), and(b) is not capable of discharging a missile (of any kind) with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that exceeds the permitted level.”
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the government amendments in this group seek to improve the provisions in Part 6 of the Bill relating to firearms. Amendments 159 to 162 make four improvements to the definition of airsoft weapons, which are non-lethal and pose a low risk to public safety. These weapons are legitimately used to discharge pellets manufactured with plastics and are considered as safe for mock skirmishing activities. Amendment 159 responds to concerns raised with us that the current definition is too restrictive and has no realistic prospect of applying to many airsoft weapons, because those weapons could be used to discharge missiles other than these pellets. It amends the definition to refer to the original design of the weapon to discharge only a small plastic missile as defined in the exemption. However, as the then Firearms Consultative Committee found in 2002, airsoft darts, which have higher penetrative qualities, pose a higher risk of causing serious injury than pellets discharged at the same kinetic energy level. Amendment 160 sets out that only weapons designed to discharge small spherical plastic missiles will be considered to be airsoft weapons.

The amendments also take account of new evidence from forensic tests undertaken during the summer on the lethality of airsoft weapons which were used to discharge pellets of up to 8 millimetres in diameter at the maximum permitted kinetic energy levels. Amendment 161 therefore increases the maximum allowable diameter from the current maximum of 6 millimetres to 8 millimetres, in line with the forensic evidence. Amendment 162 makes a technical amendment to the definition of automatic fire airsoft weapons in relation to the permitted kinetic energy level of such weapons, to be consistent with Amendment 159. The Government are committed to legislation that has a proportionate impact. These amendments will allow legitimate businesses in the airsoft industry to continue operating while setting clear standards of compliance required to protect public safety.

Amendments 163 to 165 to Clause 112 amend the definition of an antique firearm in order to cover air weapons as well as weapons that use an ignition system. As currently drafted, the clause confers a new regulation-making power to specify antique firearms by reference to the obsolete cartridge that they are chambered to discharge, or their ignition system. The intention is to place existing guidance on antique firearms on a statutory footing to clarify the law on antique firearms and prevent abuse by criminals. Currently, it is not possible to include air weapons within the definition of an antique firearm as they do not have an ignition system.

Amendments 163 and 165 will ensure that the definition can cover any type of firearm by reference to its propulsion system which, technically, can apply to air weapons as well as ignition firearms. Amendment 164 limits this extension of the definition to England and Wales only, given that the regulation of air weapons is a devolved matter in Scotland.

I hope that Amendments 166 and 167 address the legitimate concern raised by my noble friend Lord Attlee in Committee about the potential impact of EU deactivation standards for deactivated weapons on collectors and the film industry, and the need for the UK to be able to retain more robust controls.

Clause 114 amends the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 to make it an offence to make a “defectively deactivated” weapon available for sale or as a gift, or to sell such a weapon or to give it as a gift, other than to a person or persons who are outside the European Union. This gives effect to the European Commission implementing regulation on deactivation standards, which came into force on 8 April 2016 to set the standard for deactivating firearms across the European Union. As currently drafted, the clause retains the link to the EU standards in primary legislation. Amendments 166 and 167 remove this and instead provide for the standards to be specified by the Secretary of State. While we remain members of the EU we are required to abide by the EU standards, but these amendments provide the flexibility to set our own higher standards in the future.

In these circumstances, the Government recognise that it would be inappropriate for our museums to be subject to the new offence when transferring or receiving firearms deactivated to previous standards. It is not our intention for museums licensed to hold firearms to incur additional costs in relation to already deactivated weapons to comply with new deactivation standards which are not directed at them. The risk that museums may have to destroy weapons which are part of our cultural heritage would be an unacceptable result of these provisions. Amendments 168 and 169 therefore provide for the exemption of museums licensed by the Home Office in relation to firearms to be able to transfer or receive weapons which were deactivated to UK standards before the EU directive came into force and until the Secretary of State sets new standards.

Amendment 169A responds to an amendment tabled by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown at Commons Report stage. It amends the law relating to the legitimate practice of lending and borrowing a rifle or shotgun for the purposes of hunting animals, shooting game or vermin, and shooting at artificial targets on private premises. Current legislation permits a firearm certificate holder to lend a rifle or shotgun to a non-certificate holder only if the occupier—or, where the relevant firearm is a rifle, the occupier’s servant—is present on private land of which they are the occupier. The amendment allows a certificate holder to lend a firearm or shotgun on private premises, where they have the permission, in writing, of a person with the right to invite guests on to the premises for the purposes that I have already referred to. The effect of this amendment is that both certificate holders with the right to invite guests on to premises for shooting purposes, and other certificate holders with the written authorisation of such a person, will be able to lend a firearm to a non-certificate holder. The certificate holder providing the written authorisation will be able to set restrictions on either the lending certificate holder or the borrower if they wish.

Finally, Amendments 170 and 171 extend the application of the offence of possession of pyrotechnic articles at live music events to Wales as well as England. This follows consultation with the Welsh Government, who agree that this new offence does not relate to devolved matters.

There is also Amendment 169B in this group, but I will wait to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has to say before responding. In the meantime, I beg to move.

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.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, I support Amendment 169B in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Kennedy of Southwark.

I accept the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, about reasonable cost as opposed to full cost recovery—or, at least, I could accept it if it was an approach the Government took across the board. However, in Committee I drew a parallel with the Immigration Act, where the Government proposed a philosophy of full cost recovery for visa applications and for the Immigration Service generally. I asked the Minister then, if she was not going to agree with amendments tabled to ensure full cost recovery for the issuing of firearm certificates, to explain why a different approach is being taken to the principle of full cost recovery when it comes to immigration. In particular, I asked her to refute the obvious allegation that the Government are discriminating against foreign nationals as against those who go hunting with guns for sport. I cannot recall the Minister specifically responding to that question; perhaps she could address it today.

Having apparently agreed in Committee to the principle of full cost recovery for firearms certificates, the Minister went on to say that there was a public consultation on these issues and that,

“there might be good reasons not to set fees at full cost recovery levels, either for a transitional period or for certain categories of licence holder”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1163.]

There are very good reasons why visa applications and the like should not be set at full cost recovery levels, yet the Government appear determined that they should be, without any public consultation or a transitional period. Can the Minister explain why foreign nationals are being treated differently from those who possess firearms?

I asked the Minister in Committee what consultation there had been with groups that represent immigrants or those who might apply for visas before the Government implemented full cost recovery for immigration visas. Can the Minister please answer that question for the record, as she was unable to do so in Committee?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, perhaps I may first deal with some of the questions that have arisen out of Amendment 169A. Both the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and my noble friend Lord Hailsham asked about the age threshold of 17—the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, probably thought that it was too low and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, thought it too high. The age of 17 or over for borrowing rifles reflects the current position under Section 16 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988—which the noble Viscount may have taken through Parliament himself.

The noble Viscount asked about firearms accidentally left in someone’s house. I understood that if you held a firearms licence yourself, it was okay for someone to leave something in your house, but I am not certain on that point so I will write to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether the provisions were new. The answer is both yes and no, because they amend current legislation. After careful consideration, we have decided to clarify and align the existing provisions for the borrowing of a rifle or shotgun to practise the hunting of animals and the shooting of game or vermin on private land. He also asked whether individuals with a qualifying criminal record are prohibited from possessing a firearm under Section 21 of the 1968 Act. It is for the lender to satisfy himself or herself that a borrower does not have a relevant criminal record when he or she is lending them a firearm.

The lender would have to be present. If the borrower needed to go to the toilet, for example, they would have to leave the certificate-holder with the weapon while they went to the loo.

I will just respond to Amendment 169B from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. The Government agreed that fees for firearm certificates should be set on a cost recovery basis. I am happy to confirm, as I did in my letter to the noble Lord, that the cost of these certificates is expected to reflect the full cost of licensing once a new, more cost-effective online licensing system is in place. We already increased the fees for civilian firearm certificates in line with this objective, and Clause 117 allows us to set fees for licences issued by the Home Office and the Scottish Government. As I think I said in Committee, this will save the taxpayer around £700,000 a year.

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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My noble friend was good enough to say she would write to me and I am grateful. Would she include in her letter a response on what I would summarise as the service station point, and the point about when one’s wife or partner knows the whereabouts of the key to the gun safe?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I certainly will. I would be very careful before going to my noble friend’s house, given the guns and their placement in various cars and things. I hope Viscountess Hailsham will be careful, too. I will certainly write to my noble friend on all those points.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I am sure the Minister’s response was clear but I did not hear it properly: did she say that the Policing Minister would write on a particular issue concerning firearms? If so, could she repeat that as I am afraid I did not pick it up?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I just pointed out that we are both frustrated about this matter and that the Policing Minister will write to the national policing lead for firearms for an update on progress.

Amendment 159 agreed.
Moved by
160: Clause 111, page 132, line 26, at end insert—
“(aa) is spherical, and”
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Moved by
163: Clause 112, page 133, line 25, leave out “ignition” and insert “propulsion”
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Moved by
166: Clause 114, page 135, leave out line 35 and insert “technical specifications for the deactivation of the weapon that apply at the time when the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift or (as the case may be) when it is sold or given as a gift.
(4A) The Secretary of State must publish a document setting out the technical specifications that apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(c) (“the technical specifications document”).(4B) The technical specifications document may set out different technical specifications for different kinds of weapon.(4C) The Secretary of State—(a) may from time to time revise the technical specifications document, and(b) where it is revised—(i) must publish the document as revised, and(ii) specify in it the date on which any changes to the technical specifications that apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(c) take effect.”
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Moved by
169A: After Clause 115, insert the following new Clause—
“Authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting etc
(1) After section 11 of the Firearms Act 1968 insert—“11A Authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting etc(1) A person (“the borrower”) may, without holding a certificate under this Act, borrow a rifle or shot gun from another person on private premises (“the lender”) and have the rifle or shot gun in his or her possession on those premises if—(a) the four conditions set out in subsections (2) to (5) are met, and(b) in the case of a rifle, the borrower is aged 17 or over.(2) The first condition is that the borrowing and possession of the rifle or shot gun are for either or both of the following purposes—(a) hunting animals or shooting game or vermin;(b) shooting at artificial targets. (3) The second condition is that the lender—(a) is aged 18 or over,(b) holds a certificate under this Act in respect of the rifle or shot gun, and(c) is either—(i) a person who has a right to allow others to enter the premises for the purposes of hunting animals or shooting game or vermin, or(ii) a person who is authorised in writing by a person mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) to lend the rifle or shot gun on the premises (whether generally or to persons specified in the authorisation who include the borrower).(4) The third condition is that the borrower’s possession and use of the rifle or shot gun complies with any conditions as to those matters specified in the lender’s certificate under this Act.(5) The fourth condition is that, during the period for which the rifle or shot gun is borrowed, the borrower is in the presence of the lender or—(a) where a rifle is borrowed, a person who, although not the lender, is aged 18 or over, holds a certificate under this Act in respect of that rifle and is a person described in subsection (3)(c)(i) or (ii);(b) where a shot gun is borrowed, a person who, although not the lender, is aged 18 or over, holds a certificate under this Act in respect of that shot gun or another shot gun and is a person described in subsection (3)(c)(i) or (ii).(6) Where a rifle is borrowed on any premises in reliance on subsection (1), the borrower may, without holding a firearm certificate, purchase or acquire ammunition on the premises, and have the ammunition in his or her possession on those premises for the period for which the firearm is borrowed, if—(a) the ammunition is for use with the firearm,(b) the lender’s firearm certificate authorises the lender to have in his or her possession during that period ammunition of a quantity not less than that purchased or acquired by, and in the possession of, the borrower, and(c) the borrower’s possession and use of the ammunition complies with any conditions as to those matters specified in the certificate.”(2) In consequence of the amendment made by subsection (1), omit the following—(a) section 11(5) of the Firearms Act 1968;(b) section 16 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.”
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Moved by
170: Clause 119, page 139, line 16, leave out “in England”
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, Amendment 173, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, adds to the general duties of licensing authorities a duty of securing accessibility for disabled persons. The noble Baroness raises an important issue; we debated the matter under another amendment, which sought to add in the provisions of the Equality Act in Committee.

It is right to say that people running licensed premises should do much more to ensure that the premises are accessible by disabled people, so that they can go out with their friends and family and enjoy themselves on those premises. It is right that disabled people are able to get access to those premises. When the Minister responds to the debate we may hear that there are general duties under the Equality Act 2010 in force already and that adding a specific amendment does not add anything to the statutory requirements already in force, as noble Lords have said. I hope that we can get a very careful explanation of why that is the case. The Government have a general duty to ensure that the law is properly applied, so I hope that they will use this opportunity to say clearly how they can ensure that that actually happens.

The problem often is whether licensed premises owners fully understand what their obligations are—or, if they do understand, whether they do anything to make those reasonable adjustments. We need to have a very careful explanation from the Minister in response to the debate, because we have the whole issue of the guidance, what review mechanisms are in place, and how the Government are going to ensure that the mainstream access to buildings to which the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, referred actually happens.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Thomas of Winchester, not only for their powerful speeches in this debate but for taking the time to speak with me over the past few weeks on the subject of this amendment. I also commend my noble friend Lord Shinkwin for the sheer quality of his speech and everyone who has spoken in this debate for their persistence in seeking to secure the rights of disabled people.

I am very sympathetic to the issues that have been raised on this matter. Licensed premises such as pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas are places where many of us choose to socialise and are therefore an important part of our daily lives. Too many of these venues are difficult for disabled people to access. The same is true of other, non-licensed businesses, too. The issue before us is whether we should use the regulatory framework provided for in the Licensing Act 2003 as a mechanism to enforce the provisions of a quite separate piece of legislation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and others have answered this question in the affirmative, arguing that it should not be left to disabled people denied access to licensed premises to have to fight on their own to secure their rights. The contrary argument, which I set out in Committee, is that this amendment is seeking to skew the regulatory regime in the 2003 Act and use it for a purpose for which it was never intended. The amendment potentially puts us on to a slippery slope. If we can use the 2003 Act to enforce the obligations placed on businesses by other enactments, where does this stop? Are licensing authorities then to be charged with, for example, ensuring that pubs and restaurants are paying the minimum wage or complying with other aspects of employment law?

While it could be argued that the particular challenges faced by disabled people make this amendment a special case, we should not seek to downplay the fact that there will be a cost to business. I accept that the amendment does not place any new direct obligations on licensed premises as a class of business, as they are already subject to the requirement to make reasonable adjustments. However, if we are expecting licensing authorities to act as an enforcement agency in this regard, there will unavoidably be a cost to them in discharging this new function. As the cost of the licensing system properly falls on licensees rather than the council tax payer, consequently any increase in costs for licensing authorities will need to be passed on through increased licensing fees. We must take this into account when considering the amendment.

I have heard the powerful voices expressed in the debate here today. I cannot ignore the strength of feeling in your Lordships’ House. I believe that there is scope for compromise around possible amendments to the Licensing Act, which would work with the grain of the existing licensing regime. I cannot say more at this stage, as there is further work to do to scope such a possible compromise, but nor can I give the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, any undertaking today that I will be able to bring forward a government amendment at Third Reading. I hope, however, that the noble Baroness will agree to move forward on the basis of the preliminary discussions that we have had earlier this afternoon and, if not, perhaps we should come to a decision on her amendment today.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
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My Lords, I know that the Minister is sympathetic, but I still find the arguments unpersuasive. The Licensing Act is already used to enforce other Acts, for example, about children. If there is a cost to business, or a cost that is going to be passed on, are we to say that we can never make improvements for disabled people because it might cost somebody something? That simply will not do. I believe the Minister is suggesting that any amendment that the Government may bring forward would not remove the burden from disabled people but require them to make representations, make phone calls and use the internet to fill in forms and so on—when we know very well that even if you are able, trying to deal with local authorities on this sort of thing can be a nightmare. I am simply saying that access for disabled people—and, as the noble Baroness said, for the elderly, which is all of us eventually if not already—should be mainstreamed.

All parties in this House, some more than others, claim to have as their raison d’être improving the life of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. To refuse to do this when presented with a straightforward, effective amendment is incomprehensible to me and goes against what I believe this House stands for. The amendment would make adjustments anticipatory and remove the onus from disabled persons. I do not believe that any compromise that the Minister might offer, well-disposed though she is—I know that she spent a lot of time on this—would meet that bill. Given the mission of this House, I do not think that we should talk the talk; I think that we should walk the walk. On that note, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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Unfortunately, I was not able to get to the meeting that was organised yesterday but, bearing in mind that previously the Government’s stance has been not to go down the road of these amendments, it would be of some use if the Minister made it clear whether or not, in the light of what has been said in the debate, they are going to take any note of what does or does not emerge from what has happened in Scotland, which has already reduced the limit, and whether the Government themselves are going to initiate some sort of investigation into what the impact has been in Scotland. I think the Government’s argument has been that any change should be based on hard evidence. That is one obvious source of hard evidence. It would be a bit disappointing if there was any indication by the Government that they are not actually going to pay very much notice to what does or does not happen in Scotland as a result of the reduction in the limit.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for explaining the reasoning behind these amendments. I thank her and other noble Lords who came to the meeting yesterday and the one that I held—it seems like a few weeks ago, but it was probably about one week ago. I thank them for being so engaged in this issue.

Amendments 174 and 175 look to lower the drink-driving limit in England and Wales from 80 milligrams to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, and further to 20 milligrams for novice and probationary drivers. In responding to these amendments, I start by posing a question: what does the number 80 mean to noble Lords or, indeed, anyone who enjoys a drink? Can any noble Lord in this Chamber effortlessly equate it to pints of beer or glasses of wine, taking into account metabolic rate, age, weight and what one has eaten for lunch? I suggest that it is unlikely. Instead, I would like to think that noble Lords in the Chamber today are sensible enough to drink very little, or indeed nothing at all, before driving. Noble Lords and most of society are part of the silent, self-regulating majority that makes our roads in Britain among the safest in the world.

However, the evidence shows that it is precisely such individuals that these amendments would affect. Those unlikely to commit a drink-driving offence in the first place would be put off drinking at all. Meanwhile, no evidence exists to support the notion that reducing the limit would have any deterrent effect whatever on the most dangerous group of individuals. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, alluded to the sick and selfish types—the high-level frequent offenders who flout the current limit and would pay little regard to a new one.

The fact is that the pattern of alcohol levels in drivers is practically the same in most countries, irrespective of their limits, and our police resources are not limitless. If we stretch enforcement activity over a wider cohort of drivers, we will effectively lower the chance of the most dangerous being caught and taken off our roads. I therefore suggest that a lower limit is likely to be counterproductive. Evidence showed that this is exactly what happened in the Republic of Ireland, where the death rate on the roads increased by about 17% when the limit was reduced several years ago. The number of drink-drive arrests stayed pretty much the same. Instead, it is the view of the Government that we must prioritise the targeting of the selfish, dangerous minority who cannot be deterred by a change in the law which they are, in any event, totally disregarding.

The drink-driving limit for England and Wales strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom. By retaining the present limit, we are not criminalising those who drink a small amount a long time before driving; we are pursuing the most dangerous individuals. Meanwhile, our advice remains unchanged: do not take the risk by driving after you have had a drink. I think we all share a common objective of wanting to see a reduction in the number of people killed and injured on our roads as a result of drink-driving. However, I put it to your Lordships that the most effective way to achieve this is not through these amendments but through the continued robust enforcement of the current law.

In response to my noble friend Lady Berridge and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, we will review any new evidence that may emerge, including in relation to the change in the law in Scotland. We will naturally be interested in any reports produced by the Scottish Government or Police Scotland, or any other independent research. For the reasons I have set out, we remain unpersuaded of the case for changing the current drink-driving limit. We will, however, continue to look with interest at any new data or information emerging from Scotland. On that basis, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who supported this amendment and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for pointing out that this is an increasing problem, proportionately, within the number of deaths on our roads. I was not surprised to hear my noble friend the Minister refer to the enforcement point on which the Government rely in this matter. We must pay tribute to our police but the Police Federation supports a reduction in the alcohol limit. If that were the main solution and there would be no effect from this amendment, I do not think that the police would be asking for a reduction in the limit.

I was disappointed that my noble friend did not take on board the point that 60% of these accidents involve young people—I think that it rises to 80% in rural areas. These are not the selfish and dangerous drivers. Interpretation of the evidence is that this provision would have an effect, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, outlined. We will always be left with a rump of people who disregard the law completely but the NICE study on this outlined that changing the limit down to 50 milligrams, or any change, would affect behaviour across the board.

I have to join with other noble Lords in saying that I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for outlining that the advice is still, “Don’t take the risk—don’t drink and drive”, because it was not what was outlined in the Daily Mail today, where the message was actually quite disturbing. I am also disturbed that my noble friend has not been able to outline any other action to try to reduce this trajectory of deaths, which has flat-lined at 240 a year for five years. No other solution is being put forward by the Government to say what they will do to trigger a decline in those deaths.

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - part two): House of Lords
Wednesday 9th November 2016

(7 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 263KB) - (7 Nov 2016)
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)
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My Lords, we have moved on to another part of the Bill. I should declare that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I do not serve on the licensing committee of Lewisham Council; I have enough to do on the planning committee. However, many years ago, I was a member of the licensing committee of Southwark Council. In those days, we considered only music and dance licences. One still had to apply to the magistrates’ court for a late-night alcohol licence. That has all changed and these matters are now under the control of the licensing committee.

This has been an interesting debate on four important amendments, all of which I support. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and other noble Lords made very valid points in respect of licensing authorities’ compliance with the provisions of the Equality Act. This is an issue of enforcement, rather than advice and guidance. Being able to remind licence holders of their duty is not good enough because it has not worked as effectively as it should. We should force licensed premises to be able to be used by disabled people.

My noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe spoke about the need for a duty to promote health and well-being. Local authorities have such general duties but for there to be a specific requirement in respect of licensed premises is a new initiative. He made important points about the changes to availability of alcohol and consumption patterns. They have certainly changed. My noble friend was clear and we can all think back on how many pubs have closed while alcohol is more available in convenience stores and supermarkets. Things have changed in the past 20 years. He also made important points on the duty of authorities to look after young people and protect them from harm.

As regards the promotion of cultural activity and inclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has an impressive record in this House of standing up for live music and other cultural activities. He is right to stand up for grass-roots music venues, which have launched many a career in the entertainment industry. I agree with the noble Lord that music and other activities should be helped and supported where possible through the licensing system, rather than just regulated. I recall a debate on a different subject in the Moses Room, when we talked about a range of regulations that sometimes affect people going about their lawful business and allowing them to busk and so on. Decisions on this are being taken by officials of local authorities, rather than elected members, which is worrying. It is a slightly different but similar point. I also agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said about the industry.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 210, 211 and 214A in this group seek to add to the list of licensing objectives under the Licensing Act 2003. In answer to my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s question, there are currently four such objectives. These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. The promotion of the licensing objectives is of paramount importance when authorities make licensing decisions, and each one carries equal weight.

Amendment 210 seeks to add,

“compliance with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010”,

to the list of licensing objectives. As we have heard, the amendment flows from a recommendation made by the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Committee, which reported in March. I was pleased to be able to respond in our debate on that. All four noble Baronesses who put their name to this amendment served on that committee.

The committee recommended that the Licensing Act 2003 be amended to make failure to comply with the Equality Act 2010 a ground for refusing a licence. In their response published in July, the Government argued that, as employers and businesses were already under a duty to comply with the statutory obligations imposed by the Equality Act not to discriminate against staff or customers, the Act offered sufficient protection. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate for the 2003 Act to duplicate the requirements of the 2010 Act, just as it would be inappropriate to make express reference to other legislation—such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or the Noise Act 1996—all of which places requirements and responsibilities on licensing authorities and licensees.

Moreover, if we were to apply the logic of Amendment 122 more broadly, we should also be amending the Gambling Act, and indeed many other statutes, to place analogous obligations on those undertaking other forms of regulated activity. To single out the operators of businesses licensed under the 2003 Act could be taken as downgrading the obligations on all other businesses to similarly comply with the requirements of the Equality Act. I am sure that noble Lords would not wish to give that impression.

This is not to say that those running licensed premises should not be doing more to facilitate access by disabled people. Earlier this year the Minister for Disabled People held a round table event with disabled people and the hospitality industry to lead to a better understanding by service providers and businesses and a commitment from them to improve access and attitudes. Organisations represented at the round table made pledges to improve accessibility to their premises and improve their customer service for disabled people. For example, the British Beer and Pub Association pledged to update and promote its guidance on accessibility in pubs. This gives pubs advice on easy changes they can make to improve their service to disabled customers. These are very practical steps which will help to improve the day-to-day experiences of disabled people.

Amendment 211, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, seeks to add an additional licensing objective,

“to promote the health and wellbeing of the locality and local area”.

The Government are not unsympathetic to those who believe that there should be a greater role for public health within the licensing system, and we of course acknowledge the health harms attributable to alcohol. However, decisions under the Licensing Act have to be proportionate and made on a case-by-case basis. Unless it can be demonstrated that an application for a new licence is likely to undermine one or more of the licensing objectives, the licensing authority must grant the licence. The Government believe that any new licensing objective would need to be capable of standing alongside the existing objectives and function in the same way. Any new objective must therefore enable licensing authorities to determine whether it is appropriate to grant or refuse new applications, review licences and attach conditions or revoke licences.

Previous work has shown that it is difficult to establish direct causal links between alcohol-related health harms such as chronic liver disease and particular premises. Difficulties also remain with putting in place the necessary processes to enable the collection of such evidence—without which decisions based on health grounds would be unlikely to stand up to challenge. Work to date has established that the types of health data that are more readily accessible and most suited to use in a licensing context tend to relate to acute harms such as violent assaults and alcohol-related injuries. These harms, as well as most factors affecting well-being, such as crime levels and the welfare of children, can already be addressed through the existing licensing objectives, as demonstrated by the achievements of areas such as the Kensington area of Liverpool, Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

The Government will therefore continue working with Public Health England to facilitate access to local health data to inform decision-making within the current framework and to help public health teams play a role within licensing. Public Health England has also been testing a support package to assist with the development of local data collection and analysis based on lessons learned from the evidence-based work carried out in 2014-15. I assure the noble Lord that the Government continue to look at this matter seriously and will consider the findings of Public Health England.

Amendment 214A seeks to add,

“the promotion of cultural activity and inclusion”,

to the licensing objectives. This would require licensing authorities to consider the character of licensable activities, rather than purely protect against the potential harm caused by licensable activity. The existing licensing objectives seek to reduce harm that can be evidenced, and licence conditions which are intended to reduce the level of harm can be easily understood—for example, a requirement to restrict noise levels to prevent public nuisance.

It would be difficult to replicate this for “cultural activity and inclusion”, since this is quite a subjective matter and may be interpreted in different ways. For example, would a festival of Hindi films or Irish dance be considered good or bad in terms of cultural activity and inclusion? Making this a licensing objective could place licensing authorities in a censorious position, whereby licensees organising events might be obliged to explain what additional cultural value their entertainment might generate, and the licensing authorities would be required to evaluate that information.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment 212, seeks to add child protection bodies to the list of statutory consultees for statements of licensing policy. Each licensing authority is required to publish a statement of licensing policy and to revise it at least every five years. The statement sets out the general approach to making licensing decisions and managing the evening and night-time economy in the area.

Section 5(3) of the 2003 Act sets out a list of organisations and individuals who must be consulted when the statement is reviewed. The list includes the police, the fire and rescue authority and the public health body, but it is not intended to be exhaustive and therefore does not include all the responsible authorities. The 2003 Act does not prevent licensing authorities from consulting other bodies or persons as they see appropriate.

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Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones
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My Lords, I am not quite sure that the Minister has answered anything to do with Amendment 214A.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I did. It may be that it was so dull a response that the noble Lord did not catch it. Shall I put it in writing and send it to him?

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones
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I shall read her response, but it was very short.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, Amendment 214C, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, reduces the legal alcohol limits in England and Wales to match the limits introduced by the Scottish Government on 5 December 2014.

My noble friend Lord Harris made a particularly powerful point in respect of deaths caused through drink-driving. I am very supportive of this amendment, as I think we need tough laws on drinking and driving that are effectively enforced.

I also think that it would be quite good to have the same limit across the whole of Great Britain, and ideally the whole of the United Kingdom. This would make it much easier to understand for everyone concerned. I am also not against having a lower limit for commercial drivers and novices.

There is clear evidence that a reduction in the drink-drive limits would save lives. No one has said that is not the case. We have the highest limits in Europe. Only Malta has the same drink-drive limit we have in this country. The limit introduced by the Scottish Government is the same one that is in force in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Switzerland. So the case is powerful. In none of these countries is there a problem with the limit being effective.

The second amendment in the group, again in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and my noble friend Lord Brooke, seeks to create a lower limit for novice and professional drivers. Again, I think that this is something we should consider. Many countries have this. That is certainly the case in many of the countries I read out, including Ireland and North Ireland. I think that it is important, if you are a professional or a novice driver, to have a lower limit.

I passed my driving test 36 years ago. I remember getting my first car—you are let loose and you are in there on your own. If you think about it, you are not very experienced at that point. Therefore it would be a good to enforce a lower limit. The fact is that our limits are comparatively high. I hope the Minister will respond to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. It is very good, and I hope that we will get a positive response from the Government. If not, I hope that the noble Baroness will bring it back on Report. I assure her that if she wants to test the opinion of the House at that point, we will support her.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I know that these amendments relate to concerns around the Government’s approach to drink-driving limits, particularly in light of changes in the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and, more recently, with a proposed change in Malta to lower the drink-drive limit. First, I emphasise that tackling drink-driving is a priority for the Government and that, together with the police, we continue to take robust enforcement action against this reckless behaviour.

Other countries may have a lower alcohol limit, but they do not necessarily have a better record on reducing drink-drive casualties. While it is difficult to make direct comparisons, some stark contrasts clearly exist between ourselves and our European neighbours. Estonia, for example, with a population of 1.3 million, has a limit of 20 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood and carries out 10 times more breath tests than we do in Great Britain. Yet 160 people died there in 2014 as a result of drink-driving. That rate is 30 times greater per head than in Britain. Closer to home, we can look at France. With a similar population to us, it suffers nearly four times the drink-drive fatalities that we do. Even taking into account those cases that fall between its limit and ours, we perform significantly better.

In many of these countries a first drink-drive offence gets you a fine and some penalty points. Indeed, in Northern Ireland they intend to bring in a fixed penalty notice regime. They will hand out penalty points to those offenders found to be over the new limit but under the old one. There is no appetite amongst the public or road safety groups in England and Wales to reduce the penalties and not disqualify offenders who flout the law. Nor would we wish to create in the minds of potential offenders the thought that they might get only a fine and penalty points and so encourage them to drink and drive.

In England and Wales, the success we have had in tackling drink-driving has been down to the severe penalties, rigorously enforced and backed up with hard-hitting campaigns, which now make this behaviour utterly socially unacceptable. Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world because we crack down on those who break the law. Last year we made it a requirement for those convicted of drink-driving offences to undertake medical tests to ensure they are not still dependent on alcohol before they are allowed to drive again.

The same legislation, the Deregulation Act 2015, also made an important change to drink-driving laws by removing the so-called “statutory option”, which allowed drivers who provided a breath test that was slightly in excess of the prescribed limit to demand a blood or urine test back at the station. By removing this provision, individuals have been denied the chance to sober up and so drop below the prescribed limit while waiting for a blood or urine sample to be taken.

Yes, there is always more to be done, but harmonisation with other countries with a poorer record of tackling drink-driving is not a reason in itself to lower the limit.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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In this debate no one has said that we want to lower the penalties—just to lower the limits. We have a good record in this country, and I give credit to our police service for that. The noble Baroness’s amendment is asking only to reduce the limits. She did not talk about penalties or enforcement, and, of course, as my noble friend Lord Harris said, if we looked at the number of deaths caused under the limit enforced now and above the proposed limit, we could save more lives.

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Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, I understand the argument but the difficulty is that those offences could just be caused by people making a stupid mistake and I am not sure that lowering the limit would solve the problem.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, can I intervene on myself? I totally understand what noble Lords are saying. I am not trying to compare us to other countries but to demonstrate that where there is a combination of factors, such as enforcement and type of penalty regime, different results are thrown up. It is not just the drink-drive limit that has an effect, albeit that we have, of course, reduced ours—our enforcement is also very strong. I hope I have made it clear that it is not just the limit that is important but other factors, too. I am now going to provide a bit more detail, which noble Lords will be relieved to hear.

The Department for Transport collects coroners’ data. Of drivers killed on the road, over 72% have little or no alcohol in their systems—and I am talking here about 0 to 9 milligrams of alcohol, which must be less than a sip of a glass of red wine. So, the vast majority of drivers killed on the road have no or little alcohol in their system; I will leave noble Lords to conclude why. Just over 3% have a blood alcohol content between 20 and 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, while a similar proportion, just under 3%, were found to have between 50 and 80 milligrams. However, the proportion of drivers killed jumps significantly to 17% for those with above 80 milligrams in their systems. This is the evidence that shows us where the risk lies and therefore where we should target our efforts. But I emphasise that statistic about drivers killed on the road who have virtually no alcohol in their system—perhaps their deaths are a result of being elderly or less able to react to what is happening around them, but noble Lords will reach their own conclusions.

We do not, however, tolerate drug-impaired driving, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about. That is why we introduced the new drug-driving offence in March 2015, setting specified limits for 17 drugs. The police are having success in taking these dangerous drivers off our roads and we are on target to convict over 7,000 drug drivers in 2016 compared to 879 in 2014. Indeed, 20% of drug-drivers convicted between 2009 and 2014 had previous drink-driving convictions. Our evaluation of the new drug-driving law has also highlighted just how dangerous these drivers are: 63% of those convicted in 2015 under the new Section 5A law had a previous conviction; 22% were serial offenders with more than 11 offences to their name. It means that we will be taking more than 1,500 drug- driving offenders who are also serial offenders off our roads this year.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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The Minister said that the statistics on what is happening in Scotland will be available shortly. Is she telling the Committee that the UK Government will evaluate them when they become available?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the UK Government will look at them with great interest. There may be compelling evidence that comes out of them. Basically, the Government will look at them when they come out.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, it seems that we will have to wait a very long time for these statistics, until summer next year. It is possible that I am wrong in my position and that the statistics will tell us so. Is there nothing that can be done to speed up the production of the statistics? Perhaps the Minister would like to write to me on that point rather than answering straightaway.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, we do not really have any jurisdiction to tell Scotland what to do about getting the statistics. I hope that they will be ready as soon as possible.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, for putting their names to the amendment—and for noble Lords making the most of the generous rules in Committee for debating this issue. I agree with my noble friend the Minister that changing the law will not change anything if we do not then support it with a campaign to make people aware. Clearly, we now have a cross-border issue anyway. We need to make people aware that there is a difference in the law as they drive over the border from Cumbria or Northumberland into Scotland.

I agree with my noble friend that it is clear from the statistics that risk increases exponentially over the 80 milligram limit. However, that is not to say that under that limit there is not a risk with which we need to deal. To say that we are just targeting the most dangerous individuals does not give any reassurance to an affected family member. We need to look at this again.

My noble friend outlined the figures from coroners about drivers killed on the roads. Because of the complex factors that I outlined on the law, enforcement and the safety of vehicles, 60% of the people who are now injured or killed are not the driver of the vehicle concerned. People should be able to walk or cycle down the street and not be concerned that there are people with an amount of alcohol in their blood that affects their safety. That is why we do not look at the limit over which risk rises exponentially for train drivers and airline pilots. We say that they cannot drink. Why, then, do we have a different attitude on the roads? That is not sustainable.

As a lawyer, I do take into account the argument of my noble friend Lord Attlee who asks whether we can prove beyond reasonable doubt that taking this limit down from 80 to 50 will definitely save lives. I cannot prove this to an absolute certainty, but on at least the balance of probabilities. Reducing the limit from 80 to 50 in Switzerland—and the Swiss are known for being compliant people—produced evidence of a reduction in injuries and deaths. There is evidence out there to say that if we reduced the limit along with maintaining compliance, telling people and promoting messages, we would, with very little effort, stand an incredibly good chance of reducing the number of deaths on our roads.

This is an amendment for which the Police Federation are asking. The police are our enforcement. I commend their enforcement as well as the amazing medical care that is all part of this picture. However, we now need to play our role. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend the Minster will go away and reflect. Although the Chamber is not well populated and we have not heard from the often influential Cross-Benchers on this matter, the feeling in this Committee is that this is something that we could do and that at this stage we have enough evidence to change the law. Now is the right time of year.

I thank my noble friend the Minister. I hope that we shall hear of a change of position but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
214D: Before Schedule 16, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULE 15ALATE NIGHT LEVY REQUIREMENTS1 Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (late night levy) is amended as follows.2 (1) Section 126 (“relevant late night authorisation” and related definitions) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (2)—(a) for ““Relevant late night authorisation”” substitute ““Relevant late night alcohol authorisation”;(b) after “licensing authority” insert “, a late night levy requirement”;(c) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “(whether or not it also authorises the provision of late night refreshment at a time or times during such a period)”.(3) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) “Relevant late night refreshment authorisation”, in relation to a licensing authority, a late night levy requirement and a levy year, means a premises licence which— (a) is granted by the authority, (b) authorises the provision of late night refreshment at a time or times during the late night supply period on one or more days in the related payment year, and(c) does not also authorise the supply of alcohol at a time or times during any such period.”(4) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) Where a licensing authority decides under section 125(2) to apply a late night levy requirement in respect of both relevant late night alcohol authorisations and relevant late night refreshment authorisations, the licensing authority may determine under section 132(1)—(a) a single late night levy period that is to apply in respect of both kinds of authorisations, or(b) two late night levy periods, one of which to is to apply in respect of relevant late night alcohol authorisations and the other of which is to apply in respect of relevant late night refreshment authorisations.”(5) In subsection (5), for “The late night supply period” substitute “A late night supply period”.(6) In subsection (8)—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) omit “in its area”.3 (1) Section 127 (liability to pay late night levy) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) after “the area” insert “or part of the area”;(c) for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which the requirement relates”.(3) In subsection (2), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which the requirement relates”.(4) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) In addition, if the requirement relates to a late night authorisation that is a relevant late night refreshment authorisation, the holder of the authorisation is not liable to pay the late night levy for a levy year if only hot drinks are supplied (or held out for supply) in reliance on the authorisation during the levy year.”(5) In subsection (3), for “in its area” substitute “in relation to the late night levy requirement”.4 (1) Section 128 (amount of late night levy) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1) after “For” insert “any levy requirement and”.(3) In subsection (2), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”.(4) In subsection (3)—(a) after “in relation to” insert “a late night levy requirement and”;(b) for “in its area” substitute “in relation to the late night levy requirement”.(5) In subsection (4)—(a) for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”;(b) after “the same” insert “, in respect of all late night levy requirements”; (c) for “the levy” substitute “a levy”;(d) omit “for the levy year”. 5 (1) Section 129 (payment and administration of the levy) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), in the closing words, for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”.(3) In subsection (2)—(a) for “the levy” substitute “a levy”;(b) for “relevant late night authorisations” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”.(4) In subsection (4)—(a) in paragraph (a), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”;(b) in paragraph (b), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”;(c) in paragraph (c), for “the relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a relevant late night alcohol authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”;(d) in the closing words, for “the levy year” substitute “the levy year in question”.(5) In subsection (5), for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”.(6) In subsection (6), in the closing words, for “the late night levy” (in both places where it occurs) substitute “a late night levy”.6 (1) Section 130 (net amount of levy payments) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), after “In this Chapter” insert “, in relation to a late night levy requirement,”.(3) In subsection (3), for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”.(4) In subsection (5), in the opening words, at the beginning insert “In relation to a late night levy requirement,”.7 (1) Section 131 (application of net amount of levy payments) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), at the beginning insert “In relation to a late night levy requirement,”.(3) After subsection (4) insert—“(4A) The licensing authority must publish information as to how it applies the remainder of the net amount mentioned in subsection (2)(b).(4B) The information must be published at least once in each calendar year during which any part of the remainder is applied.(4C) It is for the licensing authority to determine the manner in which the information is published.”(4) In subsection (6)(b), for “in respect of the levy” substitute “in respect of a levy”.8 (1) Section 132 (introduction of late night levy requirement) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)—(a) in the opening words, for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) in those words, omit “in its area”;(c) in paragraph (b)—(i) in sub-paragraph (i), after “period” insert “or periods (as to which see section 126(3A))”;(ii) in sub-paragraph (ii), omit “in its area”; (iii) in sub-paragraph (iii), omit “in its area”.9 (1) Section 133 (amendment of late night levy requirement) is amended as follows. (2) In subsection (1)— (a) in the opening words, for the words from the beginning to “section 125,” substitute “Where, in consequence of a decision by a licensing authority under section 125, a late night levy requirement applies,”(b) in paragraph (a), omit “in the area”;(c) in paragraph (c), for “in the area” substitute “in relation to the late night levy requirement”.(3) After subsection (1) insert—“(1A) Where the late night levy requirement is in respect of both relevant late night alcohol authorisations and relevant late night refreshment authorisations, the power conferred by subsection (1)(b) includes—(a) where a single late night levy period applies, power to decide that two late night levy periods are to apply instead;(b) where two late night levy periods apply, power to decide that a single late night levy period is to apply instead.”(4) In subsection (4)—(a) in paragraph (b), omit “in the area of a licensing authority”;(b) in that paragraph, after “relevant decision” insert “by a licensing authority”;(c) in the closing words, omit “in its area”.10 (1) Section 134 (introduction or variation of late night levy requirement: procedure) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)—(a) in paragraph (a), for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) in that paragraph, omit “in the area of the licensing authority”;(c) in paragraph (b), for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(d) in that paragraph omit “in the area of the licensing authority”.(3) In subsection (2)—(a) in paragraph (a)(iii), for “relevant late night authorisations” substitute “late night authorisations to which the levy requirement in question relates or would relate”;(b) in paragraph (c)(i), for “so as to cease to be a relevant late night authorisation before the beginning of the first levy year” substitute “so that it is not a late night authorisation to which the levy requirement relates at the beginning of the first levy year”.(4) In subsection (3)—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) omit “to the area of a licensing authority”.(5) In subsection (4)—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) omit “in its area”.(6) Omit subsection (5).11 (1) Section 135 (permitted exemption and reduction categories) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)— (a) in paragraph (a), for “relevant late night authorisations” substitute “relevant late night alcohol authorisations or relevant late night refreshment authorisations”;(b) in that paragraph, for “the requirement to pay the late night levy is not to apply” substitute “no requirement to pay a late night levy is to apply”; (c) in paragraph (b), for “relevant late night authorisations” substitute “relevant late night alcohol authorisations or relevant late night refreshment authorisations”;(d) in that paragraph, for “the levy” substitute “a levy”.(3) In subsection (2), omit “in its area”.(4) In subsection (4)—(a) in paragraph (a), for “the levy” substitute “a levy”;(b) in paragraph (b), for “the levy” substitute “a levy”;(c) in the closing words—(i) for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”;(ii) after “the same” insert “, in respect of all late night levy requirements,”;(iii) for “relevant late night authorisations” substitute “relevant late night alcohol authorisations or relevant late night refreshment authorisations”;(iv) omit “for a levy year”.12 After section 136 insert—“136A Late night levy: requests by relevant local policing bodies(1) The relevant local policing body in relation to a licensing authority may request the licensing authority to make a proposal for a decision under section 125(2) that a late night levy requirement of a kind described in the request is to apply.(2) In deciding whether to make a request, the relevant local policing body must consider the matters mentioned in section 125(3).(3) A request must be accompanied by any evidence the relevant local policing body has in support of its request.(4) In deciding how to respond to the request, the licensing authority must consider the matters mentioned in section 125(3).(5) The licensing authority must publish—(a) the request, including the evidence accompanying it, and(b) its response to the request.(6) The response must include reasons, including an explanation of the outcome of the authority’s consideration of the matters mentioned in section 125(3).(7) It is for the licensing authority to determine the manner in which it publishes the request and its response under subsection (4).”13 (1) Section 137 (interpretation) is amended as follows.(2) For ““the late night levy requirement” substitute ““a late night levy requirement”.(3) At the appropriate place insert—““late night refreshment” has the same meaning as in the Licensing Act 2003 (see Schedule 2 to that Act);”.(4) In the definition of ““levy year”—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) omit “in the area of the authority”.(5) In the definition of ““payment year”, for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”.”
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Lord Sharkey Portrait Lord Sharkey (LD)
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My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment 214F. Both amendments are in my name and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and the noble Lords, Lord Lexden and Lord Black of Brentwood. These amendments each do one simple thing. Amendment 214E grants posthumous pardons to those men, now deceased, who were convicted under the dreadful Labouchere amendment and other homophobic legislation, for acts that would now not be crimes. Amendment 214F provides that a pardon is granted to those living who were similarly convicted and who have, or will have, obtained a disregard under the Protection of Freedoms Act. I am very glad to say that the Government have said they will support these amendments and I thank the Minister for her help and encouragement.

If these amendments pass, it will be the culmination of a long campaign to put right a historic injustice. Some 65,000 men were convicted under the Labouchere amendment and other anti-gay statutes. Of these, 16,000 are still alive and 49,000 are dead. When we passed the Protection of Freedoms Act in 2012 we made provisions for the living 16,000 to have their convictions disregarded. That is, for all practical purposes, the convictions would no longer have any effect. That was a great step forward. We recognised a terrible injustice and did something to make amends and to put things right. At the time it seemed to me that the 49,000 men convicted but now dead deserved exactly the same treatment. It seemed a straightforward argument. The disregard for the living acknowledged a wrong and offered a partial remedy. Simple justice suggested that we do the same for the dead. We should acknowledge the wrong done to them and should provide some comfort to their relatives, their friends and their memory.

I tried, with other noble Lords, notably the noble Lords, Lord Black of Brentwood, Lord Lexden and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, to amend the Protection of Freedoms Act to do exactly that—to extend the disregard posthumously. I tried via the LASPO Bill in March 2012 and via the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill once in July 2014 and again that October. During this process the Government’s position began to shift. The initial and rather blunt refusal to take action became a willingness to discuss and, eventually, a willingness to help. I was encouraged to persevere and to promote a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing. There was a feeling that, if Turing were pardoned, it would be morally impossible not to extend that pardon to all those others similarly convicted but now dead. So it would prove, if these amendments now pass. If they do, we will finally be putting right a cruel and unjust historic wrong—a wrong that has wrecked the lives of thousands of gay men. I urge your Lordships to support these amendments and I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I intervene on the noble Lord to say that not only do the Government support this amendment, we strongly support it. I thought that might be helpful to the debate in Committee.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure and, indeed, an honour to support the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Sharkey. They represent the culmination of work done over several years by my noble friend to secure as much redress as is practicable for victims of grave injustice, including those who are no longer alive—gay men who suffered great wrong simply for giving expression to the love that for far too long dared not speak its name but has thankfully found its full and authentic voice in our times. My noble friend kept the issue before successive Ministers and their officials. It is in part due to the polite but enduring pressure that he applied that commitment to action was included in the Conservative Party manifesto at the last general election. As my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford has already made clear, these amendments will be accepted by the Government. It is a day of great importance for gay people, a view shared by my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood, who has also put his name to these amendments but has had to leave the Chamber.

I turn to Amendments 214H to 214L, 235A and 239C in my name. My amendments have two aims. The first is to extend the pardons for iniquitous former offences, now abolished, that will be available to living and deceased persons in England and Wales to their counterparts in Northern Ireland. The second aim is to extend the disregard scheme now in operation in England and Wales to Northern Ireland, where at present it does not exist. The first of the amendments relating to pardons, Amendment 214H, includes provision for legislation that is specific to Northern Ireland. Through this amendment and the two that follow, pardons could be granted in the same manner as in England and Wales.

Because there is no disregard scheme, the foundation on which pardons will rest in Northern Ireland, Amendment 214L, is vital. It will insert a new clause in the Bill that would make a number of amendments to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, changing the scope of Chapter 4 of Part 5. As a result, application could be made to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to have a conviction or caution in respect of an abolished offence in Northern Ireland disregarded. Since justice and policing are now transferred matters in Northern Ireland, the responsibility for designing and implementing a disregard scheme would in practice be expected to rest with the Northern Ireland Executive. Exactly how the system would work may need further consideration; it must clearly be fully acceptable in all its details to the Executive.

The impetus for the extension to Northern Ireland of the arrangements proposed in England and Wales has come from Northern Ireland itself. I am merely the spokesman and agent of courageous campaigners for full gay rights in the Province who are working to achieve complete equality with the rest of the UK. No one has done more to create support for the amendments I have put forward than Councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon MBE, who in 1981 paved the way for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland through a successful case at the European Court of Human Rights.

The five main parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly have all pledged support for the principles embodied in the amendments. I am in the fortunate position of being able to tell your Lordships’ House that yesterday the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland, Claire Sugden, announced that a legislative consent Motion would shortly be introduced in the Assembly enabling these amendments, after any revision that may be needed, to become law in Northern Ireland.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, this has been an important debate and I am pleased to be able to respond on behalf of the Opposition.

I can support all the amendments in this group as far as they go, although some go further than others. I was particularly pleased to see the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, which extend posthumous pardons to Northern Ireland. However, further rights need to be won for LGBT people and women in Northern Ireland, as well as on the mainland. We must return to them at a later date.

I join my noble friend Lord Cashman in paying tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Lexden and Lord Sharkey, for their tireless campaigning. I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Cashman for his tireless campaigning to deliver equality for LGBT people. There has been tremendous progress in the past 20 years in particular, and my noble friend has been there, standing up, making the case and challenging prejudice, hate and injustice. We are all grateful to him. The most comprehensive amendments in the group are those in the name of my noble friend and they have my full support. I very much agree with him that granting a pardon to any person convicted of or cautioned for a now-abolished offence, providing they meet certain conditions, and regardless of whether they are living or dead, is the way to proceed. His amendments go further in that they extend pardons to those convicted or cautioned under Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 or the Vagrancy Act.

My noble friend made it clear that nothing in his amendments would grant a pardon to any person convicted or cautioned for soliciting. Nor would the amendments grant a pardon to anyone convicted or cautioned in respect of conduct involving a person under the age of 16. My noble friend gave an important illustration of the effect of Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, and I agree that it is important to right this wrong for both those who are living and those who are dead. Treat them equally. This is the right thing to do. No one would be pardoned for anything that is still an offence. I hope your Lordships’ House will accept my noble friend’s amendments.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am pleased to be able, on behalf of the Government, to warmly welcome Amendments 214E, 214F, 214G, 239A and 246, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on bringing them forward, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, who spoke so movingly.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, explained, these amendments broadly do two things. First, they confer an automatic pardon on deceased individuals convicted of certain consensual gay sexual offences that would not be offences today. Secondly, they confer a pardon on those persons still living who have a conviction for such an offence that has been disregarded under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. It is important to note that for the pardon to apply, the conduct in question must have been consensual and involved another person aged 16 or over, which is the current age of consent. The conduct must also not involve an offence of sexual activity in a public lavatory, which is still illegal today.

This historic step is momentous in righting wrongs suffered by thousands of gay and bisexual men. It is a tragedy that people were criminalised over a shamefully long time for something that society regards today as normal sexual activity. It is time to right the wrongs of the past and I am pleased to support the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, in putting forward these amendments.

It is important that we link the pardons for the living to the disregard process so that the necessary checks can be carried out to identify whether the individual in question engaged in activity that constitutes an offence today. Since the disregard scheme under the Protection of Freedoms Act came into force, eight disregard applications that concerned non-consensual activity have been rejected. It is therefore crucial that a pardon for the living should only follow a successful disregard application. This mitigates the risk of individuals claiming to be cleared of offences that are still crimes today. It takes into account and protects the rights of victims and ensures that children and vulnerable people are safeguarded from potential risks. This is extremely important and an objective with which I am sure noble Lords would agree. It is for these reasons that the Government cannot commend to the Committee Amendment 214S in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman.

The amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Lexden seek to make corresponding provision for Northern Ireland. The Committee will be aware of the established convention that the UK Parliament legislates on devolved matters in Northern Ireland only with the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Subject to observing that convention, the Government are ready to look favourably at amendments at a later stage of the Bill along the lines proposed by my noble friend.

I understand that on Monday of this week, the Ministry of Justice tabled an amendment to a legislative consent Motion before the Northern Ireland Assembly seeking its consent to the UK Parliament legislating on this matter. If the proposed legislative consent Motion can make sufficient progress over the next two to three weeks, I would anticipate that the Government will be able to work with my noble friend to come to an agreement before the Bill leaves this House. I should add that the Scottish Government have separately announced their intention to bring forward legislation in the Scottish Parliament.

I turn to Amendment 214R, which is again in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. The amendment seeks to extend the disregard scheme to include convictions for the soliciting offence in the now-repealed Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. Under the current disregard scheme, for the now-repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men, it is a relatively straightforward matter to establish whether the relevant statutory conditions are met; namely that the other person involved in the conduct consented and was aged 16 or over, and the conduct would not now constitute the offence of sexual activity in a public lavatory. In contrast, the soliciting offence in Section 32 of the 1956 Act covered a broad range of behaviours and, as such, it is not a straightforward matter to formulate additional conditions to ensure that behaviour which would still constitute an offence today cannot be the subject of a disregard. It is likely that any such conditions would entail more than simply establishing facts—for example, whether the other person was aged 16 or over—and require a shift to making judgments as to whether an activity would be captured by a range of different offences today. This creates some practical challenges in accessing records in sufficient detail to make that judgment.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman
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I have listened with great interest and have two points to make. First, a pardon does not remove a conviction from a record. The criminal activity remains on the record, so any employer making a heightened check can find what the conviction was for. I see no way in which, if we issued a pardon, it would put anyone at risk. Secondly, if there is a victim in any of these cases, and if we have managed to weed it out in the discharge process in relation to gross indecency and buggery, we should have the wit and wherewithal to approach this and find out how to apply exactly the same provisions and the same terms to the immoral purposes Section 32. Will the Minister commit at least to sitting down with me and the likes of Paul Johnson, from the University of York, and Stonewall, who have had great input into this, so that instead of protracting discussion of the problem, we can seek the solution?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord reminds me of a conversation that we had the other day. I quite happily undertake to meet him, Paul Johnson and other members of Stonewall to discuss this further. I was going on to say that, despite the challenges, I am ready to consider Amendment 214R further ahead of Report.

I conclude by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, but I also signal my happiness at finishing the work started by the coalition Government in recommending a pardon for Alan Turing. As a Mancunian, the situation he faced, and the fact that he ultimately took his own life, has saddened me for many years. Legislating in this Bill will speed up the delivery of a similar pardon for the thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences. I look forward to the day—perhaps in a little over a month’s time—when this Bill is enacted and these provisions come into force. That will be a day we will all be able to celebrate. I commend the noble Lords’ amendments to the House.

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Moved by
214F: After Clause 142, insert the following new Clause—
“Other pardons for convictions etc of certain abolished offences
(1) This section applies to a person who has been convicted of, or cautioned for, an offence mentioned in section 92(1) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and who is living at the time this section comes into force.(2) If, at the time this section comes into force, the person’s conviction or caution has become a disregarded conviction or caution under Chapter 4 of Part 5 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the person is pardoned for the offence.(3) If, at any time after this section comes into force, the person’s conviction or caution becomes a disregarded conviction or caution under Chapter 4 of Part 5 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the person is also pardoned for the offence at that time.(4) Expressions used in this section or section (Sections (Posthumous pardons for convictions etc of certain abolished offences) and (Other pardons for convictions etc of certain abolished offences): supplementary))(1) (so far as relating to this section) and in Chapter 4 of Part 5 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 have the same meaning in this section or (as the case may be) section (Sections (Posthumous pardons for convictions etc of certain abolished offences) and (Other pardons for convictions etc of certain abolished offences): supplementary))(1) as in that Chapter (see section 101 of that Act).”
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has explained, Amendment 214Q seeks to confer a pardon on persons living and deceased who were convicted under Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824. The noble Lord has explained that Section 4 was used to persecute young black men and this amendment deals with a separate matter to the one that we have just debated. It is, however, also the case that Section 4 was used to prosecute some gay and bisexual men, so there is a read-across to the earlier debate.

In relation to consensual activity between men over the age of consent, Section 101 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 makes it clear that the disregard scheme covers not only the offences of buggery and gross indecency but attempts to commit such an offence, and an attempt to commit such an offence includes conduct covered by Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824. Someone with such a conviction may also apply for that conviction to be disregarded and, if successful, will also receive a pardon under the terms of the new clauses in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey.

As to other conduct unrelated to homosexuality, the Government do not believe that it is appropriate to introduce a pardon for those convicted of an offence just because that offence has now been repealed and the behaviour in question is no longer regarded as criminal. Pardoning is exceptional by nature. The persecution of gay and bisexual men through the criminal law was a clear historical wrong that we should undoubtedly right through a pardon. There is a special and compelling moral case to try to redress wrongs done to gay and bisexual men in the context of the Government’s commitment to equality. The amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, would, like the pardon for Alan Turing, remove a real and particular stigma that is suffered by the living and still attaches to the recently deceased.

The circumstances the noble Lord has described are quite different and, without looking at the facts of individual cases, it is impossible to know whether the conduct in question would still be an offence today.

In terms of the numbers, I was looking for inspiration but we have no data, I am afraid. On that note, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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Does the Minister mean that she has no data here or no data at all?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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No data at all, my Lords.

Housing and Planning Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 25th April 2016

(8 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Moved by
121F: Clause 145, page 75, line 6, at end insert—
“(6A) In this group of sections “connected application”, in relation to an application for planning permission that is to be or has been processed by a designated person under the regulations (“the main application”), means—(a) an application for approval of a matter reserved under an outline planning permission within the meaning of section 92 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (where the main application resulted in the grant of such permission), or(b) an application of a specified description, made under or by virtue of an enactment about planning, that relates to some or all of the land to which the main application relates.”
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Moved by
122B: Clause 145, page 75, line 16, leave out “application” means an application for” and insert “permission” means”
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Moved by
123A: Clause 146, page 75, line 23, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“( ) Regulations under section 145 may—(a) equire a designated person (subject to any specified exceptions) to process an application for planning permission if chosen to do so by an applicant;(b) provide that, where an application for planning permission is to be or has been processed by a designated person, any connected application must (subject to any specified exceptions) also be processed by that person;(c) allow a responsible planning authority to take over the processing of an application for planning permission, or a connected application, in specified circumstances.”
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Moved by
123C: Clause 146, page 75, line 33, leave out “planning applications” and insert “applications for planning permission or connected applications”
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Moved by
123F: Clause 146, page 76, line 2, leave out “a planning” and insert “an”
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Moved by
127: Clause 149, page 77, line 23, leave out from “(1)” to end of line 24 and insert “does not have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
( ) If a draft of an instrument containing an order by the Secretary of State under subsection (1) would, but for this subsection, be treated for the purposes of the standing orders of either House of Parliament as a hybrid instrument, it is to proceed in that House as if it were not a hybrid instrument.”
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, government Amendments 127 and 128 ensure that the affirmative procedure will continue to apply to statutory instruments creating urban development corporations and urban development areas as recommended by the DPRRC.

The amendments at the same time ensure that the affirmative orders establishing a UDC and a UDA should be expressly not hybrid. We do not consider that a right to petition, which can significantly delay the creation of the UDC and the UDA, should be retained in light of the new statutory consultation requirement which this Bill introduces. Consultation provides a better and more accessible way for interested parties to express their views at an earlier stage in the process.

Non-government Amendment 128ZA would introduce the same process for establishing new town development corporations and areas as will apply under the provisions of this Bill to UDCs and UDAs. Non-government Amendment 128ZB would ensure that new town development corporations took into account the need for sustainable development and good design in pursuing their objectives. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Best, for tabling these amendments.

When the noble Lords tabled similar amendments to Amendment 128ZA in Committee, my noble friend Lady Evans welcomed them as introducing a modernised process for establishing new town development corporations and areas. That modernised process will facilitate the role they can play in creating new, locally led garden villages and towns.

Similarly, Amendment 128ZB makes it clear that sustainable development and good design must be at heart of what new town development corporations do. My noble friend Lady Evans indicated in Committee the Government’s receptiveness to extending the objectives of new town development corporations in this way. I am accordingly pleased to accept Amendments 128ZA and 128ZB as tabled and urge the House to accept government Amendments 127 and 128.

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor Portrait Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her kind comments and draw attention to my registered interests.

I have pressed on this issue for a number of years and I am delighted that the proposal has positive cross-party support. It will make a real difference. The principle is fundamentally clear. At the moment, local authorities in rural areas have the option, in effect, of either brownfield development within previously developed areas, which is a good thing, or the opportunity to extend existing villages and towns sequentially by a series of developments to meet housing needs. That can be a good thing but often it is deeply unpopular because it builds on the very places that people most value.

By going down the route of allowing local authorities the option of using the New Towns Act to acquire land to create new settlements to meet local needs—going through a local process and with local support—it gives an opportunity to create great places without treading so hard on the toes of those who live in wonderful historic communities. Many of these, frankly, are at breaking point. They have problems with traffic congestion, getting children into schools and meeting service needs.

Local authorities will be able to do this in a way that allows the owners of the land to be properly compensated and to do well out of it. None the less, it allows, through the capture of land value, for these places to be well served with schools, shops, GP surgeries, parks, sports facilities and all the other things that make a great place while at the same time making housing available at much lower cost. This is because we can make land available to small builders, self-builders and housing associations for starter homes. A whole range of needs often are not met at the moment because land values are so high or land is not available; or great places are not delivered because the person who owned the land took the money and the taxpayer was left scrabbling to provide the schools, the shops and the GP and other services that are needed.

It is an extra tool in the box. We can plan for the housing which we agree across the House is needed. It is not the only solution but it changes the opportunities available to local communities and local government. It will be hugely welcomed. I have spoken to a wide range of organisations, from the National Association of Local Councils, of which I am president, to CPRE, to the country landowners, to many of the major housebuilders, to local government bodies and to many of the local councils that have pioneered this kind of approach. It has universal support.

This is an important change. I greatly thank the Minister, her colleagues and the other parties for the support that they have given to it. I particularly thank my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Best, who has helped me bring this to the House.

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Moved by
128: Clause 150, page 78, line 10, leave out from “section” to end of line 11 and insert “does not have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
( ) If a draft of an instrument containing an order by the Secretary of State under this section would, but for this subsection, be treated for the purposes of the standing orders of either House of Parliament as a hybrid instrument, it is to proceed in that House as if it were not a hybrid instrument.”
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Moved by
129: Clause 185, page 98, line 22, leave out from “(A1)” to end of line 23 and insert “may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
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Moved by
130: Clause 190, page 100, line 14, leave out “(whether alone or together with other provision)”
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Before we start debating the various commencement issues, I shall highlight a couple of minor changes consequential on Amendment 133, which was debated on 18 April alongside consideration of the amendments on pay to stay. In bringing forward a government amendment to ensure that the first regulations brought forward under Clause 78 will be affirmative, it was necessary to move some of the text of the clause from the beginning to the end. This has no effect on the meaning of the clause, but simply tidies up the language to prevent any misunderstanding. I beg to move.

Amendment 130 agreed.
Moved by
131: Clause 190, page 100, line 15, at end insert—
“( ) regulations under section 13,”
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Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane
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My Lords, this amendment is consequential upon Amendment 53, which was agreed on 13 April. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, Amendment 132, which has been tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lisvane, Lord Kerslake and Lord Beecham, would make regulations on the definition of higher value and on determinations subject to the affirmative procedure. As I have made clear, we have listened to the House and agree that the regulations defining higher value should be made through the affirmative process. We will table an additional amendment in relation to this to ensure that no hybridity issues arise in respect of those regulations. We do not agree that the determination should be put into regulations and that those regulations should be subject to the affirmative procedure. However, I recognise that the House voted to accept Amendment 53, which put the determination into regulations, and that agreement has been reached that Amendment 132 will be accepted by the will of the House. It is important that I am clear to noble Lords that the Government are concerned that putting the determination into regulations will add more complexity and delay to the process and that we intend to return to this issue in the Commons.

Amendment 132 agreed.
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Moved by
133: Clause 190, page 100, line 16, at end insert—
“( ) the first regulations under section 78,”
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Moved by
133B: Clause 190, page 100, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) section (Reducing local authority influence over private registered providers);”
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Moved by
135: Clause 190, page 100, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) regulations under section (Electrical safety standards for properties let by private landlords),”
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Moved by
136: Clause 190, page 100, line 24, at beginning insert “(whether alone or together with other provision)”
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, we end Report as we began, discussing the principle of many of the policies within the Bill. The evening is drawing on—it is now quarter to 11—so noble Lords will forgive me if I do not restate all the arguments for all the policies.

However, I will say this. Later this week, we will pass to the other place a Bill which contains a number of distinct manifesto policies and which implements a number of measures set out in the Government’s Budget or productivity plan. The Government’s intention is quite clear. We all agree that this country, and in particular our young people, need more homes to be built. That is a key theme for this Government, and changes to the planning system and building new homes take time.

I understand the concerns raised by noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, about the availability of detail on some of the policies in the Bill, but this set of amendments would place delay upon delay on the building of new homes. This is extra time that we simply do not have. It would mean a delay to the sale of high-value assets, meaning delays to building two more affordable homes in London for every one expected to be sold, and a delay to the commencement of starter homes, meaning fewer built for young families looking for somewhere to call their own.

I have heard the arguments raised time and again—that noble Lords feel that the detail of our policies should be available for scrutiny before work is done to legislate for them—and I understand the points that have been made. I am very keen to see consensus where possible and to continue to engage with noble Lords across the House as we go forward in developing regulations after the Bill has completed its passage. That is why I have made a number of changes to enhance the role of Parliament in scrutinising our plans. Several regulations will now not come into force without the detail being agreed by both Houses. I believe that this is a good compromise, and it is the result of noble Lords’ passionate arguments and skill in refining the Bill to the point at which we are today.

Amendments 138 and 140, tabled by the noble Lords, Lords Lisvane, Lord Kerslake, Lord Beecham and Lord Foster, would delay the sale of high-value assets and the delivery of new homes which that would unlock. Furthermore, the sale of assets to pay for the voluntary right-to-buy agreement is a manifesto commitment, and people want to exercise their right to buy as soon as possible. Already more than 25,000 housing association tenants have registered their interest in taking up this option, with 1,000 registering their interest each week. Our current arrangements will allow Parliament to scrutinise the detail first, and I hope that that will satisfy noble Lords. However, at this point I must make it clear that I will not bring back this amendment at Third Reading. Therefore, if the noble Lord is not content with my response, he should test the opinion of the House this evening.

Likewise, the affirmative regulations effected by Amendment 141, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lisvane and Lord Kerslake, would prevent the starter home provisions in the Bill coming into force until a year after regulations are laid in both Houses. I say again that the Government’s manifesto commitment was to deliver 200,000 starter homes, and we will be expected to deliver on our commitment. Our current arrangements allow Parliament to scrutinise the detail first.

I hear noble Lords’ arguments clearly, however, and local planning authorities need time to consider new measures. That is why we are consulting on the provision of transitional arrangements in our technical consultation. We have asked an open question to understand the views of the sector on this important matter.

The regulations will not act retrospectively on existing planning consents. It is also our intention that they will not apply to any application already submitted to a local planning authority. I am sure noble Lords do not want to delay housebuilding because their amendment stops development for a year, and that would be its impact.

Turning now to Amendment 138C, which is from the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Kennedy, and deals with flooding, I acknowledge that where we do build we need to do so in a way that ensures that the flood risk is managed effectively and so that new development does not add to the flood risk. Our planning policies are designed to do just that. I am glad to acknowledge the important work which the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has led with the adaptation sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change on this matter. We understand and appreciate the intention of the noble Lord to find further ways to ensure that new development is not built in areas of high flood risk. His proposal raises some complex issues, not least the interaction with insurance arrangements and the operation of the existing warranty schemes for new homes. We all want to avoid a situation where there is any confusion about liabilities and responsibilities between housebuilders, insurance companies and warranty scheme operators. The Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, wrote to the noble Lord offering further discussions between officials on this matter, including with colleagues from Defra. I am very happy to repeat that offer this evening. I can confirm that I will write to the noble Lord with details of those planned discussions. I hope he will accept that as a positive way forward.

I know that some of us are not going to agree on policies linking social rents more closely to income, despite the progress that we have made. I have listened to the debate with care, but my response may not come as a surprise. Amendment 139 would delay payment of a fairer rent by those who can afford it, and the money raised through the policy has been identified as a contribution to deficit reduction. Delaying the implementation of the policy in this way would reduce the Government’s ability to use that money for this important purpose. I have previously announced a significant package of measures aimed at ensuring that the policy is applied fairly, including the use of a taper and exemptions for people on certain benefits. We are carefully considering the amendments made by noble Lords to the policy on Report before we return to this discussion in the Commons. We will give tenants time to prepare for the introduction of the policy by working with local authorities now to ensure that they are fully aware of the need to put preparations in place to deliver measured and tapered rent increases in April 2017. My officials and I have had constructive conversations with the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, about how we can implement the Bill as practically as possible.

As I said earlier, I hope I have been clear in what I said: if the noble Lord is not happy with my response, he should test the opinion of the House.

Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, especially for her undertaking to seek consensus as the details have developed—that is extremely helpful. I know that she has taken my criticisms in good part. In practice, these amendments raise issues that are lessons for the future, rather than an occasion for a final skirmish on Report. Accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 138 and will not move the subsequent amendments.

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Moved by
142: Clause 192, page 101, line 19, at end insert—
“(5) In respect of sections 161 and 163, and Schedule 15, different days may be appointed for different areas.”

Housing and Planning Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd March 2016

(8 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Greaves Portrait Lord Greaves (LD)
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My Lords, this is a small issue, in a sense. It is a kite-flying amendment not directly related to what is in the Bill, like many other amendments we have been discussing. However, it is an important issue for local authorities that are affected by it. Regulation 123 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations refers to Section 106 agreements. When the CIL regulations were brought in, it was tagged on to them, almost without anybody noticing—although I complained about the regulation when it came to be approved by this House.

I am challenging not the regulation as such but the bit of Regulation 123(3)(b) that restricts the number of Section 106 agreements within the area of one local planning authority to five,

“which provide for the funding or provision of that … type of infrastructure”.

That means that a local planning authority can have only five Section 106 agreements in place anywhere within its area for one particular type of infrastructure. I hope that the Minister will understand the very specific point I am making. I will come to it in a minute.

I want to be clear that I am not objecting to the requirements of Section 106, which nowadays have to be site specific. It used to be that you could have a planning application at one end of an authority and get some money for a playground miles away at the other end of the authority. That was quite rightly stopped. Agreements have to be site specific—in other words, related to the particular planning application or piece of land, as the Minister said earlier. I am not objecting to the restrictions on pooling Section 106 contributions to build up a pot for large schemes, and there is a limit to how far that can be done. It is just ordinary, small Section 106 contributions that are typically connected to retail developments, housing developments and so on. Again, I am not talking about the affordable housing things that we were talking about this morning.

The limit to five schemes is not logical for four reasons. First, there may well be more than five separate schemes that are relevant or appropriate to particular developments, even though they are of the same type. For example, it may be that Section 106 contributions are being used to support a local bus service—the kind of bus service which is subsidised or supported by the local highways authority under the Transport Act—and a contribution may be made in order to extend the route to serve a particular housing estate or so that it serves the supermarket or whatever. I have had a lot of experience in past decades of helping to support local bus services through this means, at the same time providing public transport to new housing developments or new supermarkets.

It may well be that a Section 106 agreement is required for a public open space, and it is silly to say that you can have only five open spaces if you have seven developments that would benefit from this provision. So there is no logic to it. It came in as part of the restrictions on making Section 106 agreements site specific and stopping people building up big pots, but it is not now necessary.

The second reason is that, because Section 106 agreements are now site specific, there is no reason to limit the number. Logic says that the number should be determined by the number of appropriate developments and appropriate schemes. Thirdly—and here I am talking to some extent against a small authority such as my own—the limit applies per local planning authority, however big or small. So it is five for a huge area such as Northumberland or Cornwall, five for a little authority such as Rutland, five for small district councils and five for big cities. It is an arbitrary number and there is no sense to it.

Finally, it causes particular problems where a local authority has no CIL contributions. Where the level of CIL has been assessed as zero, it cannot be levied. The kinds of councils I keep talking about during this Bill, including my own in Lancashire and lots of other councils in Lancashire and the north of England, cannot levy a CIL because if you levy a CIL, it takes developments completely over the border into being unviable. In areas where developments are only marginally viable on the best greenfield sites, you cannot levy a CIL.

Therefore, the contributions for local infrastructure that come from a CIL are not available in areas of that kind, and those areas are by their very nature probably poorer in different ways than the more prosperous parts of the country that can levy a CIL. So poorer areas do not get the infrastructure levy. Therefore we have to rely on what we can get from Section 106, and this restriction on Section 106 is arbitrary and illogical. I hope that the Government will take it away and have a look at it. They do not have to bring it back in this Bill; they can simply make a minor change to the CIL regulations. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his amendment. The Government introduced the pooling restriction in Regulation 123 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 in order to ensure that planning obligations are used appropriately. The regulations have encouraged 107 charging authorities to bring forward the levy, which provides greater certainty for developers about the cost of developments and helps those authorities provide certainty to their communities about how their infrastructure needs can be met.

Pooling restrictions limit the use of Section 106 to no more than five for a specific infrastructure levy type or project, as the noble Lord said, but this has helped to incentive the adoption of the levy. Adoption nearly trebled in the year prior to the pooling restriction taking effect in April 2015, and it has continued to grow since. While acknowledging that Section 106 still has a role to play in site-specific infrastructure, the Government launched a review of the levy last year to ensure that it provides an effective mechanism for funding infrastructure. The review is considering, among other matters, the relationship between the levy and Section 106 planning obligations. I shall be happy to ensure that the panel is aware of the noble Lord’s thoughts on the repeal of the regulation. With that in mind, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves Portrait Lord Greaves
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the last sentence of that reply. I am talking not about pooling Section 106 contributions for bigger projects but about the limit on the number of small projects that can be funded directly linked in a site-specific way to particular developments. The perfectly justifiable intentions of the Government to stop Section106 being an alternative to CIL has caught the small schemes and small contributions in a way that was not intended. That specific point ought to be looked at.

Having said that, the other point is that it is okay having lots of incentives to levy CIL—but not if the consequence of levying CIL is that no development at all takes place. Remember, I come from an authority where getting into three figures of new starts or completions a year is proving very difficult indeed. In one recent year it was in single figures and that is not for the lack of trying to build as far as the authority is concerned. Indeed, in one recent year when 50 or 60 completions took place, they were almost all built by the authority. The private market hardly exists—or has hardly existed in the last few years.

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Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours
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My Lords, why can we not simply convert the first day of Report into a Committee day and have a proper debate on the day we come back?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I hate to intervene because the hour is getting late. These matters are generally decided through the usual channels. I guess that they are having discussions at the moment and, if the Chief Whip comes in, I am sure he will make a statement to the Committee. For now, can we get on with the Bill?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
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The noble Lord’s Amendment 102DC is excessive, not least because local authorities tell us that it cannot be beyond us to work together to design a robust system of checks and balances to maintain professional standards. As I have said, we believe that the private sector could bring valuable innovation and efficient techniques to processing and managing planning applications. That said, it is entirely reasonable and understandable to ask how we will maintain accountability, integrity and professional standards with private sector involvement. Key to this is who makes the decision—who can be a designated person, what applications designated persons are allowed to process, and legal safeguards in the planning system.

I have been crystal clear that responsibility for deciding planning applications will remain with local planning authorities, and they cannot delegate that to a designated person. A designated person will not be able to decide on a planning application. Notwithstanding a separate amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, Clause 146(1)(b) already allows us to specify circumstances where a local authority could take over a planning application from a designated person, including where it has demonstrable concerns about the designated person’s work. Persons designated by the Secretary of State will be expected to meet high professional standards and have expert planning knowledge that would enable them to operate in pilot areas with unique characteristics. We will expect them to demonstrate the ability to engage with local communities and councillors so that they can operate successfully in these pilot areas. We expect to put in place mechanisms to address any failure in standards and integrity, such as removing a provider’s designation, or, as I said a moment ago, enabling poor work to be redone.

Our engagement work with local authorities and the private sector has also highlighted the obligations of Royal Town Planning Institute membership, which was mentioned by noble Lords during discussion of the previous group of amendments. All members of the RTPI are bound by a code of professional conduct, underpinned by a complaints process, setting out required standards of practice and ethics for chartered and non-chartered members. RTPI members are required to adhere to five core principles: competence; honesty and integrity; independent professional judgment; due care and diligence; and professional behaviour. We will look to build these and similar standards into the selection and performance monitoring of designated persons. Crucially, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that a designated person must not be allowed to process a planning application in which they have an interest. Furthermore, after extensive dialogue with local authorities, professional bodies and the private sector, we will set out in regulations the actions and procedures that a designated person must follow in processing a planning application.

I also draw the noble Lord’s attention to Section 327A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, concerning requirements for processing planning applications. A local planning authority must not entertain a planning application where the formal manner in which the application is made, or, crucially, the formal content of any document or other matter which accompanies the application is not compliant with the requirements for processing a planning application. Therefore, an application which has not been appropriately processed by a designated person, or has involved a conflict of interest, could be considered null and void.

I can assure noble Lords that, given the importance of this issue, we will continue this dialogue to ensure that we get the design of the pilots right. I hope that, with this brief overview, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will withdraw his amendment.

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Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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My Lords, I am sure that that is the case, but I am not a member of the usual channels. There are Members sitting in this Committee who are interested in this Bill or in particular clauses or aspects of it. We have a right to know the intention in terms of the remaining groups on this Bill. That is why I therefore move that the House do now resume.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, perhaps I might speak as the Minister who is on the Bill. We have spent many weeks on it. The one thing that we do not do is the job of the usual channels. With respect to the noble Lord, I ask him to respect this convention and allow the Chief Whip to make a Statement at 7 pm. In the mean time, could we please get on with this Bill because we all want to go home?

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we now have nine groups which has normally been a day’s work. Are the Government expecting us to finish nine groups within the next hour or so? We need to know where we are going. Within the matter of the last few minutes we have already dropped one string of amendments to suit the House. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was prepared to concede one group to help expedite proceedings but we still have all these other groups left. We need a Statement before 7 pm.

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Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD)
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My Lords, in the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, who has a long-standing engagement in Cardiff, I rise briefly to move this amendment. The Government have said that the clauses are intended to aid regeneration projects on brownfield sites through allowing covenants, easements and other rights to be overridden more easily by public bodies. However, the clause would also affect covenants and rights held by the National Trust to conserve some of our most special and valued places for everyone to enjoy. I declare an interest as a member of that august organisation, as I am sure are many Members around this House.

Typically, these covenants and rights apply to land surrounding National Trust-owned land, to buildings or land not owned by the trust but which have historical significance, or to beautiful or wildlife-rich landscape worthy of protection. Crucially, the rights held by statutory undertakers such as utility companies and Network Rail are already sensibly protected from the scope of the clause, because of the important public benefit that these rights give. I contend that National Trust covenants and other rights give comparable public benefits, and this should be recognised in a similar way. I hope this is an unintentional oversight by the Government and that they will see it as a helpful amendment and will accept it. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for raising this very important issue in the context of Clause 179. As the noble Baroness set out, Amendment 103C would reflect the special protection accorded to land held inalienably by the National Trust in compulsory purchase legislation. The Government are sympathetic to the thrust of the argument that the power in Clause 179 to override easements and restrictive covenants when carrying out works on, or using land acquired by, a body with compulsory purchase powers could have an adverse effect on rights benefiting the trust’s inalienable land. The Government have also noted the concern that it may impact on other land over which the trust has covenants under Section 8 of the National Trust Act 1937. As the noble Baroness has pointed out, to avoid such a possibility, consideration should be given to the trust being accorded a similar exemption to that in Clause 179(8) for the rights of statutory undertakers. Doing so would safeguard the trust’s covenants, easements and other ancillary rights so that the trust’s management and our enjoyment of the trust’s land and properties were not compromised. The Government will therefore consider this matter very carefully. With that in mind, perhaps the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister most warmly for those very encouraging words. I shall obviously discuss the matter with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, over the recess, but, being mindful of the time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton Portrait Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab)
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My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, we have concerns with the amendment. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 was one of the most successful and supported pieces of legislation in this area of policy—although not always in your Lordships’ House. It strengthened and consolidated the aims of Labour’s original National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Since then, the most recent Labour Government introduced the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, extending the right further.

We on these Benches are concerned that the amendment would unpick the agreement of the Natural England stakeholder working group which, as we have heard, brings together users, landowners, local authorities, ramblers and the Country Land and Business Association. I urge the noble Lord, if he wants further proposals to be brought forward, to work with the stakeholder working group to deliver a consensus on them.

I might also ask why the noble Lord feels the measure necessary when, as I understand it, there are already powers that permit landowners to apply to a local authority to make changes to such footpaths. A presumption in favour of a diversion would take power away from local authorities and reduce the ability of communities to have a say. I am not sure that that is in accordance with the Government’s localism agenda, although that is a bit thin these days. Local communities, through their local councils, should be able to shape their local area. We should support the rights of all to access the countryside and maintain existing rights of way, especially as the local countryside offers our citizens benefits in terms of health, exercise and mental well-being.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I applaud my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale’s efforts to help those who face problems with a public right of way that passes through their farm or garden. He will know through his contact with Ministers in Defra that the Government have considerable sympathy for those people who face these issues and who may feel that the system has let them down. Where these cases occur, people may experience acute problems: my noble friend has cited some examples, and I can think of others. Although the numbers are comparatively few, and we should ensure that any changes we make to legislation are proportionate to the extent of the problem, nevertheless, the Government are determined to help by putting in place a remedy.

Noble Lords may recall the passage of a suite of measures in the Deregulation Act 2015 which aimed to reform the system of recording and diverting public rights of way, to which my noble friend referred. The Government are now in the process of implementing these measures, which will come into effect later this year. We believe that the combined effect of these measures, which received cross-party support in both Houses, will make a significant difference, and that we should not legislate further before seeing how they work out in practice. A package of measures such as that, which is being implemented through agreement among stakeholders, is far more likely to prove successful in practice.

There is clear agreement among the stakeholders on the working group that developed the package of reform that the major difficulty for landowners is in getting local authorities to make a diversion or extinguishment order in the first place. Our plans to implement the right to apply for such orders will overcome this. The right to apply will enable a landowner to make a formal application for the diversion or extinguishment of a public right of way. With that will come the right to appeal to the Secretary of State if the authority rejects the application or fails to act on it. Therefore, local authorities will no longer be able to ignore requests or dismiss them out of hand. They will be obliged either to make an order or to be prepared to justify their reasons for not doing so on appeal to the Secretary of State.

The provisions in the Deregulation Act allow the right to apply to be extended to land-use types other than agriculture, forestry and the keeping of horses— for example, private residential gardens. The right to apply will be supplemented by guidance that will effectively act as a presumption to divert or extinguish public rights of way that pass through the gardens of family homes, working farmyards or commercial premises where privacy, safety or security are a problem.

The noble Lord references guidance and I will come back to that in a moment. A further hurdle is to get an order confirmed. However, according to the Ramblers, which keeps accurate records of these matters, of the 1,257 diversion orders which have reached a conclusion in the past three years, 94% did not attract any objections. Of the 6% that did, less than 1% were not confirmed following submission to the Secretary of State. The guidance will give authorities more scope to confirm orders made in the interests of the landowner in circumstances where a right of way may cause hardship because it goes through the garden of a family home, a working farmyard or other commercial premises.

There is no intention to water down the guidance, which was deposited in the House Library during the passage of the Deregulation Act. Defra officials continue to work with the stakeholder working group and the Intrusive Footpaths Campaign to finalise the drafting. We believe that the combined effect of the right to apply and the guidance will have the desired effect and we should not rush to legislate further before seeing how these measures work in practice. Moreover, under the right-to-apply provisions, the Defra Secretary of State will be the confirming authority for all disputed orders.

I am happy to reaffirm the commitment made by the previous Government that we will review, within two years of implementation of the reforms package, how effective the right-to-apply provisions and the accompanying guidance have proved to be. The review will send a message to authorities that the Government are determined that the new policy should work and that if guidance does not bring about sufficient changes, we will consider the introduction of further measures.

The amendment, which was also spoken to by my noble friend Lady Byford, is also concerned with public rights of way. However, she refers to urban routes in current use which are not recorded on the legal record of public rights of way, the definitive map and statement. The amendment would reduce the work of local authorities by removing a whole class of routes from the work to update the record.

I referred earlier to the package of measures in the Deregulation Act 2015 concerned with improving the processes for diverting, extinguishing and recording public rights of way. I also mentioned that the Government are working closely with the stakeholder working group which developed the original package of measures.

The secondary legislation will include regulations made under Section 54(1) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000—mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie—which allows the Secretary of State to specify descriptions of unrecorded routes which will not be extinguished in 2026. The working group and the Government are mindful of the need to consider urban as well as rural. We think that no further primary provisions are required to achieve the outcome sought by my noble friend. With these assurances, I hope that my noble friend will be persuaded to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale Portrait Lord Skelmersdale
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My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Byford for staying so late, I believe at the expense of her dog. Be that as it may, I was surprised to be maligned by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who called my amendment a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I was surprised because I admitted that I know of very few people who are affected by this problem. However, I remind the noble Lord of a dictum of my late noble friend Margaret Thatcher, who said:

“We are not in politics to ignore people’s worries. We are in politics to deal with them”.

I fully accept that the Minister believes that the problem has been dealt with and the solution in the Deregulation Act will solve it. I am absolutely convinced it will not, so I was delighted to hear that the Government are prepared to give it a chance of two years and then decide whether I am right or the Minister is right. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
118A: Clause 192, page 100, line 27, after “135,” insert “137,”
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I propose to make a minor change to Clause 192, through Amendments 118A and 118B, to enable the power to make regulations in Clause 137 on registers of land to come into force on Royal Assent, rather than two months after Royal Assent. This is a technical amendment that does not alter Clause 137 itself. It means that the power to make implementing regulations could be used sooner after Royal Assent, but the regulations themselves will not come into force until at least two months after Royal Assent. There is no question of local authorities being taken by surprise or being rushed as a consequence of these amendments.

The requirement to hold a register of brownfield sites suitable for housing is linked to our commitment to require local authorities to have registers of what is available, and to ensure that 90% of brownfield sites suitable for housing have planning permission in place by 2020. It makes sense for local authorities to have the tools in place to help them meet this deadline as soon as practicable, and to help them get their registers in place. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves Portrait Lord Greaves
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I think that 70 local authorities are taking part in the pilot scheme. I should declare that one of them is my local authority. Will these regulations apply to that pilot scheme, once they come in, or is that separate?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the regulations will apply to the pilot schemes.

Amendment 118A agreed.
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Moved by
118B: Clause 192, page 100, line 32, leave out “, 137”
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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, perhaps I may respond briefly to that last comment. I do not think that Amendment 120 in any sense precludes building on a flood plain. It simply asks—and provides a possible answer—to the question of who should bear the liability if somebody buys a house that has just been built in a flood-risk area and that house floods. While it might be true that, in the noble Lord’s particular area, there has not been a flood since 1947, that does not mean to say that there will not be a flood next year. The people who bought homes that were built recently in those areas should have some form of protection. That is what the amendment is trying to provide.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I shall deal first with some of the latter remarks. Following December’s floods, it was clear that the rules that we thought applied did not apply, and that what we thought were blip events were becoming trend events. Therefore, there were lessons to be learned from both last year’s floods and the previous one-off-event floods. Following the December events, we established the National Flood Resilience Review, led by Oliver Letwin, to assess how the country could be better protected from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events. This review will identify any gaps in our approach and pinpoint where our defences and modelling need strengthening, allowing us to take prompt action.

I understand the intention behind Amendments 119 and 120, but Amendment 119 seeks to place unnecessary provisions into the Bill, as national planning policy has already been strengthened to deliver sustainable drainage systems, and there would be problems with implementing the second proposal.

On Amendment 119, following enactment of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, proposals to implement the provisions under Section 32 and Schedule 3 were put out to public consultation. The response to that consultation gave rise to a number of issues. These included the potential impact on the delivery of new development under a system that required the approval of sustainable drainage systems under a consenting regime separate from that for approving planning applications. There were concerns that this could add undue delay to the consenting process and impact on the speed of planning decisions.

The coalition Government listened to that response and in the autumn of 2014 put forward for consultation a new proposal to make better use of the existing planning system to deliver sustainable drainage systems, otherwise known as SuDS. In the light of the response to that consultation and a subsequent government announcement in December 2014, national planning policy was strengthened with effect from April 2015. The strengthened policy makes clear the expectation that SuDS will be provided in all major new developments, such as developments of 10 dwellings or more, unless demonstrated to be inappropriate, and it ensures that clear arrangements are in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development.

This strengthened policy applies alongside the existing policy expectation that SuDS will be given priority in new developments in flood-risk areas, as well as the drainage requirements of building regulations. Despite the strengthened planning policy, the amendment would require provisions for a new consenting regime for sustainable drainage systems to be brought into effect before important provisions in the Bill could come into force.

We need to give these new arrangements time to show that they can work effectively. We are meeting key stakeholders to gauge their views on how the changes are bedding in, and we will undertake similar reviews at intervals in the future. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked where the reviewing process had got to. As I said, we have taken the views of key stakeholders and we intend to have a more in-depth review in a year’s time, which will be two years post change.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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Can I prevail upon the noble Baroness to write to us indicating which stakeholders she has taken views from? The evidence that we appear to be getting from stakeholders is that it is not working.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I will certainly do that. We would also welcome suggestions from the Adaptation Sub-Committee based on its ongoing evidence gathering, as that would obviously help to build up a fuller picture.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours
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I am not being unreasonable in asking this but have Ministers fully considered the effect that the cuts in local authorities’ budgets are having on their ability to clear culverts? As they cut back on that clearing programme, they aggravate the problem. Particularly in terms of starter homes, we are now dealing with the more vulnerable buyers—the people who are buying discounted properties and cannot afford to take that risk. I wonder whether Ministers have thought through the consequences of local authorities being starved of cash.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, it depends where the culverts are. Clearly some are on private land and some are on public land. Local authorities will expect private developers to clear areas, particularly when assessing flood risk. So, depending on the circumstances, there are various obligations on various stakeholders to undertake some of these matters. However, the noble Lord raises an important point.

Amendment 120 covers any development located anywhere—even in areas where, for example, flood risk had not been identified. The housebuilder would be liable even where floods could not be foreseen. The amendment does not differentiate between causes of floods, so if flood defences were overwhelmed, the housebuilder would be liable. It requires the full costs to be covered, even for those for which the householder’s domestic insurance would provide cover, which I am afraid is a fertile area for dispute between developer, insurer and the housebuilder. It would also cause potential confusion with existing warranty schemes for new homes. However, I take the noble Baroness’s point that development should not add to flood risk and I would like to describe the Government’s approach to that important matter.

Flood risk is an important consideration in the planning system and there are already strong policy safeguards in place. The national planning policy is designed to ensure that if there are better sites in terms of avoiding flood risk or if a proposed development cannot be made safe from flooding, it should not be permitted. Local planning authorities are expected to steer new development to areas at least risk of flooding wherever possible. They should apply this approach through their local plan and in planning decisions take advice from people such as the Environment Agency and other flood risk management authorities, which might include the water authorities.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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I am sorry to prolong the sitting but I should declare an interest as a former chief executive of the Environment Agency. The point of sustainable drainage systems is not necessarily about the location of development, which the sequential test that the Minister has just described attempts to deal with, but about the fact that increasingly with climate change we are seeing much heavier downpours of rain in rather random places that fill the drains up and flood no matter where you are. I have a house on top of a hill. Two Wednesdays ago a lake that had not been there for 50 years appeared as a result of torrential downpours of rain in Northamptonshire. It is that sort of situation we are looking for protection against in sustainable drainage systems. That can happen virtually anywhere. Were the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in his place, he would testify to the fact that in the big flood of 2007, Sheffield did not flood as a result of the river but as a result of the drainage system. Protection against that is what we are looking for in the sustainable urban drainage package.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I completely take the noble Baroness’s point, but I reiterate our point that local planning authorities are expected to steer new development to areas at least risk of flooding. That is not to say that we will not have one-off events. Nowhere is safe from that sort of one-off event.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours
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The noble Lord, Lord Porter, sitting immediately behind the Minister, brought us into the world of reality. He told us that they will carry on building. That is what he said. So how does the Minister deal with that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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If I have interpreted my noble friend’s words correctly, he tells us that he lives in an area that is quite low lying. We are sitting in an area that is in a flood plain, so it is not at all unusual for areas of high flood risk to be built upon, albeit that London has been built upon for the past 200 or 300 years. Going back to my original statement, the review by Oliver Letwin going forward and the total way in which we approach water management must take on a new meaning. That is not to take away from the noble Lord’s point. I think that my noble friend was making an entirely different point, which is that in some places we build on flood plains.

Where development is necessary in a flood risk area, it must be made safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere, and be appropriately flood resilient and resistant. We have recently seen examples of where building in one place has increased flood risk elsewhere. Where appropriate, developers need to identify through a site-specific flood risk assessment all the flood risks to and from the development. This should accompany the planning application to the satisfaction of the local planning authority. Our planning guidance, which supports the NPPF, is very clear that all local planning authorities are expected to follow the strict tests set in the framework to protect people and property from flooding.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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Can my noble friend explain why the Government are not willing at this stage at least to say they will look into the unanimous advice that the Minister has had to insist that it is no longer compulsory that the water authority should link up to the local sewerage system just because a development has been put up? The developer should be responsible for making a connection that is not damaging. Why can we not make such a simple and necessary change to the law?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, my noble friend brings up a really important point, but some of these things will be discussed in the round as we consider how we manage flooding in future. I am sorry—I have lost my train of thought. I wonder whether it is the lateness of the hour. The work of my noble friend’s committee will be invaluable to that thinking.

I come back to the issue of flood resilient construction. Currently, building regulations do not require building work to incorporate any flood-resilience or flood-resistance measures. This is because local authorities can already ensure through plans that measures to address flood risk are incorporated into new development where appropriate. Nevertheless, approved document C of the statutory guidance which supports the buildings regulations promotes the use of flood-resilient and resistant construction.

We recognise the importance of the issue and have asked the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, the statutory committee which advises Ministers on building regulations matters, for its advice on this. I know that the committee has been considering the issues, and we expect to receive its advice shortly.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours
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The noble Baroness said “shortly”. Is there any chance of it before Report?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I do not think I can give that assurance, but I shall certainly try to put a timescale on it before Report, if that suits the noble Lord.

I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, but I also hope that the Committee will indulge me; I know everyone is anxious to get away. We have spoken about how planning applications for housing can often take an extraordinary time to complete. After some very long nights in this Chamber, I believe people are beginning to say the same thing about planning Bills. I pay tribute to everyone who has spoken in debates today and through the whole course of the Bill so far. The expertise which noble Lords have displayed has greatly enhanced consideration of the Bill, as well as my thinking about how we can improve its implementation.

I know that many noble Lords will not believe me when I say this, but I look forward to continuing the debate on Report. Although we will continue to disagree on some issues, we will, I hope, move closer to agreement on others. Over the Recess, therefore, I shall be tabling a number of government amendments which will take into account some of the points that noble Lords have raised. Given the hour, I will write to noble Lords with further details shortly—and I mean shortly.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Foster, is not here—oh no, there he is in the corner. I have also written to the DPRRC, responding to its 20th and 21st reports and have placed a copy of that letter in the Printed Paper Office, as noble Lords requested. I am happy to be making a number of positive changes. I will not detail every point here now, because I fear that noble Lords have heard enough from me, but I hope that my response will be helpful.

One final Easter present to you, my Lords, before we rise: within the past couple of hours, we have launched our consultation on starter homes. During Committee, noble Lords from across the House raised a number of questions about the implementation of the starter homes programme. I heard their concerns, and in response we have decided to consult on a number of proposals. We will spend the next eight weeks actively engaging with the housing industry and local government, and I am happy to ask my officials to brief any noble Lord who wants to know more. I have written to noble Lords with further detail and, again, asked my officials to place the consultation in the Printed Paper Office and the House of Lords Library.

That is it for now. I thank your Lordships again for the depth in which we have scrutinised the Bill and wish you a very happy Easter.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Briefly, I thank the Minister for her recognition that the issue of sustainable homes is serious. I have two quick points. The Government’s defence for not accepting the amendments seems to be that they want to ensure that the new arrangements have time to bed in. I am grateful that they are offering us more information about the stakeholder meetings. I am sure the Committee will agree that stakeholder meetings bear no comparison to national monitoring of the situation, both of the number and quality of SuDS. The evidence we have seen from major housebuilders and the adaptation sub-committee shows that this is not working.

Secondly, I am grateful to the Government for confirming that costs are not stopping them moving on this issue, it is the issue, as they put it, of undue delay. My argument would be that one extra stage in the process of planning is worth the price that will be accruing to the benefit of home owners, the wider community and the environment from the introduction of SuDS. On that basis, I will go away with colleagues and consider the response. I thank colleagues around the Committee who have joined in promoting this cause. We may well wish to return to it on Report.

Deregulation Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 11th February 2015

(9 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Portrait Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak very briefly in support of Amendment 53. I am holding in my hand a piece of paper received by somebody very close to me regarding a parking contravention on 30 December 2014. It was received for the first time this morning. It says that the notice was issued on 15 January and that the penalty needs to be paid. However, it had been sent in the post and was not received, and neither was the first notice received. As a result, the fine is now £200.

It would be quite wrong for me to use the Floor of your Lordships’ House to make a complaint on my own behalf were it not for the fact that so many people have complained about this sort of thing happening and because I happen to know, and have heard the Secretary of State say, that this is an important issue of human rights as far as photography of people or cars in relation to parking contraventions is concerned. It is already the law, certainly in the state of California in the United States, that such photography is a breach of human rights. I hope that my noble friend will be able to reassure me on this point. Incidentally, the person concerned was me.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as regards the use of CCTV generally in parking enforcement, it is clear that the operational guidance on parking issued by the previous Government in 2004—that is, that CCTV should be used only where parking warden enforcement is impractical—has been largely ignored. It is now used on an industrial scale. For people such as my noble friend Lady Oppenheim-Barnes to be issued with a penalty charge way after the event is simply unfair. Independent parking adjudicators have also agreed that it is unfair. Such practices also undermine the revitalisation of high streets and shops and cross the line of public acceptability. If parking is too expensive or prohibitive, shoppers will drive to out-of-town supermarkets or simply shop online, leading to ghost-town high streets.

The point was raised about exempting the zig-zag lines on a pedestrian crossing as opposed to those outside a school. High streets, where pedestrian crossings are generally situated, are well patrolled by both police and enforcement officers. In any event, parking on a zig-zag line is not just a breach of parking regulations but incurs three points on your licence. That is why, in terms of differentiating between schools and high streets, the safety issue outside schools led the Government to think that the latter case was a suitable exception.

The first amendment in this group concerns the serving of parking tickets. There may be occasions where it is impossible for a civil enforcement officer to physically stick a ticket on to a vehicle or serve a notice at the scene of the incident. The Government are aware of this and have made provision in draft regulations to ensure that service by post is possible in such circumstances. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord is content to withdraw that amendment.

Noble Lords are also seeking to increase the number of areas where local authorities can continue to use CCTV to enable the issuing of tickets by post. I have given a couple of examples of where the Government have made exemptions, or indeed where they have not. I think that noble Lords and all interested parties will have their own views on where CCTV should or should not be used. The Government accept that sole reliance on CCTV evidence to enforce on-street parking regulations is suitable in certain circumstances. However, if we accepted every argument for increasing the exemptions, we would be back where we started. We have given careful consideration to the list of exemptions and based our decisions on the views of those who responded to the consultation, one being on the issue of the safety of children outside schools.

The noble Lord also offers a new definition of the term “around schools”. This definition would be neither appropriate nor practical. The 100 metres specified in the amendment, or any specified distance, would be arbitrary. Within that distance, it is likely that roads will bend or side roads will branch off the school road. It is unclear how this will be dealt with. Any definition needs to be practical as well as reflect policy concerns.

Amendment 56 would make these powers subject to impact assessments before they were brought into force, which is both unnecessary and undesirable. The Government are proud of the stance they have taken to reduce the impact of rules and regulations on businesses and policymakers. Government guidance published in 2013 clearly states that impact assessments are required only for measures that regulate or deregulate business or concern the regulation of business. This clause applies only to local authorities that carry out parking enforcement, and no impact assessments are therefore required.

This whole issue is a matter of principle for the Government, not of balancing impacts. Drivers often receive a parking ticket through the post several weeks after the alleged contravention. They are given no opportunity to examine the parking location at the time the incident is alleged to have taken place, thereby making it difficult to challenge the alleged contravention. That is fundamentally unfair, and the Government strongly believe it should be remedied. I urge noble Lords to withdraw or not move their amendments.

Lord McKenzie of Luton Portrait Lord McKenzie of Luton
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and thank other noble Lords who have participated in this debate. Given the hour, I shall not prolong the matter, except to say that I am still unclear as to which of proposed paragraphs (a) to (g) in Amendment 54 the Government support and which they do not. I acknowledge that my description regarding the inclusion of CCTV around schools perhaps needs to be refined, but the principle holds.

The impact assessment was not the issue. It was that parking enforcement may be a responsibility of local authorities but in many instances it is contracted to the private sector—hence the list that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, referred to. I thought that the Minister said that the issue of whether there should be an equalities impact assessment was a matter of principle for the Government. I am not sure that I heard her correctly, but it would be a rather strange explanation if she did so. I remain unclear as to why an equalities impact assessment is not to be forthcoming. However, given the hour, perhaps we should read the record and follow up in correspondence. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton Portrait Lord McKenzie of Luton
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My Lords, we must all be aware of the dangers and inconvenience of parking on pavements and the risk that this can pose for pedestrians. These risks can be especially acute for those with a sight impairment or those who have a mobility difficulty and rely on using wheelchairs or buggies. The problems are compounded, too, for those who have responsibility for children and who try to navigate the pavements with prams. The consequence is that all too often pedestrians are forced to navigate busy and dangerous roads instead. For some, of course, pavement parking can restrict their right of way completely. As the noble Lord, Lord Low, said, we need to be mindful that pavements are not generally constructed to carry the weight of heavy vehicles and pavement parking can cause the break-up of the surface, adding further hazards, even when the offending vehicles are not present. This amendment seeks to address those concerns outside London by making it an offence to park wholly or partly on a verge, footway or any other part of an urban road. But this blanket ban can be overridden by resolution of the highway authority or by the Secretary of State.

We acknowledge the weight of opinion and the power of the argument which supports this approach. We share the need to address inconsiderate and dangerous parking and to seek to restore to pedestrians their right to proceed unimpeded. But at the same time, we have to recognise that there are some streets where some pavement parking may be inevitable—to maintain the free flow of traffic, to allow loading and unloading, or to allow for vulnerable passengers to be disembarked. Moreover, the premise of the amendment is that all people who park their car on the pavement are doing the wrong thing and should be made guilty of a civil offence. We do not accept that.

If we are to redress the balance and tackle the problem of inconsiderate pavement parking, how is this best achieved? We need to work through how it can be delivered in practice. We are keen to empower councils to tackle problem parking. If there are any barriers or bureaucracy preventing this we would be keen to look at ways we can change the legislation so that that is not the case. We do not think that the blanket ban is the best way to go. We consider that individual authorities, which know their areas best, are better able to determine the extent and timing of any ban. For some, an initial blanket ban may be the immediate answer, but others may want something more selective which addresses the most urgent problems first. In some cases, there will need to be liaison between authorities so that approaches are co-ordinated. We support the thrust of what the noble Lord is seeking to achieve, but we think there is another approach so, with regret, we are not able to support him today.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate on the amendment. It demonstrates that there is no perfect system to allow traffic and pedestrians to move around entirely satisfactorily.

I shall start with the points made about London. Pavement parking in London is banned but people still do it. Enforcement of properly targeted local bans outside London would be more effective than a blanket ban that does not reflect local circumstances. On the more general points, local authorities already have the power to introduce footway parking restrictions where they consider it appropriate. They are in the best position to decide on local parking restrictions and need to consider all road users when taking such decisions. A national ban of the type proposed would require local authorities to remove all existing restrictions, then renew their urban areas where footway parking should nevertheless still be permitted, consult the community and erect new signage and markings. There could be a significant burden on local government.

The amendment proposes banning footway parking but would allow authorities to permit it where it is desired by simple resolution. Circumvention of the traffic regulation order—TRO—process would take away important protection for the public. The statutory TRO process requires authorities to undertake consultation and advertise their proposals before councils take final decisions. A noble Lord made the point about the TRO process being expensive and cumbersome. It is not true to say that the process is a barrier. Some local authorities make up to 200 orders a year for a variety of traffic management purposes with an average authority making between 50 and 60 orders per year.

The Department for Transport’s guidance to local authorities makes it clear that during the appraisal of their parking policies an authority should consider whether pavement parking is problematic in any part of that area. If it is, and it is not covered by an existing traffic regulation order, the authority should consider amending the existing order or making a new one. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, wrote to all English traffic authorities on 27 June to remind them of their existing wide-ranging powers to prevent people parking on the pavement where it is a problem.

The noble Lord, Lord Low, made a point about damage to pavements. The Government are committed to investing in our local highways, including the footways. We are providing local authorities in England with more than £3 billion over four years from 2011-15 for the roads and footways for which they are responsible. In addition, in June 2014, the Government announced that they were committed to providing just under £6 billion for local highways maintenance over the six-year period from April 2015 to March 2021. This equates to £976 million per year to local authorities for highway maintenance.

In conclusion, the Government have concerns about the burden on local authorities of managing a change of this scale, a point to which the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, alluded, especially when those authorities have comprehensive powers to ban footway parking. I have undertaken to have a discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Low, before Third Reading but I would at this stage ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Low of Dalston Portrait Lord Low of Dalston
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for her reply and to all noble Lords who have spoken, in some cases with very telling illustrations of the workability of the amendment. It certainly is not the belief of those who support this amendment that all pavement parkers are behaving anti-socially. The amendment’s inclusion of scope for local discretion to exempt specific areas from the general ban recognises that. I am sure that with good will we can find a formula which caters for the concerns both of those putting forward the amendment and the concerns which have been expressed about the erosion of local discretion. In response to the Minister’s indication that she is happy to have a discussion before Third Reading, at which I hope we can work together to find that formula, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton Portrait Lord McKenzie of Luton
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My Lords, we support this amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I should make it clear right from the outset that the measure in this Bill is about on-street parking, which is the preserve of local authorities. The issue of ANPR is totally separate and the Government are not going to regulate companies in a Bill that seeks to deregulate.

The noble Lord’s amendment seeks to introduce a new clause which would ensure that measures in the Traffic Management Act 2004 do not prevent local authorities from using an approved device in their off-street car parks. The amendment would apply to the entire Traffic Management Act. The Traffic Management Act sets out the framework for local traffic authorities to manage all aspects of their parking policies. To disapply the entire Act in relation to car parks would create an impossible situation where the legislation that prescribes how local authorities should operate is undermined by itself.

I think that the noble Lord may in fact be concerned about the specific measures in Clause 39 and is apprehensive that these will be extended to local authority off-street car parks. I can assure him again that the measures in this Bill apply only to on-street parking. The Government are not seeking to extend these provisions to off-street parking and have no plans to do so. It would be unnecessary to set out in primary legislation policy areas that the law should not apply to.

Permitting local authorities to manage their off-street car parks with camera technology is something that I know some organisations are keen to see happen. However, the Government have not set out their position on this. We have brought forward a range of parking measures designed to help local shops, support drivers and give communities a greater say on parking policies. These proposals have been established for 18 months and have been consulted on. At no point have we indicated any intention to legislate on off-street car parks.

To bring into the Bill at this late stage measures on a different aspect of parking policy would not give sufficient opportunity for people to consider their implications or to offer an opinion. We believe that this is something on which we should consult before any changes are made to the law, and I would urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tope Portrait Lord Tope
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Well, my Lords, I take it that that is a no. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for his support, and who knows, in the months to come he may have an opportunity to indicate that.

I am rather disappointed with the reply from the Minister, who perhaps in part through her briefing has not wholly understood the points being made here. I note her point about the impact on businesses, but that did not seem to matter on the previous amendment when we actually had a letter from 11 businesses talking about the impact it would have on them. However, I will of course beg leave to withdraw the amendment and I will consider the issue further.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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My Lords, it is my responsibility to respond for the Opposition Front Bench on this issue. In order to save time, I carefully studied the debate in Committee. Having listened to my noble friend Lord Prescott, we continue to support his position.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, for his enormous patience here this evening. He had to listen to several debates on parking before we came to his issue. I think that the Minister who should have responded to him might have been a woman—

Lord Prescott Portrait Lord Prescott
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It was not.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It was not—okay, I stand corrected. I hope he will not be too disappointed by my response.

The purpose of this clause is very straightforward. It is to give the Secretary of State discretion in whether to reopen a formal investigation into a marine accident when new and important evidence that was not available at the time of the original investigation becomes known. Given the wide-ranging discussion that we have had, perhaps it is worth setting the clause in its broader context to dispel any fears that it will adversely affect maritime safety. That is obviously the prime concern of the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, as he said at the beginning of his speech.

Prior to 1989, if there was a marine accident, the Secretary of State could choose to order a preliminary inquiry and, whether or not a preliminary inquiry was held, to order a formal investigation. The latter was a kind of public inquiry, and as well as seeking to identify why an accident had occurred and how to improve safety at sea, it could also apportion liability and blame, and impose penalties on those at fault. Whereas the Secretary of State had the discretion to decide whether to order a formal investigation, he was obliged to reopen a formal investigation if either of the following was the case: if new and important evidence that was not available at the time of the original investigation became known; or if there appeared to be grounds to suspect a miscarriage of justice.

These arrangements had been in place under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 and were largely re-enacted in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. However, by the time of the 1995 Act, the normal arrangements for investigating marine accidents had changed considerably. In July 1989, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch was established. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is functionally independent of the Department for Transport. This removes the conflict of interest identified in the “Herald of Free Enterprise” formal investigation, which was that the department had been both the regulator and investigator for the maritime industry.

All marine accidents must be reported to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and although it must investigate the most serious of these, the chief inspector has the discretion to investigate others too. Virtually all shipping accidents investigated since 1989 have had only a Marine Accident Investigation Branch safety investigation. The entirely separate formal investigation process remains available should it be deemed necessary. Since 1989, it has been used only twice, once being the formal investigation into the “Marchioness” disaster, called by the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, in February 2000, as he has told us. Because of the near-universal reliance on the highly regarded Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation process, when the need to reopen a formal investigation has arisen, the accidents concerned have been increasingly historic.

Three reopened formal investigations have been called since 1997. The first concerned the “Derbyshire”. Twenty years had elapsed since the loss of the ship when its report was published. In the most recent case, that of the “Trident”, 35 years had passed. As there have been so few formal investigations in recent years, any reopened now would be about an accident that occurred at least a quarter of a century ago. In fact, the likelihood is that that any new and important evidence that might be found today would relate to an accident of 50 years ago or more.

Over that time, the design of ships and their equipment, and industry crewing and operating practices, are likely to have changed significantly. The chances of there being any relevant lessons to learn for the benefit of today’s seafarer would be much reduced. Again, considering the reopened formal investigations since 1997, the “Derbyshire” report made 24 safety recommendations and the “Trident” just one. Given the changes that have taken place in how we investigate marine accidents, the duty to reopen a formal investigation when new and important evidence is found is simply much less relevant to maritime safety than it was when it was on the statute book in 1894. For the vast majority of accidents, the exemplary work of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch—identifying the causes of accidents and issuing recommendations without fear or favour—ensures the future safety of mariners and the protection of the marine environment.

Clause 41 has absolutely no bearing on these Marine Accident Investigation Branch safety investigations or whether their findings should be reviewed if new evidence is found. For exceptional cases, where a thorough public airing and examination of the facts is needed, it is right that the public inquiry-style process provided by formal investigations and reopened formal investigations remains available for Secretaries of State to use. It will remain available under Clause 41. Indeed, I reiterate the position of Her Majesty’s Government that if similar circumstances as applied in the case of the “Derbyshire” arose again, we would strongly expect to reopen the investigation. Clause 41 simply enables the Secretary of State to take a considered view on the likely benefits of reopening a formal investigation in circumstances where new evidence comes to light, just as she has discretion in whether to open a formal investigation in the first place. On that note, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Economic Leadership for Cities

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 11th December 2014

(9 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Shipley, who brought forward the debate today, for his work on devolving new powers to our cities and regions. My noble friend was involved in the city deal negotiations and—together with my noble friend Lord Heseltine, who is not here today—he played a key role in helping to secure a number of agreements. I would like to place on record my thanks to him for his crucial role in these discussions. He is a key figure on this agenda, and has been for many years, and it is fitting that he was leading today’s debate.

It is also fitting that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is here today. I pay tribute to the work that he has done over the years in getting us to where we are today. He has been very much part of the cross-party approach that has in fact led to this, as has my noble friend Lord Heseltine. This cross-party approach—which has not been talked about much today, but is actually very much seen here today, with all the noble Lords who are from cities and from local government—has enabled some of the big shifts in devolution that culminated in the announcement by the Chancellor in November of devolution to Greater Manchester. I do not think that, without the other parties, this could have happened and I must place that on record.

I must also declare not just an interest in this matter but a very great enthusiasm because, like my noble friend Lord Goddard, I was at the start of what has become the first devolution deal for Greater Manchester, and it is a great pleasure to talk about it today. I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches. I am delighted that so many—my noble friend Lord Goddard, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke—have chosen to make them in this debate. All are from a local government background, which is great.

My noble friend Lord Shipley’s comments were very helpful and very constructive, as were those of many noble Lords. He talked first about not disempowering London. I think this is a crucial point. In the conversations that we were having in local government 10 or 15 years ago, we did have a bit of a tendency to whinge about how much London got and how we were so badly done to. I think the narrative has moved on in a far more mature way, to be not about how much London has got and how much it has grown—because, actually, that bodes well for all of us in this country—but how cities outside London can punch above their weight in terms of progressing growth and unlocking their growth potential. I think that was a very good point to make at this stage.

Many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Shipley, have talked about not creating city-states and about the link with the rural areas and the inner cities. As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said, we should all collaborate to create a better economic outlook for our country. My noble friend also talked about how this is not just about posting out cheques from Whitehall —if any noble Lord has studied the devolution deal for Manchester, that is very clear. It is based primarily on a proposition to government about growth, based on making better use of the funding that would be coming down to Greater Manchester anyway. It is about not just using it more efficiently but getting to the point where city regions like Greater Manchester are not recipients of public funds but actually become net contributors to the Treasury.

This is very much about accountability. Several noble Lords have asked, “Do we want a mayor? Do we have to have a mayor?” What I think the Government expect is a very clear accountability and leadership role. Certainly, in Greater Manchester, the advent of a mayor in 2017 is not going to create another layer of government. It was very clear that that was what Greater Manchester did not want, and in fact the Government did not want to create another layer of bureaucracy but to enhance what was already there, to create clear leadership.

My noble friend Lord Shipley also talked about underperforming cities. The figures are stark when one compares the different regions of this country with the south-east. The north-west is the second most productive region outside the south-east, but its productivity lags behind by some £30 billion, and that figure is not shrinking, so something does need to be done. This is a radical proposition, but it will be done by increment. We hope it will help to enable areas outside the south-east to punch above their weight and to unlock their potential to do so and to shrink that gap.

My noble friend also asked about the government commitment to devolution to cities. I do not think there needs to be any greater demonstration of this Government’s commitment to devolution to cities, certainly in starting with Greater Manchester. I do not think that, by this time next year, every single city in the country will have a devolution deal; there needs to be a step-by-step process where this agenda is advanced. My noble friend also talked about the pace quickening. I would like to see a sort of point of no return, whereby—a hopefully successful—devolution to Greater Manchester paves the way for other cities and, indeed, rural areas to follow.

My noble friend also talked about responsibilities—I think we have covered this—and also about functional economic geography. Certain things have to be done at scale and across local authority boundaries. In fact, that already happens, as it did with the regional development agencies with things like transport. It is very difficult to deal with transport in a single local authority area, because it transcends authorities and authority boundaries. He also talked about Newcastle’s success and introduced what for me is a new term, “the boomerang Geordies”. I may be one of them, because I left Geordieland 30 years ago; I may return after my retirement—I do not know.

My noble friend Lord Lyell talked about his walk through Liverpool in November 1967 and about the renewal that it has enjoyed. He talked in particular about the port and the waterfront. I declare an interest, which is outlined in the register, in that I was executive director of Atlantic Gateway. There is no doubt that the recent developments of the superport in Liverpool, which is being developed in response to the expansion of the Panama Canal, will provide a fantastic post-Panamax terminal that will be able to receive those massive vessels that will cross the world. It will enable round-the-world shipping again and a huge potential in logistics and distribution and, going back to some of the papers that have been produced in the last few months, it will very much enable those east-west links to be taken forward.

My noble friend also talked about private sector employment. He mentioned Halewood and the Range Rover Evoque; if he has been there recently, he will have seen them all lined up, waiting to be shipped off. I understand that you now have to wait six months for a Range Rover Evoque, such is the demand for them. However, it also has such great potential to revitalise that area of Liverpool and indeed the whole Liverpool city region.

My noble friend also talked about the Liverpool waterfront, which is the most wonderful asset—Liverpool is so lucky. As somebody—I think it was Noel Gallagher —once said, “Manchester’s got everything apart from a beach”, and it is true. Manchester has plenty of assets, but Liverpool has that beautiful waterfront. He also talked about governance. Here I pay tribute to Mayor Joe Anderson, who has shown such strong leadership in Liverpool, and to how Liverpool and Manchester work so brilliantly together to take forward that whole agenda for growth in the north-west.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, talked about not allowing the Treasury to stymie progress. The proposition between local government or groups of local governments and the Treasury has to be crystal clear so that there is no room for manoeuvring as regards what was promised and what was promised to be delivered. As far as I know from Greater Manchester, which was the first deal to be done, the expectations and the expectations of the outcomes are very clear. The noble Lord also talked about how local authority cuts hit the poorest most. In fact, as I said in answer to a question the other day, the bottom 10%—in terms of the most deprived local authorities—receive on average 50% more money, so I must disagree with him on that. He also asked whether any area will be allowed devolution. There is a challenge to groups of local authorities to put forward propositions to government, and I think that the Government do not rule anything out as regards what they want to see put before them. As far as I know, there is no bar to propositions going to government.

I come to my noble friend Lord Goddard. I would say that we were “partners in crime”, but I do not mean that. We served on the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities for some time, both as deputy leaders, and we led the journey to become a combined authority that took place in 2011—I had gone by then, but he was still there. In his very amusing maiden speech he also talked about going to the wrong Benches. I nearly did that, but realised my mistake when I did not recognise any of the faces on the Labour Benches. He talked about the collaboration we enjoyed. That collaboration, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and other noble Lords, has been absolutely essential to our getting where we are today. We would not be here if we did not collaborate.

Another noble Lord made a very good point, which I want to bring out. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It was, and there he is. He talked about a common purpose, and having sometimes to swallow the fact that you do not get everything that you want. That has been key to how we have worked together. If there was ever a handy tip I could give local authorities that wanted to achieve devolutionary status, it would be that: collaborate, co-operate, allow for the fact that you might have to compromise slightly, but you will get there in the end.

My noble friend Lady Eaton talked about skills and about local areas being best placed to respond to local need. That is crucial in devolution deals, and it is interesting that skills were mentioned in the first devolution deal we got. If local authorities do not engage both with employer need and therefore with those learning institutions, those skills will just not be there and we will have to import them from elsewhere, whether that is from home or abroad.

I am very conscious that I am running out of time and that I am not even half way through what I wanted to say. The noble Lord, Lord McFall, I think, made a point about the Glasgow and Clyde Valley city deal, which I think is one of the largest ever under the city deals—we wish it well.

I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Scriven’s maiden speech. It was uncontroversial, coming from a controversial man, as he promised us he is, and a young man—you sometimes feel very young when you come here. He mentioned the Sheffield city deal, which we wish well.

I will just try to pick up on some more points. My noble friend Lord True talked about avoiding faddish political structures in bringing forward devolution. I totally agree with that; to come back to a point I made earlier, Greater Manchester was very much against doing that—I realise that I am now completely out of time. I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate—

None Portrait A noble Lord
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Two more minutes.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Oh, I have two more minutes.

I totally agree with that, and in fact, Greater Manchester was very clear that it did not want a layering-on of structure, so it has decided to go to the model of having an 11th leader until 2017, when it will elect a mayor, but it will still keep that core of 10 local authority leaders. The noble Lord also asked about the imposition of local structures. That is not true in the sense that, as I have said, it is a proposition to government; whether it is agreed or not will be the result of a dialogue between local authorities. Therefore nothing will be imposed upon anyone unless they want it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, talked about being born in Sunderland. I was brought up in Hetton-le-Hole, so we have more in common than she thinks. You could not vote Tory there if you wanted to, because—well, they did not want to. The noble Baroness also talked about the size of the state and asked a crucial question about where we want it to lie. I think that trust has to be given by central government to local government. It is no small wonder that central government have taken what is probably the best and most worked-up proposition forward first. Hopefully, that will lead incrementally to such trust being built up between central and local government. The coalition are a Government who want to decentralise, not to create more state intervention—the noble Baroness clearly does not agree with me there. She talked about the back of a fag packet. This is not the back of a fag packet; it has taken years.

But I realise that my time really is up now. I thank all noble Lords, and I will write to anyone whom I have not answered fully.

Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this debate has now elapsed, and I must put the Question that the Motion be agreed.