Debates between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tue 8th Mar 2022
Wed 2nd Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage: Part 1
Wed 2nd Mar 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Tue 8th Feb 2022
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Thu 27th Jan 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Wed 24th Nov 2021
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 1st Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Thu 28th Oct 2021
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 25th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 25th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 20th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Lords Hansard part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 20th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Thu 14th Oct 2021
Tue 25th May 2021
Tue 27th Apr 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 14th Apr 2021
Wed 3rd Mar 2021
Thu 11th Feb 2021
Mon 8th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 1st Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 13th Jan 2021
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 3rd Dec 2020
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 1st Dec 2020
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 16th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 14th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 21st Jul 2020
Mon 20th Jul 2020
Business and Planning Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Mon 13th Jul 2020
Business and Planning Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Tue 9th Jun 2020
Wed 15th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords

Windrush Generation

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 28th November 2023

(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 think it is the turn of the non-affiliated Bench.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the Minister said that the majority of the recommendations from the lessons learned review had been implemented. Why was the Windrush working group disbanded before all the recommendations had been implemented?

Illegal Migration Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Thursday 29th June 2023

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am afraid to tell my noble friend that I have not looked at the details of the child rights impact assessment. My noble friend the Minister will deal with that, but I am sure that what my noble friend Lady Berridge said will be considered.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, will the Minister give an undertaking that, if we have discussed all the child issues by the time we get the relevant document from the Home Office, these matters can be brought back at Third Reading, once we have the relevant information?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I have this morning pledged to the House to ensure that the impact assessment is with the House early next week—I hope by Monday.

Slavery and Human Trafficking (Definition of Victim) Regulations 2022

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 20th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining these regulations. It is probably totally out of order but, if I may, can I commend her for demonstrating selfless integrity by her intervention at the weekend?

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for tabling this regret amendment, which we support. We agree with him, the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and organisations such as CARE—Christian Action, Research and Education—that there should have been formal consultation before the Government came up with the definitions of victim of modern slavery and victim of human trafficking. Without consultation with the anti-trafficking sector, any definition used to determine whether someone is a victim of modern slavery is likely to wrongly exclude victims from the support and protections to which they are entitled.

It was clear from the debates that we had in this House that the whole impetus of the Nationality and Borders Act was to reduce abuse of the national referral mechanism, and it is likely that these definitions are consistent with the Government’s approach in that Act. In fact, when we debated the legislation, my assessment was that all the provisions of Part 5 were about making it more difficult to be recognised as a victim of modern slavery and tightening the restrictions on the support available. In particular, as the noble and learned Baroness has just said, the change to

“significantly impair the person’s ability to protect themselves from being subjected to slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour”,

compared with the language in the Modern Slavery Act, which states

“which may make the person more vulnerable”,

appears to be a significant restricting of the definition.

I pay tribute to the honourable Jess Phillips MP for her passionate and detailed critique of these regulations when this draft statutory instrument was considered in Committee in the other place, based on her own experience as a first responder in the NRM process and her subsequent casework as an MP. Many other organisations agree with her that the definitions raise the threshold for identification; set a definition of exploitation that is far too narrow; are not in alignment with international law; do not distinguish between adult and child victims; do not explicitly include criminal exploitation; do not feature “practices similar to slavery”, as detailed within ECAT; and overemphasise arranging or facilitating travel.

Yet again, the Government have taken the cavalier approach of saying they can interpret something—in this case, the European convention against trafficking, ECAT—in whatever way they think fit, when even the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee concludes that the definitions in the SI make the situation even more unclear, the exact opposite of what the Government claim to be doing. I agree with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, about the enormous progress made by the Modern Slavery Act, significantly improved by this House, but these regulations and the Nationality and Borders Act row back from that progress.

In conclusion, this statutory instrument appears to narrow the definition of who can be recognised as a victim of modern slavery or trafficking and to create confusion rather than clarity, both of which could have been remedied through a formal consultation process, which was not undertaken. We support this regret amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, both for their contributions and for their continued engagement on what is clearly a very important topic for us all. I join the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in paying tribute to the right honourable Theresa May for all that she did on modern slavery. I think that, ultimately, we all have the same goal: to ensure that victims of modern slavery are identified and supported.

Before I turn to some specific points raised, I highlight again that in drafting these regulations, our focus has been on achieving alignment with the definitions currently used operationally and set out in the existing statutory guidance for England and Wales and the equivalent non-statutory guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland. I was most grateful to be able to speak to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, earlier. One thing that noble Lords quite often do, particularly during the passage of legislation, is request of me that they can see draft regulations before they are brought forward to the House. It is something that was not requested on this occasion, but I would say that, generally, where they are available, I am always happy to share them with noble Lords.

As for some of the other engagement processes that we have undertaken, during the engagement our approach to align the definition with ECAT and the Palermo Protocol was welcomed. We have ensured that this advice is reflected in the draft regulations, which align with ECAT and existing definitions set out in statutory guidance and allow for identification of victims of currently unknown forms of human trafficking or slavery. There has also been a thorough engagement process within the Home Office and with partners such as the police and other first responders, to which noble Lords referred, particularly the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, to thoroughly identify potential risks and ensure that no unintended consequences or impacts arise from the regulations. The cost and time considerations of running a full public consultation following the new plan for immigration consultation therefore outweighed the potential benefits, given the opportunities to engage on the issues relating to the regulations, but I think we can all agree that there is something to be learned from this process.

Noble Lords also mentioned the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The committee expressed one concern: that the powers conferred by what was then Clause 68(1) gave Ministers unlimited discretion to define the terms, rather than setting out in the Bill that they should reflect the provisions of Article 4 of ECAT and Article 4 of ECHR, as intended.

We have ensured that the definitions reflect those international provisions in their drafting, and the committee did not raise any other concerns that the regulations would not receive sufficient scrutiny. However, we recognise the evolving nature of these types of exploitation, and the Government can commit to keeping the terms of the regulations under review in the light of operational experience in the Home Office. The Nationality and Borders Act will also be subject to post-legislative scrutiny three to five years after Royal Assent. These regulations can be considered in that review.

The noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Paddick, talked about the definition of “exploitation” being too narrow and said that the drafting fails to consider the specific circumstances of child victims. It is very important that a range of factors are taken into account when considering whether an individual is a victim of slavery. It does not diminish the consideration of age at all. This way of drafting means that the list is inexhaustive and allows decision-makers to bring in various other conditions or factors relating to the individual’s circumstances, including of course their age. The regulations are compliant with ECAT and we make it clear that they allow for different types of exploitation which emerge over time.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, posited that the definitions are limited and do not include practices similar to trafficking, including debt bondage, forced marriage and certain forms of exploitation, including criminal exploitation. As I have said, the definitions as drafted in the regulations provide scope for various forms of human trafficking and slavery to be identified that are not explicitly defined. This is set out in statutory guidance. For example, criminal exploitation is covered by the definition of either human trafficking or slavery, depending on the precise nature of that exploitation, and will remain as currently defined in the statutory guidance. Regulation 3(6)(d), which includes force, threats or deception to induce the provision of services, would cover child soldiers, given the low threshold at which a child would be deemed to have been forced, threatened or deceived, and exploiting children for illicit activities. In the current statutory guidance, debt bondage is set out as a situational and environmental indicator of modern slavery and will remain as such.

Similarly, the current guidance on adoptions and forced marriage will remain the same. For forced marriage, for instance, this is set out in paragraph 2.65 of the statutory guidance. The Government’s position on illegal adoption is covered in the statutory guidance at paragraphs 2.61 to 2.64. While there are restrictions on arranging adoptions, as set out in Sections 92 and 93 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, whether this will constitute forced or compulsory labour depends on circumstances. The position will remain the same. More broadly, slavery includes many of these practices. Debt bondage, which the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, referred to, and forced marriage mean exercising control over someone in a way that significantly restricts their liberty. The guide is Article 4 of the ECHR, in relation to which slavery is interpreted in the regulations by virtue of Regulation 1(3).

Noble Lords have also raised concerns about the compatibility between these regulations and ECAT. I stress that the definitions set out in the regulations are compliant, as I have just said, with our international obligations, including ECAT, and align with existing operational practices. They will ensure that potential victims are identified and that those involved in identifying victims have very clear parameters on which to rely. They are compliant because, put simply, the activities and forms of exploitation mentioned in ECAT are covered by the draft regulations. Following the approach of ECAT, we have intentionally avoided including reference to all specific forms in recognition, again, of the evolving nature of trafficking and slavery, and so as not to exclude victims of currently unknown forms of exploitation.

Information Commissioner’s Office Report

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 11th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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That point about “If you don’t comply” is absolutely the opposite of what the Home Office, the police and the CPS’s approach will be. The aim is to encourage victims through a very clear process on whether to hand over digital information. Our aim is to have that processed within 24 hours, because it is not right that someone feels compelled to hand over their phone or feels that the prosecution will not go accordingly if they fail to do so.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, yet again it appears that the law, and the rules set by the police and the CPS restricting access to rape victims’ sensitive personal information, are not making a practical difference. Is this not a reflection of a culture in the police, the CPS and the courts that does not treat women fairly? What will the Government do to address this?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I cannot disagree with the noble Lord that the rape review and the things we are doing for victims now are long overdue, and that there has been a culture along the chain of letting women down. Indeed, we should be making sure, and we are, that both referrals and prosecutions go forward.

Police Act 1996 (Amendment and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2022

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, it is interesting to see how many people are in the House following the previous debate; I followed it with great interest. Before I start this debate, I just want to say that this will be my 1,000th contribution in your Lordships’ House.

Through these regulations, we are proposing to change the name of the Hampshire police area to “Hampshire and Isle of Wight”. This will better reflect the make-up of the police area and the communities it serves across both counties of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I thank Donna Jones, the police and crime commissioner for Hampshire, for her representations on this important local matter.

There is significant local support for this amendment, with 82% of local residents stating their support in a consultation carried out by the PCC. The standout reason cited was the simple fact that Hampshire Constabulary serves two counties: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Respondents also noted that those on the island sometimes feel forgotten, and there was a feeling that a more inclusive name would help to address that.

The approval by Parliament of these regulations will therefore respond to the specific requests of the people of the Isle of Wight, recognising their strong sense of identity. It will also better reflect Hampshire Constabulary’s full geographical coverage and bring the force into line with the corresponding fire service, which rebranded as Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service following the recent merger of the island and mainland fire services.

The names of police areas and the power to amend those names are set out in the Police Act 1996. Section 31A of the Act contains provisions that allow for the Secretary of State to amend these names by regulations subject to the draft affirmative procedure. This instrument will amend Schedule 1 to the Act, which sets out the names of all police areas in England and Wales with the exception of the Metropolitan Police District and the City of London police area.

This instrument will also amend Articles 34 and 35 of the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order 2012, which make provision in relation to election expenses in police areas. These articles include references to “Hampshire”, which, through these regulations, will be substituted with “Hampshire and Isle of Wight”. This will provide consistency throughout legislative references to the Hampshire police area.

Should this amendment be approved in both Houses, the Government intend to make a further statutory instrument, subject to the negative resolution procedure, to come into force at the same time as these regulations to reflect the name change in other secondary legislation. Together with the strong local support, I hope that I have made a clear case for enacting this important local amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining this statutory instrument. I have only one question. When debates around the amalgamation of police forces have occurred previously, in that 43 is considered to be too many, one of the main concerns has been the cost—for example, in the changing of uniforms and the changing of signage on police stations and vehicles. What consideration has been given to those costs that are consequential to the change in the police area’s name? Otherwise, clearly there is considerable local support for this change. We support it, provided that the money is made available and the costs of any change to signage, uniforms and the like do not come at the cost of providing policing services to local people.

Extradition Act 2003

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 29th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend asks a number of questions. On his last, it is not the case that we send people abroad without prima facie evidence; the countries that we do not require prima facie evidence from are EU countries that have signed up to the convention on extradition. Part 2 countries include the US and the Five Eyes trusted partners.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, a review of the United Kingdom’s extradition arrangements, presented to the Home Secretary on 30 September 2011, said:

“We have concluded that the prima facie case requirement should not be re-introduced in relation to category 1 territories.”


Has anything changed since then to make such a conclusion invalid?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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No, it has not. In fact, two reviews were presented, both from your Lordships’ House: the Baker review and the one by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood.

Spousal Visas: Processing Times

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 21st June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely right. Of course, those thorough processes were some of the things that noble Lords were asking us to cut corners on right at the beginning of this process. We have not, and we are proud of the thoroughness of our processes.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Home Office told the House on 7 June that there were 19,000 outstanding applications under the Ukrainian visa scheme. Can the Minister update the House on that number? Can she tell the House what the knock-on effect has been in terms of the number of outstanding applications for other visas?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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On the Ukrainian visas, I think there have been 188,000 applications, and I know that 130,000 have now been issued.

Civil Servants: Reduction in Numbers

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 15th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, there were quite a lot of questions there. I will try and deal with some of them, maybe starting from the noble Lord’s first question about driving licences. There are no delays to the online application process for driving licences. The only delay in the driving licence system is for those with additional medical needs, and I understand that was because the PCS union went on strike and that caused a delay. Almost 99% of passports are being delivered in the timeframe of 10 weeks. I cannot remember the noble Lord’s final question, but I think I have answered most of it.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lady Randerson had to wait three and a half months for the renewal of her driving licence after it had expired, apparently because of her title, which does not appear on her driving licence, so I am not sure that it is true to say there are no delays. The highly regarded former head of the National Crime Agency has said she fears Ministers’ plans to cut civil servant posts could have a “devastating” impact on tackling serious and organised crime, which includes people smugglers, as the Home Secretary confirmed this afternoon. What impact will these cuts have on the ability of the NCA to tackle people smuggling?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Again, there are a number of questions there but regarding the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I go back to the point I made previously: there are no delays in the production and delivery of driving licences, and passports are being done in 10 weeks. I listened to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, because there has been a lot of noise around reductions in the NCA, and she was absolutely clear that there are no reductions in NCA staffing. Anyone who has been involved in a large organisation, as I have, will know that you prioritise areas which need prioritisation and do not do a blanket cut across the piece.

Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 15th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement.

The Home Secretary began her Statement by saying:

“The British people have repeatedly voted for controlled immigration”.


This Government have dramatically increased immigration into this country, allowing visa-free entry from even more countries while retaining visa-free entry for those from the European Union. The National Audit Office estimates that between 600,000 and 1.2 million illegal immigrants are in the UK. In 2010, there were more than 10,000 removals of those illegally in the UK; in 2021, it was 113. Why are the Government increasing immigration and reducing removals?

The Home Secretary talked about “intolerable pressure” being placed on public services. In 2019, the Government allowed 680,000 economic migrants and foreign students into the country, while the number claiming asylum in the same year was 41,700. Only 6% of all long-term international migrants in 2019 were asylum seekers. How much pressure are asylum seekers placing on the system compared with other migrants?

The Home Secretary said that she welcomed the decision of domestic courts and blamed the European Court of Human Rights for grounding the flight to Rwanda. Reportedly, 130 asylum seekers were issued with notice of removal to Rwanda and the European Court of Human Rights removed three asylum seekers from the plane. Yet the Home Secretary seeks to blame a European judge in Strasbourg. How many asylum seekers won their cases in domestic courts?

The Home Secretary talked about it costing £5 million a day to house asylum seekers. The Rwandan authorities say that it will cost about the same to house a refugee in Rwanda as it does in the UK. Why are the costs so high? It is because since Priti Patel became Home Secretary, the number awaiting a decision on their asylum application, unable to work and reliant on the state has trebled. What will the cost be for those removed to Rwanda compared with those who stay in the UK?

The Home Secretary said that Rwanda was being terribly misrepresented, that it was in fact a safe and secure country with an outstanding record when it comes to supporting asylum seekers, and that those removed to Rwanda will be given generous support, language training, and help to find jobs and to set up their own businesses. Leaving aside a dozen asylum seekers reportedly having been shot when they protested about conditions in Rwanda, if Rwanda is such a desirable location, how is threatening to remove asylum seekers, and only some asylum seekers, to Rwanda, supposed to deter those crossing the channel?

Some 75% of the people affected by this Government’s policy of deporting asylum seekers, based on those crossing the channel whose claims are processed in the UK, are genuine seekers of sanctuary who have the right to settle in the UK under the UN refugee convention. They are vulnerable and traumatised. They are likely to include victims of modern slavery and victims of torture, who are unlikely to reveal the extent of their trauma on arrival in the UK. They are likely to be further traumatised by being removed to Rwanda. A Rwandan government spokesperson said today on Sky News that Rwanda does not have the facilities to care for these kinds of vulnerable asylum seekers. What will happen to these particularly vulnerable asylum seekers? Will they be returned to the UK and, if so, at what cost, both emotionally to the victims, and to the taxpayer?

The UK must take its fair share of asylum seekers and not export our legal and moral responsibilities to Rwanda. In 2020, the UK had six applications for asylum per 10,000 population, while EU countries on average had 11. In 2002, over 84,000 people claimed asylum in the UK and in 2019 it was less than 36,000. The asylum system is broken because this Government broke it. This immoral, impractical and expensive policy is not the answer.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their comments. They will understand, as I said yesterday, that there are certain things which I cannot say because of ongoing legal challenges, one of which is around costs. However, you cannot put a cost on saving someone’s life.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked me about the convention on human rights. Earlier today, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary confirmed that the Deputy Prime Minister was looking into a Bill of Rights for this country. The noble Lord talked also about action on criminal gangs. I found this interesting because of some of the resistance I encountered during the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill to tackling some of those problems. I repeat that when it comes to funding for the NCA, the NCA will have the funds that it needs to tackle some of them, and that upstream work is not an either/or, as might have been debated in the other place, but an “as well as”. We must do both. We must tackle those criminal gangs upstream and do what we can, but we must also deter the illegal crossings.

The noble Lord also asked me about victims of torture and people being taken off flights. If anyone claims they are a victim of torture, they are taken off their flight so that their claim can be assessed.

The noble Lord also asked about Afghans, Ukrainians and Syrians. Since 2015, we have resettled over 20,000 Syrians through the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme and the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme. We have also been incredibly generous to our Ukrainian friends and through the schemes for Afghans. Afghans really do not need to attempt to cross the channel; they need to apply through the safe and legal routes that we have set up for the Afghan people.

The noble Lord asked about the Permanent Secretary, whose letter to the Home Secretary made it clear that he considers

“that it is regular, proper and feasible”

for the Home Secretary

“to make a judgement to proceed”

with this policy

“in the light of the illegal migration challenge the country is facing.”

It is the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary

“as Principal Accounting Officer to ensure that the Department’s use of its resources is appropriate and consistent with the requirements set out in Managing Public Money”.

The reasons for writing are set out clearly in the published letter.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about there being far fewer asylum seekers than migrants. That is absolutely true. We are talking here about controlled migration and people not taking illegal and very risky journeys, across some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Again, vulnerable asylum seekers are part of an ongoing legal challenge, so I cannot answer the noble Lord on that for the time being.

Asylum Seekers: Removal to Rwanda

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 14th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The courts have now determined twice and there will be a JR process in July. That will be the extent of my comments on the legal process, because it is ongoing.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration says that he has seen no impact of the Rwanda policy on numbers attempting to cross the channel in small boats. One hundred crossed just yesterday. The civil servant in charge of the Home Office says that he has not seen any evidence to show that the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will act as a deterrent. Israel tried the same policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda and it failed. When will the Government admit that their Rwanda policy is less about stopping people smugglers transporting people across the channel and has everything to do with the UK abdicating its moral responsibility to give genuine asylum seekers sanctuary in this country and its legal responsibilities under the UN refugee convention?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, we have brought 200,000 people here since 2015. As for the Permanent Secretary’s comments, he made it clear that he considered it “regular, proper and feasible” for the Home Secretary to make a judgment to proceed with this policy

“in the light of the illegal migration challenge the country is facing.”

It is the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary as principal accounting officer to ensure that the department’s use of its resources is appropriate and consistent with the requirements set out in Managing Public Money. The reasons for writing are set out clearly in the published letter.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (Consequential Provision) Regulations 2022

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 13th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, these regulations were laid before the House on 11 May. Following the terrorist attack at Fishmongers’ Hall—I take this opportunity to remember again the victims of that atrocity—in November 2019, the Home Secretary commissioned the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, to review the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements—MAPPA—used to supervise terrorists and terrorism-risk offenders on licence in the community. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which I shall hereafter refer to as the 2022 Act, established three new powers for counterterrorism policing: a personal search power, a premises search power and an urgent power of arrest. These powers were taken in response to recommendations made by Mr Jonathan Hall QC following his review of MAPPA.

These regulations relate to the new power of personal search, the creation of which was also recommended by the Fishmongers’ Hall Inquests—Prevention of Future Deaths report. The personal search power has been inserted into the Terrorism Act 2000 as new Section 43C of that Act by the 2022 Act. The new search power commences later this month on 28 June. As set out by the Government during the passage of the 2022 Act, the new search power will apply across the UK, enabling the police to stop and search terrorist and terrorism-connected offenders released on licence who are required to submit to the search by their licence conditions. The officer conducting the stop and search must be satisfied that it is necessary to exercise the power for purposes connected with protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism.

The Government are clear that sensitive powers of stop and search should be subject to the code of practice setting out the basic principles for their use. Section 47AA of the Terrorism Act 2000 imposes a requirement on the Secretary of State to prepare a code of practice containing guidance about the exercise of search powers that are conferred by that Act. These regulations amend Section 47AA so that it extends to cover the new search power inserted into the Terrorism Act 2000 by the 2022 Act. Subject to Parliament’s approval, this consequential amendment will create a requirement for the Secretary of State to prepare a revised code of practice that includes guidance on the exercise of the power conferred by new Section 43C.

In anticipation of Section 47AA being amended, I can confirm that we are already in the process of engaging relevant stakeholders and updating the code of practice to reflect new Section 43C stop and search power. We plan to lay an order this summer alongside the draft revised code of practice for Parliament’s consideration and approval. As such, Parliament will have the opportunity to review and debate the revised code and its contents in due course. The regulations being considered today simply relate to the technical and consequential matter of whether to amend Section 47AA of the Terrorism Act 2000 to enable the Government to update the relevant code of practice in the manner that I have outlined. I think it is something the Committee will very much support. I beg to move.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations and I associate myself with her remarks in relation to those affected by the Fishmongers’ Hall incident. One of the most important roles of the state is to protect its citizens from terrorism and we support every provision that can be shown to work in practice in helping to prevent and detect terrorism.

This is yet another stop and search power exercisable by the police. Generally, we are against any expansion of police stop and search powers, on the basis that existing powers are sufficient, because an increased use of stop and search does not generally lead to a reduction in crime and because of the negative impact of stop and search on visible minorities. For example, where the police are required to show suspicion, black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched; and where no suspicion is required, black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. In addition, Home Office research shows that, above moderate levels, increasing stop and search has little or no impact in reducing crime.

However, this power—enabling the police to stop and search an offender released on licence for purposes connected with protecting the public from a risk of terrorism—appears, on the face of things, to be reasonable and proportionate. We have seen from tragic instances in the recent past, such as the terrorist attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019, that assessing the threat posed by those convicted of terrorism offences is very difficult to determine, and even those who are assessed as no longer a threat to the public and suitable for release under licence can, in reality, pose a threat to the public.

It will mainly be for the Parole Board to determine whether someone should be subject to the new powers as a condition of their licence, but the Explanatory Memorandum, at paragraph 7.2 says, “In most cases” the Parole Board will decide whether somebody should be subject to the new power. Can the Minister explain in what other circumstances someone could be made subject to these stop and search provisions, if that is not made a condition of their licence by the Parole Board?

As the noble Baroness explained, the regulations are not about the power itself—created by the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 inserting new Section 43C in the Terrorism Act 2000—but are to ensure the requirement on the Secretary of State in Section 47AA of the 2000 Act to prepare a code of practice containing guidance about the exercise of stop and search powers conferred by that Act. That also applies to the new stop and search provision. It seems a bit cart before horse to make the requirement through these regulations and only then to prepare amendments to the code of practice, which will then be laid before Parliament for approval later this year, as the noble Baroness just explained.

All in all, while we support these regulations, in so far as they place a requirement on the Secretary of State to include the new power in the code of practice required by Section 47AA of the Terrorism Act 2000, it seems to be much ado about nothing until we see the revised codes of practice.

Passport (Fees) Regulations 2022

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 23rd May 2022

(2 years ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. There were quite a few questions, so I may not be able to cover absolutely every single detail, but I will start with the points made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering. She and my noble friend Lady Foster spoke about people delaying—for obvious reasons due to Covid—their applications throughout 2020 and 2021. We did prepare extensively for elevated demand with no restrictions upon international travel, and those preparations have ensured that passport applications can be processed in higher numbers than ever before. In preparation for the demand for international travel returning, we have been advising customers since April 2021 to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their passport, and this remains the case.

The noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, asked about our anticipated forecast. It is 9.5 million applications in 2022, and we are on target to deliver those. We have employed 500 staff since last April, and there will be a further 700 this summer. They will be a mixture of agency and permanent staff, because we clearly do not need 1,200 permanent staff for ever to deal with quite a short-term issue. Moreover, 90% of passports in the 10-week timeframe are being processed within six weeks.

Turning to the blue passports, I also have a blue passport and I have not had a problem with it. I have not heard of the glossy-photo issue, but I will certainly take that away and inquire about it. It is possible, as my noble friend Lady Foster said, that the technology might have been faulty, but I shall not make any inference of what the issue was.

I was asked how many passports have been issued so far this calendar year. The answer is 3.3 million, and I understand that in March and April alone 2 million were processed, which is quite a number. I will need to write on the fixed and marginal costs regarding missed priority appointments, but clearly there is a cost for someone making an appointment and not turning up. On the question of staffing, no staff were furloughed during Covid; staff were redeployed to other priority government work in the Home Office—for example, dealing with the EU settlement scheme and asylum—and to DWP, working on universal credit.

Sopra Steria has doubled its workforce in supporting HMPO since the start of 2022, alongside opening up a number of new processing centres. Its efforts have enabled the registration of applications and supporting documents on our system and the return of supporting documents to keep pace with this unprecedented demand. We raised concerns with the provider of the passport advice line, Teleperformance, about its delivery and, in response, it is urgently working to add additional staff, with 500 due to be added by mid-June.

On the argument about three months versus six months, it varies, apparently. Not to recuse myself from the information that I gave on the Floor of the House—and I will look into it more thoroughly—I actually thought a letter might be on its way to the noble Lord by now. Apparently, it is six months for Turkey and three months for Spain, but I will give the noble Lord a proper answer on that, because I, too, looked at the GOV.UK website, but I was not entirely sure whether I was right, or the noble Lord was, at the end of it.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Obviously, Turkey is not a member of the European Union and is not in Schengen. There is one rule for all EU or Schengen countries, including places such as Norway and Iceland, which is three months from departure.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am not going to disagree with the noble Lord. I would just like to give him a comprehensive picture, including on whether it is different if you are going into or coming out of the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, often goes on about the costs versus the profit that the Home Office makes. We do not make a profit. The cost of the passport goes towards our border system; it is not to make a profit. As I said, I will get back to him on costs. I can confirm that if you have paid a premium, you get your money back if your passport does not arrive in time. I will have to get back to him on children, because I do not know the answer. On what is not refunded on missing an appointment, it is not the costs of the application but the booking fee, which is £30—as I understand it from the officials behind me.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My understanding is that if you cancel within 48 hours, you give up the booking fee. If you do not cancel and do not turn up, you forfeit the whole amount: the standard application fee and the premium. In that case, the Passport Office will not be involved in the cost of producing a passport; should that not be refunded?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I did not think that was the case, but I am not going to contradict the noble Lord; I will check. I thought it was just the booking fee that you did not get back; I will double check.

I think I have answered all the questions. I have just one last point on what we did back last year. We started notifying customers by text—I think I said that on the Floor of the House a couple of weeks ago—that their passport was approaching its expiry date. We have sent some 5 million text messages to customers who hold or are about to hold an expired passport.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I have one further question as a result of what the Minister just said. I renewed my passport early because I had to change details in it, so my passport is valid for 13 years, but it is valid for only 10 years for entry to the European Union—you cannot have a passport valid for more than 10 years. Is the Passport Office sending text messages when a passport is approaching 10 years from date of issue or when it is due to expire?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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That is a very good question. I would have thought it would be at the 10-year point, but the noble Lord is absolutely right. If there are 13 years on the passport, would it send it after 13 years, and therefore your passport will be three years out of date? I will find out.

HM Passport Office: Backlogs

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Thursday 12th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Again, the noble Lord makes a good point. I will inquire as to whether we have recruited permanent staff or agency staff. If they are permanent full-time staff, they can of course be flexible to meet the needs of other parts of the Civil Service.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, at the end of 2020, when the Passport Office realised that it was 2 million short of its normal applications, why did it not encourage people to apply early, anticipating the problems that we now see?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I do not know the answer to the question of why we did not encourage that. Obviously, we project numbers each year, but those numbers clearly did not transpire last year and we are now facing 9.5 million applications this year.

UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 25th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, this provision has been in place since 1999. I do not know if it has been challenged before, but it is certainly a long-standing provision that we think meets our international obligations.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the Government have clauses in the Nationality and Borders Bill to enable offshoring, which this House continues to oppose. If this legislation is necessary, why have the Government signed a memorandum with Rwanda before Parliament has approved it? If it is not necessary, why did the Government put it in the Bill in the first place?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think I have explained the provisions in the Bill. They are underpinned by legislation going back over 20 years but, as I explained to the House during the passage of the Bill, it is the certification process that is now in play in the Bill.

Town and Country Planning (Napier Barracks) Special Development Order 2021

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Thursday 7th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I probably should not have brought this aspect up. As I am going on to say, these centres are not detention centres; people are not detained in them. Therefore, it may be something to do with the pandemic, but if I am wrong in my assessment of why people might be inside, I will clarify that. I am assuming that they may have been self-isolating, when the restrictions were quite severe on absolutely everybody in this country.

Going back to the continued use of Napier, following the outcome of NB and others’ litigation in June 2021, the Home Office progressed work to ensure that the department could continue to use the barracks and avoid any potential breach of planning control given under permitted development rights. These were due to expire in September of last year. Given the urgency to ensure that there was additional capacity in the system and the statutory obligation on the Home Office to provide support to destitute asylum seekers, the only viable option was to proceed with a special development order. I should add that the tenancy agreement with the MoD confirms that the site will be handed back in March 2025—in three years’ time—to support the full decommissioning of the site.

On the conditions of the site, I note comments by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about Napier. Maybe I just listened to what I want to hear, but the right reverend Prelate seemed to confirm that things had significantly improved; although they were not absolutely perfect, things had improved significantly at the site. As I have said, the site is used to provide temporary accommodation for around 300 otherwise destitute adult men for up to 90 days. The average length of stay is about 70 days. Service users staying at Napier are free to come and go as they please—they are not detained at Napier. The accommodation at Napier meets our statutory obligations. It is safe, warm, dry and it provides a choice of good hot meals, as well as proper laundry and cleaning facilities.

Turning to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, a significant amount of work has been carried out to make improvements to the conditions at Napier barracks—hence, possibly, the right reverend Prelate’s comments about it. There is a prescribing nurse; dental care is provided on site, and there is access to local GP services. There is also a prayer room and a multifaith room. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham confirmed, sports and recreational activities have been re-introduced. Additional furniture, table-tennis tables and a library have been installed, and CCTV and night-time courtesy patrols have also been put in place. The Home Office has significantly improved the management and oversight at the site, with an emphasis on identifying issues early and ensuring that the accommodation is safe and well maintained. The frequency of inspections and visits has also increased.

Finally, all residents of Napier have been offered Covid-19 vaccinations. There is Covid-related signage in multiple languages, and residents have been provided with personal cleaning kits. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who asked about isolation if Covid is detected. Given that the general regulations have changed for the wider population, I imagine that it is in line with that, but I will provide more information to him if I can.

We have engaged with community stakeholders, including charities and NGOs, in relation to the site. There are regular meetings at which matters relating to the site’s operation are discussed and issues can be raised. These meetings are attended by Home Office officials, alongside representatives of the NHS, the UK Health Security Agency, the police, Folkstone and Hythe District Council and Kent County Council. In addition, several NGOs sit on the Home Office strategic engagement group and the National Asylum Stakeholder Forum, where they can raise concerns and receive updates on the site.

We have recently welcomed the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to Napier to conduct a follow-up inspection at the site. We look forward to the publication of his report, which may identify further ways in which we can improve the service provided there. We remain fully and firmly committed to delivering an asylum system that is fair and effective and works in the interests of both the people of this country and those in need of refuge and sanctuary.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Baronesses who have spoken in this debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. I thank them for raising other important issues and for their support for this Motion. I also thank the Minister for her response.

Whatever the pressure on the asylum system, and whatever the problem, Napier barracks is clearly not the answer. The Minister kept talking about destitute asylum seekers. Most asylum seekers are destitute—for example, those fleeing the war in Ukraine. She appeared to choose to ignore the findings of the report from the APPG on Immigration Detention, published today, which I summarised. Both the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and I asked about further centres similar to Napier— whether they were being planned, developed or brought into use. These plans appear to be surrounded in secrecy. The lack of an answer from the noble Baroness today unfortunately adds to that. I think she is going to intervene on me now.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am, because there is no conspiracy here. I completely neglected to answer both noble Lords on that point. Obviously, we keep our asylum accommodation estate under constant review and I will update the House with any developments if new centres are considered.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not sure whether that was an undertaking by the noble Baroness to write to us with any details of plans in the pipeline. She is nodding, so that is helpful.

It is regrettable that Napier continues to be used to house asylum seekers but bearing in mind that we are at the end of a very long Session, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Police and Crime Commissioners: Budget

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, his membership of the Conservative Party is clearly a matter for the Conservative Party. Whether he should continue as PCC, as I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, is entirely a matter for the electorate.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, what power does the Home Secretary have to overrule police and crime commissioners—for example, if they refused to increase police numbers to achieve the Government’s planned 20,000 uplift, or when the Mayor of London forced the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to resign? If the Home Secretary did not agree that Dame Cressida Dick should go, why did she not intervene at the time, rather than commission an inquiry after the event?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Clearly, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service has given notice of the end of her tenure. It appeared to be quite short notice, although she has yet to depart. I understand she will be departing in April and I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to her work. I say to the noble Lord that the police are operationally independent and the PCC sets the direction for the local area. If the public in that area are not happy, they have the remedy at the ballot box.

Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Report

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Thursday 24th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in relation to the Daniel Morgan family, and remind the House that I was a Metropolitan Police officer for more than 30 years, holding the equivalent of deputy chief constable rank when I was forced out of the police service for being open and transparent about what was going on inside the Metropolitan Police Service—which I will refer to as the MPS.

Honest, decent police officers are being let down by the corrupt few, and by senior officers who do not take corruption seriously enough. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, some positive claims are made in the HMICFRS report about the MPS supporting whistleblowers and its capability to investigate the “most serious corruption”. Can the Minister give an example of the result of an investigation where a whistleblower has been supported, and an example of the successful prosecution of a case of the “most serious corruption”? It is one thing to point to systems and capabilities; it is quite another to prove that they are effective.

The rest of the report is devastating. In response to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report, the MPS claimed:

“The Met is working hard to root out corruption.”


Instead, HMICFRS says:

“We set out to establish what the force has learned from its failings and whether they could recur. We looked for evidence that someone, somewhere … had adopted the view that ‘this must never happen again’”—


but it could not find anyone.

In a catalogue of failings—I have time to mention only a few of them—HMICFRS found that: the MPS does not know whether all its sensitive posts, such as those for child protection, major investigation and informant handling, are filled by people who have been security cleared; 2,000 warrant cards of police officers who have left the MPS are unaccounted for, which these former officers could use to masquerade as serving police officers, with the potential for another Sarah Everard-type tragedy; and hundreds of items including cash, jewellery and drugs could not be accounted for, meaning that vital evidence could have been disposed of by corrupt officers. It also found that officers could be pocketing money and valuables and, potentially, dealing in illegal drugs that had been seized from criminals. This has happened before and could very easily, apparently, be happening again. I could go on, but there is no time.

HMICFRS concluded:

“Since 2016, we have repeatedly raised concerns with the Metropolitan Police about certain aspects of its counter-corruption work, including … its failure to adopt … approved counter-corruption recording methods … Our advice largely went unheeded.”


If this was a local authority department, the Minister responsible would have placed it in special measures and sent a team in to take over the running of it. Instead, the Minister in the other place tries to blame the Mayor of London.

The Metropolitan Police has national responsibility for such important issues as the security of the Royal Family and protection of government Ministers, and for terrorism. That is why the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner are in law appointed by the Home Secretary, having regard to the views of the Mayor of London. Even if the Government insist that responsibility lies with the Mayor of London, their inability to take direct action is the result of the system of police and crime commissioners, which includes elected mayors, that the Conservative Government introduced. So which is it? If the Government can directly intervene, why will they not, and if they cannot, when are they going to change the system of police and crime commissioners so that they can?

The security of this country is at stake, let alone the trust and confidence of Londoners, and the Government wash their hands of it. When are the Government going to take some responsibility and take action to deal with this totally unacceptable situation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for the points that they have made. I join them in conveying our thoughts to the Daniel Morgan family, some 35 years after their trauma and heartache began.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the reply to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, the Home Secretary will do so once she has received responses from the Metropolitan Police Service and others. It will be done as soon as she possibly can after that. He also made a point about whether the Metropolitan Police Service is institutionally corrupt. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed to the fact, which I would agree with, that most police officers are honest and very hard-working people. They are trying every day to keep the British public safe and we should not tar them all with the same brush, because that would be demoralising and not true, although I recognise what the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel said.

It is also interesting to read in the report that some of the processes that the Metropolitan Police Service is not following are actually evident in good practice across the country. Nevertheless, the Home Secretary has commissioned ongoing work for police forces across England and Wales.

On the points about arrogance, secrecy and confidence in the police, I have stood too many times at this Dispatch Box and heard those words quoted back at me. It is evident that although this report provides a really important start in trying to improve things within the Metropolitan Police Service, there is an enormously long way to go. I totally agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about forthcoming appointments for the Met commissioner and the head of HMICFRS; I expect both appointments to be made shortly.

In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about what the Home Secretary is doing now, he will know about the work she commissioned from Dame Elish Angiolini, which addresses several points mentioned today, including culture and corruption, and the work that is ongoing with the noble Baroness, Lady Casey. As I said, the Home Secretary has also commissioned ongoing work with HMICFRS in these areas.

Moving on to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the question about examples of whistleblowers being supported is very interesting. I suspect that, by the very nature of the investigations that take place, we would not necessarily publicly hear about whistleblowers. However, this area will probably be touched upon in the work that Dame Elish Angiolini and the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, are doing. I wholeheartedly support his dismay at the comment made in the HMICFRS report that nobody said that this must never happen again; that is depressing.

On the point the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made about sensitive posts and vetting, the report clearly commented on sensitive posts and said that vetting needs to be looked at across those posts because the parameters are not clear. I also support his point about money and gifts, because the position is by no means clear in the Metropolitan Police Service. I know it is a matter for them, but police forces will want to look at that because, again, the approach is by no means consistent.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend makes a very good point because in reading this report I observed that the Metropolitan Police is very good at doing the big things and that some of the important details, such as vetting, internal corruption, gifts, evidence and the things my noble friend talks about, were less focused on. That is something that the Metropolitan Police will have to answer through its action plans in the short and long term. On training, I expect to see it much more consistent throughout the force, but I think that perhaps in focusing on the big things the Metropolitan Police has neglected important details of the job.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With the leave of the House, I shall ask a question for clarification. I thought I heard the Minister say that the Home Secretary would respond once the Metropolitan Police had given its response to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report. My understanding was that the Metropolitan Police gave its response last week, which was then largely contradicted by the HMICFRS report. If I am right, can the Minister tell us when the Home Secretary is likely to respond to both reports?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I was responding to the response to the findings of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report. I understand that the Home Secretary will be returning to the House to update on progress once she has received responses from the MPS and others.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Motion B, with the leave of the House, I will also speak to Motion M. Amendment 70, originally tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, and passed by this House on Report, would require the Secretary of State to

“establish a review into the prevalence of, and the response of the criminal justice system to, the offence of administering a substance with intent under section 61 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003”.

As I have made clear previously, the Government share that concern about spiking, whether it is spiking of drinks or by needles, which has prompted this amendment and we are taking the issue very seriously.

In September last year, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary asked the National Police Chiefs’ Council to review urgently the extent and scale of the issue of needle spiking. We still have much to learn, as the noble Lord acknowledged at the time, but it is clear from what the police have told us that the behaviour is not exclusively carried out with the intention of perpetrating a sexual assault. Sometimes, financial crime might be a motivation. Indeed, many reported incidents do not appear to be linked to any secondary offending at all. It seems that sometimes the act might be an end in itself, yet all examples of this behaviour are serious in their impact on the victim and in the fear and anxiety felt more widely by those seeking simply to enjoy a night out.

It is also clear that we need a response that goes beyond the criminal justice system and encompasses health, education and the night-time economy. In the Commons, therefore, the Government tabled Amendment 70A in lieu, which is drafted more broadly. It requires the Home Secretary to prepare a report on the nature and prevalence of “spiking”—which, for these purposes, we are defining as

“intentionally administering a substance to someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them harm.”

The report will also set out the steps that the Government have taken or intend to take to address it. The Home Secretary will be required to publish the report, and lay it before Parliament, within 12 months of Royal Assent.

I hope that this addresses the concerns that underpinned the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, but in a way that enables the Government to consider the issue in the round. In addition, the Government are looking at whether creating a new offence specifically of spiking would help the police and courts to tackle the issue. If we need to take action to do this, we will not hesitate to do so.

Amendments 141 and 142 provide for bespoke new offences to tackle so-called sex for rent. We are very clear that exploitation through sex for rent has no place in society and we understand the motivation behind the amendments. However, as I previously explained, there are two existing offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 that can be, and have been, used to successfully prosecute this practice, including the Section 52 offence of causing or inciting prostitution for gain. We recognise the need to stamp out this terrible practice and support those at risk of exploitation. Again, on Report I set out some of the actions that we have already taken, including producing updated guidance for prosecutors and measures in the forthcoming online safety Bill to tackle harmful content on the internet.

We recognise that we need to go further. We are determined to act on the concerns that have been raised on this issue, both in your Lordships’ House and in the other place. Accordingly, we will launch a public consultation before the summer to invite views on the issue of sex for rent and, as part of this, we will look at the effectiveness of existing legislation and whether there is a case for a bespoke criminal offence. Following our commitment to undertake a consultation on this issue, the Commons disagreed with the Lords amendment by a majority of over 100.

All sides of the House share the heartfelt desire of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, to do more to tackle spiking and sex for rent. We are fully committed to doing so. We will publish a report on the nature and prevalence of spiking and the actions that we are taking in response, including consideration of the case for a bespoke offence, and we will be consulting before the summer on the issue of sex for rent. In the light of these clear commitments, I invite the House to agree Motions B and M. I beg to move.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the amendments in this group were introduced by the Official Opposition and we supported them. We welcome the Government’s undertakings in Amendment 70A in Motion B to prepare and publish a report on spiking, for example of drinks, intentionally and without a person’s consent and with the intention of causing harm, so as to establish the extent of the problem and therefore to inform what measures need to be taken to address it.

We also welcome the Government’s commitment to undertake a consultation on whether the existing law in respect of requiring or arranging sexual relations as a condition of accommodation—so-called sex for rent—needs to be strengthened. The prevalence of the phenomenon and the lack of prosecutions under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which the Government believe covers these scenarios, indicate that such action is likely to be necessary. We are grateful to the Official Opposition, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for raising these important issues and securing government action to address them.

Home Office Visas for Ukrainians

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as to why the changes will not come in until Tuesday, it will be necessary to get the IT systems up and running, and it will take until Tuesday to get that done. What that will do, however, is free up the system generally for those without passports to be helped at VACs, and the whole system will be speeded up that much more quickly. It might assist the noble Lord—and I have given updated figures every day that I have taken Questions this week—to know that, as I understand it, as of this morning, we have now granted 1,305 visas.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, those seeking sanctuary in the UK crossing the channel in small boats, many of whom do not have passports, undergo biometrics and security checks in the UK. Why can Ukrainians, without family in the UK or passports, and nationals of other countries fleeing Putin’s war, not do the same? In particular, women, children and the elderly are unlikely to present security threats to the UK, so what is stopping the Government lifting visa requirements, as EU states have done?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, yesterday, one thing that we will not do is dispense with security checks. But there will be a lot more capacity at VACs for those without passports, because those with passports can now come here and have their biometrics taken here.

Ukraine: Urgent Refugee Applications

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 9th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his questions. As of 9.30 am this morning, 17,700 applications had been made, and there were 1,000 grants of visas. We are expecting a further 1,000 grants of visas by the end of the day. I think that noble Lords will agree that that is a positive trajectory.

The Lille VAC will indeed be set up.

In total, we had almost 1,000 offers for the humanitarian sponsorship pathway, which I counted up from across this House, given the details I received from the right reverend Prelate and another noble Lord yesterday. I want to take back to the Home Office—as I said yesterday that I would—the offers of support which are not just from within your Lordships’ House but are coming in thick and fast from all over the country. They will be very helpful when those families and people arrive in the UK.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, Ukrainian refugees arriving in Bucharest and applying to join families in the UK today are being given appointments on 28 March to have their biometrics taken. What are they supposed to do for two weeks in a foreign city where they know no one, have few belongings and little or no money, when they could be here in the UK with their families?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a very understandable point. As I said yesterday to the House, I know that we are training people as we speak, and surging the capacity and capability of our VAC teams from that region.

Ukraine: Refugees

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 8th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The sponsorship scheme, as I have said, should be up and running very shortly, and DLUHC will indeed be the lead department on it. In response to the noble Baroness, I undertake, when there is a number and the scheme is up and running, to come back to the House and give details.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, surely what is needed, as well as numbers, is speed. The UK has admitted only 300 Ukrainian refugees, while the Republic of Ireland has admitted 1,800. Why is the UK dragging its feet?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord that speed and numbers are vital. I understand that as of 9 o’clock this morning there were 526 grants under the family scheme. With regard to the sponsorship, however, the noble Lord is right: we need to do it quickly and efficiently.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I am bringing forward Amendments 70B to 70N and Amendment 84E to allow visa penalties to be extended to countries that present a risk to international peace and security, or whose actions lead or are likely to lead to armed conflict or a breach of humanitarian law.

The existing provision in Clause 69 will already give the Government the power to apply visa penalties to specified countries that are not co-operating in relation to the return of its nationals. We will be able to slow down the processing of applications, require applicants to pay a £190 surcharge or, critically, suspend the granting of entry clearance completely. These powers are scalable, and they are appropriate both in the context of improving returns co-operation and to take action against regimes waging war on the innocent.

In particular, the Government are minded to use these powers in respect of Russia. The ability to suspend the granting of entry clearance for Russian nationals will send a strong signal to the Putin regime that they cannot invade their peaceful neighbour and expect business as usual. Although we do not believe this war is in the name of the Russian people, disadvantaging Russian nationals in this way, as part of our wider package of sanctions, will contribute to the pressure on the Putin regime.

Specifically, Amendment 70B sets out the general visa penalties provisions from the original Clause 69, which will now apply in both contexts. This includes the detail on the types of penalties that may be applied and the provision to make exemptions. This has not substantively changed from the provisions that noble Lords have already considered.

Amendment 70C sets out when a country may be specified and provides for three possible conditions. The Secretary of State must be of the opinion that the Government of the country have taken action that gives or is likely to give rise to a threat to international peace and security; results or is likely to result in armed conflict; or gives or is likely to give rise to a breach of international humanitarian law. The Secretary of State must take into account the extent of, and the reasons for, the action taken, the likelihood of further action, and such other matters as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

Amendment 70K broadly mirrors Clause 70, in that it requires the Secretary of State to review the application of visa penalties every two months. If the Secretary of State concludes that penalties are no longer necessary or expedient in connection with the factors in Amendment 70C, penalties must be revoked. This provision is a safeguard to ensure that any visa penalties applied do not remain in place by default.

I am also bringing forward Amendment 84E to ensure that these powers can be deployed in relation to the invasion of Ukraine as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent, rather than waiting two months after commencement. The sooner that happens, the sooner this House and all Members can collectively act in response to this appalling crisis.

The United Kingdom stands firmly with the people of Ukraine in their struggle with Vladimir Putin’s monstrous and unjustified war. Extending these powers is a crucial step to enabling the Government to respond to hostile actions, such as those by the Putin regime, in the toughest possible manner. I ask noble Lords to support Amendments 70B to 70N and Amendment 84E for the reasons already outlined. I beg to move.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, my first reaction to these amendments was to wonder why they were necessary. Surely it is already possible to refuse to grant visas, or to slow the processing of visas to nationals of a hostile foreign state. The Government seem to be doing a good job of not granting visas to Ukrainian nationals fleeing war, so why can they not refuse to grant visas to Russians?

On that issue, I would like the Minister to explain why the Home Secretary told the other place yesterday:

“I confirm that we have set up a bespoke VAC en route to Calais but away from the port because we have to prevent that surge from taking place.”


Later, when challenged, the Home Secretary said:

“I think the right hon. Lady did not hear what I said earlier. I said that I can confirm that we are setting up another VAC en route to Calais—I made that quite clear in my remarks earlier on.”—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/22; cols. 27, 40.]


Can the Minister explain why the Home Secretary gave inaccurate information and then blamed the shadow Home Secretary for mishearing?

Why have the Government accepted only 508 Ukrainian refugees—as I think the Minister said earlier in the House—while Ireland has accepted 1,800? What makes the UK so unique? Are these amendments not more of the Government saying that they are going to do something, instead of actually doing something?

I am also concerned about subsection (6), to be inserted by Amendment 70B, which would allow the Secretary of State to

“make different provision for different purposes … provide for exceptions or exemptions … include incidental, supplementary, transitional, transitory or saving provision.”

In other words, the new clause seems to allow the Secretary of State to do whatever she wants—including to allow into the UK whoever she wants, despite a general ban on a particular country. Where is the parliamentary oversight?

Amendment 70C would allow the Secretary of State to specify that a country is posing a

“risk to international peace and security”,

or a risk of “armed conflict”, or a risk of breaching “international humanitarian law”, if that is her opinion. There is no qualification that she should be satisfied on the balance of probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt, for example, but simply that she is of that opinion. Again, where is the parliamentary oversight?

These new amendments allow the Secretary of State to impose, or not impose, visa restrictions and penalties on countries which, in her opinion, pose a threat. This allows her to exempt whoever she thinks should be exempted, without any parliamentary scrutiny, oversight or involvement in the decision-making. Will the Minister consider withdrawing these amendments and bringing them back at Third Reading with the necessary safeguards in place?

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions. I say at the outset that the Government have been consistent and clear about their belief that people who require international protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, rather than make dangerous and unnecessary journeys to the UK to claim asylum here.

Inadmissibility processes, in particular the first safe country principle, are well established, both in the UK, through long-standing measures in the Immigration Rules, and internationally, including as part of the Common European Asylum System. For example, the procedures directive recognised at recital 22 that

“Member States should not be obliged to assess the substance of an application for international protection where a first country of asylum has granted the applicant refugee status or otherwise sufficient protection and the applicant will be readmitted to that country.”

An overriding objective of these processes is to prevent secondary movements by those who have already reached safety. By definition, that is not about denying safety to those who need it but about having rules which aim to reduce unnecessary travel across borders by those who are already safe.

Amendment 31 seeks to remove third-country inadmissibility powers from primary legislation altogether. It would weaken our ability to deploy inadmissibility processes appropriately and decisively within a strong legal framework, and with that, erode our ability to deter unsafe migration and focus our resources on those most in need of our help.

We are confident that the measures in Clause 15 are fair, appropriate and fully in line with our international obligations. The clause sets out the strict circumstances in which a person’s behaviour or circumstances could lead to inadmissibility action. It requires decision-makers to take account of exceptional mitigating factors that may apply when considering those circumstances. It sets out minimum criteria that must be met by any country before it can be regarded as a safe third country of return, including it being one where a person would not be at risk of persecution, would not experience a breach of Article 3 ECHR rights, and would not be sent to another place where they would be persecuted.

The primary protection afforded refugees under the refugee convention and its protocol is non-refoulement, including no onward refoulement. It is therefore clear that non-refoulement is the primary requirement of “safety”. The same is true for protection afforded under Article 3 of the ECHR. Furthermore, an individual may not meet the definition of refugee under the convention but still require protection. A state may still be safe for them where they will not be refouled, even though they are not a refugee. Therefore, our criteria for determining whether a country is safe, and for subsequently making a claim inadmissible, upholds the UK’s obligations under international law.

Nothing in Clause 15 requires extensive delay in processing inadmissibility decisions. It is right that we consider inadmissibility action and, where appropriate, seek the agreement of the relevant third country, or countries, for the person’s admission there. In some cases, particularly where we are reliant on case-by-case requests to partners, this may take some time, but we have not operated, and will not operate, the inadmissibility system in a way that puts someone in indefinite limbo, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about—able to access neither the asylum system in the country of proposed removal nor the UK system. That would be contrary to the object and purpose of the refugee convention. Our existing processes, which Clause 15 strengthens, are clear that where return cannot be arranged within a reasonable period, the person’s claim would be admitted to the UK asylum system for substantive consideration. That ensures compatibility with the refugee convention.

Individuals will have an opportunity to explain their actions and circumstances prior to claiming asylum in the UK, and that explanation will be carefully considered in deciding whether an inadmissibility decision is appropriate. They will also be able to make representations on why any safe third state is not safe in their particular circumstances. Any decision to declare a claim inadmissible and remove an individual will be subject to the standard principles of public law, including rationality. The inadmissibility provisions are therefore compatible with the refugee convention. For these reasons, I do not agree with the amendment seeking to leave out the clause.

Turning to Amendments 32 and 86, as we have stated on previous occasions, the UK-EU joint political declaration made clear the UK’s intention to engage in bilateral discussions with the most concerned member states to discuss suitable practical arrangements on issues around asylum and illegal migration. We continue to do that with EU member states on these issues. We have been clear that formal agreements, though valuable, are not the only way in which an inadmissible asylum seeker may be accepted for removal by a safe third country. I think it is right to seek removals on a case-by-case basis where appropriate and, with the consent of the relevant country, make that removal. This approach has formed part of our inadmissibility process since the changes to the Immigration Rules in December 2020—and, until the Bill’s provisions come into force, we will continue to rely on the Immigration Rules.

The structure of case-by-case removal arrangements will not be uniform for each country of removal. A wide range of factors will still affect the formality and administration around such removals, not least the diverse organisational structures in place in the third country, the levels of centralised and decentralised decision-making, and other circumstances that may be specific to the individual. These arrangements will inevitably vary, but the framework in which cases are considered, within which third countries are assessed for safety and claimants are progressed to removal, will not. We have a clear and consistent approach to these fundamental and important issues, and we stand by our international obligations.

I do not agree that these provisions are unworkable without formal agreements in place. We aim to make the process work as a whole and to return people where appropriate. Where it becomes clear that an individual cannot be removed to a safe country, either because we do not have formal returns agreements in place or because a case-by-case removal cannot be agreed within a reasonable period, the individual’s asylum claim will be considered in the UK. To go back to the assertion made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I say that this will ensure that we do not keep people in limbo, in accordance with our obligations under the refugee convention. I do not think this amendment is required and ask that it be withdrawn.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Before the Minister sits down, can she clarify? She insists that the Government’s intention is not to put asylum seekers into indefinite limbo; in other words, if the Government attempt to send them back to a safe third country and fail to do so, at the moment there is a six-month time limit on that. Can the Minister confirm that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent an indefinite status of limbo?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Given what I have already stated about an indefinite state of limbo, surely the Minister’s words would have some sort of weight. I have also said that any decision to declare a claim inadmissible and remove an individual will be subject to standard principles of public law, and that we will consider their obligation within a reasonable time.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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On a point of clarification, the Minister said that the Minister in the other place had given an undertaking that children would not be offshored under this scheme. Does that mean that if a family arrives on UK shores the parents of the child could be sent overseas—offshored—while the child remained in the UK, because of that undertaking?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thought that I had made it clear that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children would not be offshored.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I have just explained why not.

Can I say something at this point? The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the Whip have pointed this out. Generally, after the Minister has spoken, the person who moved the amendment can ask questions of elucidation, but it is not generally the case that people who have not spoken in the debate then stand up and start adding to it. I know the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is going to be cross with me yet again, but this has been quite a long and arduous process, and it would be helpful for the House if the Companion were to be followed.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, to follow up on that point, my understanding is that anybody is entitled to ask a question of clarification on something that the Minister has said but not to engage in debate, which is allowed in Committee but not on Report.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his support and the Minister for her comprehensive response on these amendments. As I anticipated, the Government want to hide behind tipping off people smugglers as to what the Government are doing to tackle the problem. But how do we hold the Government to account if we do not know what is happening, as far as Amendment 59 is concerned, on the issue of “for gain”?

I understand the example the Minister gave of the chap who had money in his wallet, and so forth. One understands that prosecutions are not always possible, and at least the money was recovered. But there is a defence once charged in the Bill; there is not immunity from prosecution. So, somebody who comes across a sinking dinghy in the channel and rescues the asylum seekers could be subject to a prolonged investigation. The Minister talked about a full examination of the circumstances. It does not prevent the person being arrested, potentially, and being held either on police bail or under investigation for a long period to examine the circumstances. The defence in the Bill is only once charged.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the Bill does two things. It criminalises and treats genuine refugees as second class if they arrive via a so-called safe third country. Also, this clause potentially criminalises everyone who arrives in the UK to claim asylum even when they have flown directly to the UK. It effectively criminalises all asylum seekers arriving in the UK unless they have been resettled through a government scheme—resettlement schemes that range from few and far between to non-existent.

From what the Minister said in Committee, I understand that the idea of the clause was to ensure that migrants crossing the channel in small boats who were rescued and brought to the UK could still be prosecuted, even though they had arrived legally. She said that the new offence would cover all claimants

“who arrive without the necessary entry clearance.”—[Official Report, 8/2/22; col. 1512.]

Someone who secures a visitor visa, for example, flies non-stop to the UK and claims asylum at the UK border would be guilty of an offence because their entry clearance was only to visit, not to claim asylum and stay permanently.

The Minister tried to reassure the House that this was not the Government’s intention, that the offence was intended to be prosecuted in only the most egregious cases and that the Government would be talking to the CPS. There are two issues with this. First, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said in Committee, this is the very definition of an overbroad criminal offence that relies on the offence being prosecuted in only a subset of cases. The second issue is the potential for government interference with the independent Crown Prosecution Service. The next thing will be the Government telling the CPS to prosecute some political activists and not others. This is a very dangerous road to go down.

Amendment 55, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Blunkett, to which I have added my name, would remove the offence of arriving in the UK without valid entry clearance from the Bill. We will vote with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, when he divides the House.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for speaking to these amendments. I have listened carefully to the arguments raised by the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, and I appreciate the reasoning behind the amendments in their names, but I remain convinced that we must have offences which apply to arrival in the UK in addition to those of entry.

I cannot overstate that the differences between the terms “entry” and “arrival” are fundamental to how offences are identified and prosecuted. The definition in Section 11 of the Immigration Act 1971 concerning entry is based on assumptions that no longer address the methods that have emerged for migrants to evade our border controls.

It might help if I explained the effect of the amendment and the consequence of not getting it right. I remind the House that the Court of Appeal has held that an asylum seeker who merely attempts to arrive at the frontiers of the United Kingdom to make a claim is not entering or attempting to enter the country unlawfully in accordance with the definition of “entry” in Section 11. This means that individuals who step foot in the UK because their small boat was rescued by Border Force do not “enter” the UK in the technical sense. They simply “arrive”. Where there is no unlawful entry or attempt at entry, the unscrupulous people smugglers sending people across the channel in unseaworthy vessels that require rescue cannot be held to account for facilitating a breach of immigration law.

Amending these offences to refer to “enters” rather than “arrives in” renders them unworkable. It is wrong that an individual and those facilitating their journey should be able to evade sanction by allowing themselves to be intercepted and brought to shore. It encourages individuals to unnecessarily endanger themselves and others by travelling in small craft wholly unsuitable for the crossing.

If there is no offence of illegal arrival and if, as proposed in Amendment 58, this is not added as a breach of immigration law for the facilitation offence, then we will have practically eroded our ability to prosecute any people smugglers who are involved in risking migrants’ lives by putting them into small inadequate boats.

It is right that we should ensure that the tools exist to deter and prevent these actions for the good of all. We must provide the CPS with the ability to prosecute appropriate cases when in the public interest, so Clause 39 must refer to both those who enter the UK and those who arrive in the UK. I appreciate the concerns raised but am convinced that the proposed amendments, if accepted, would give only comfort to those who exploit and persuade people to make the perilous and unnecessary journey across the English Channel.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made a point about interference with the CPS. That is not the case. An MOU between immigration and the CPS has been updated and will be published. With those words, I hope that noble Lords will be happy not to press their amendments.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we support this amendment—I have added my name to it. The only question I have in addition to what the Minister has been asked so far is whether it is right that somebody who has been raped and who comes forward to the police as a victim, although she may not be subject to immigration control while a prosecution is ongoing, as soon the case is finished, she could be deported from the country because the police, at the end of the case, will share that victim’s immigration status? Can the noble Baroness not understand that victims are not going to come forward and report dangerous criminals who have raped them if that is the threat?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I understand the sentiment behind this amendment, which is to ensure that migrant victims of crime come forward to report that crime to the police and are not deterred from doing so because of concerns that immigration enforcement action might be taken against them. Our overriding priority is to protect the public and all victims of crime, regardless of their immigration status. Guidance issued by the NPCC, updated in 2020, makes it clear that victims of crime should be treated as victims first and foremost.

The NPCC guidance provides that police officers will not routinely search police databases for the purpose of establishing the immigration status of a victim or witness, or routinely seek proof of their entitlement to reside in the UK. Also, police officers must have grounds to suspect that a person does not have legal immigration status and must give careful consideration, on a case-by-case basis, to what information to share with the Home Office and when. The reasons for sharing information must be recorded and the victim advised what has been shared and why.

There can be benefits to sharing information as it can help to prevent perpetrators of crime from coercing and controlling their victims because of their insecure immigration status. Providing the victims with accurate information about their immigration status and bringing them into the immigration system can only benefit them. This amendment would prevent that.

It might help noble Lords if I gave one example of the negative effect of the amendment. The referral of information about a migrant victim or witness enables the Home Office to provide information on Home Office systems to assist the police and other authorities to establish vulnerabilities and safeguarding needs and to assess whether the migrant might be eligible to qualify for leave under the Immigration Rules or bespoke routes. Securing immigration status may allow eligible migrants access to a range of benefits, including health and housing provisions. There are several bespoke routes available to migrant victims and witnesses of crime which enable eligible individuals to regularise their status.

Under this amendment, the Home Office could not lawfully process any applications or requests for relief from enforcement action where details of the crime reported are relevant to those applications or requests, because the applicant’s personal data cannot be used for an immigration control purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about rape, and examples would include applications or requests made for the destitute domestic violence concession, the foreign witness policy or the immigration enforcement migrant victim protocol, which is due to be introduced later this year.

I know that is not what the sponsors of the amendment had in mind, but, were it to be added to the Bill, that would be one of the effects. More broadly, noble Lords will understand that the Government are duty bound to maintain an effective immigration system to protect our public services and safeguard the most vulnerable from exploitation because of their insecure immigration status.

I have previously said that we need to focus on ensuring that victims with insecure immigration status can access the support they need, and that is the priority. Despite the best intentions, this amendment does not achieve the outcome it seeks. The question of leave to remain is inextricably linked to the conditions attached to that leave, so it is impossible to waive the no recourse to public funds condition in isolation from consideration being given to a person’s immigration status. What is more, it has been a long-standing feature of the immigration framework operated by successive Governments that only those with settled status should have access to public funds.

The public rightly expects that individuals in this country should be subject to our laws, and it is right that those with irregular immigration status are identified and that they should be supported to come under our immigration system and, where possible, to regularise their stay. We regularly help migrant victims by signposting them to legal advice to help regularise their stay.

This is the wrong amendment at the wrong time. If adopted, it would prevent victims obtaining the support they need, whether under the DDVC or other routes such as seeking asylum. I hope, on the point from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about listening, that the noble Lords have listened and reflected carefully on the unintended consequences of their amendment and will agree to withdraw it.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 28th February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, given that the UNHCR has criticised the UK’s response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in and around Ukraine, why have the Government not allowed visa-free entry of refugees from Ukraine into the UK?

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to strike that balance between abuse of the system and providing refuge to those genuinely in need, but she will also know that we have several family reunion routes, which I went through the other day in Committee. With all that, and the commitment to write to the right reverend Prelate—

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am sorry to intervene just when the noble Baroness thought she had finished. She said that there is already a power to remove asylum seekers while their claim is being considered. Is she referring to when the Secretary of State issues a certificate to say that a claim has no merit and someone can therefore be deported before their appeal is heard? In that case, that is a limited number of people and a very different system from the one proposed here. Can she tell the Committee how many people have been issued with such a certificate and been deported during their application process in that way, compared with the numbers the Government anticipate will be affected by this new proposal?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord talks about deportation; we generally refer to deportation in the context of criminals. No, it is not under those provisions.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we often say that we will not provide a running commentary, but I will provide a running commentary on said letter. When we break for the Statement at 3.30 pm, I shall look to the Box as to the whereabouts of the letter —which I did clear some time ago.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we have the famous Dubs letter; I do not know why others have not—maybe it was sent to selected recipients.

I thank all noble Lords from all sides of the Committee for their support for these amendments—with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, whose case seemed to be that public opinion polls in the future might turn on their head from where they are now, with 70% of the public supporting asylum seekers being able to work, and that might be a minority rather than a majority.

I am losing patience with the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington. When he intervened on my opening remarks he accepted that, from 2012 to 2019, the majority of asylum seekers were successful in their applications and that, in 2019, 65% were successful. But in his speech, he maintained that the majority of asylum seekers’ claims were not accepted. It is getting difficult.

The Minister talked about an impact assessment in due course on the effects on the labour market of this change. What is the Migration Advisory Committee for if it is not to advise the Government on the likely impact of changes in migration policy? The MAC recommends that asylum seekers are allowed to work. The Minister claimed that if the amendments were accepted, it would go against what people voted for in 2019. Is she really saying that in 2019 people voted not to allow asylum seekers to work, particularly in the light of the evidence of opinion polls showing 70% support for the contrary?

The Minister seemed to claim that allowing asylum seekers to work was a pull factor, but then said it was complicated and more research was needed. If there is evidence that allowing asylum seekers to work is a pull factor, what is it? She talked about other countries making the UK appear more attractive to asylum seekers, yet we have already heard that the UK is an outlier in terms of most other European countries allowing asylum seekers to work. How does that happen? She also said that European countries that allow asylum seekers to work still provide them with accommodation. Asylum seekers could pay for the accommodation that they are provided with if they were allowed to work.

The Minister’s explanations are not acceptable and we will return to this issue on Report. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, again, I thank noble Lords who have made points. I will attempt to assist the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on the extension. First, I will say that I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is in his place—I hope noble Lords will indulge me; because different amendments are bleeding into different groups, I know noble Lords will not mind. The basic approach to the asylum support calculation is based on the essential needs of the claimant—but I will get him more detail and perhaps more of a breakdown if that is what he would like.

I also say before we start that I agree with my noble friend Lady Stowell: I disagree with many points that people make, but I hope I always approach the House with courtesy. I know the Committee generally does not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, but I must admire his tenacity in coming to this place, week in and week out, and making points that a lot of people do not agree with—I feel like that sometimes. That is a light-hearted point, rather than a point for debate.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps I could just explain to both noble Baronesses that it was facts that were in dispute, not opinions. I actually agree with a lot of what the Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, says about immigration as a whole, and I would not want that misconstrued.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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That is not in dispute; I was just echoing the point made by my noble friend Lady Stowell about respect, because I think it is always a good thing to be promoting.

I too listened to “More or Less” yesterday—the programme that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, referred to—and I think the conclusion was that it depended on how you looked at it. So everyone was right and everyone was wrong, all at the same time; I think that was the conclusion. But I very much enjoyed listening to that calculation.

Anyway, before I cause any more controversy, I will start by saying that it is very clear that individuals leaving asylum support following a positive immigration decision receive the assistance that they need to obtain other housing and apply for other benefits, such as universal credit, that they are entitled to. We do not think it is sensible to increase the length of time they remain eligible for asylum support from 28 to 56 days, and I will explain why.

The asylum accommodation estate is under huge strain and demand for normal asylum dispersal accommodation —that is to say, flats and houses obtained from the private rental market—is exceeding supply. The only way to meet this demand has been to use hotels, and there are currently around 26,000 people accommodated in them. A programme of work is under way to drive down the use of hotels by obtaining more dispersal accommodation and introducing accommodation centres. This clause would impede this work—I hope that answers the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about “Why not 56 days?” In simple terms, the longer that successful asylum seekers remain in asylum accommodation, the fewer beds will be available for those entering the asylum system, including those temporarily accommodated in hotels at great expense to the taxpayer.

We are aware of reports that some refugees do not access UC, as it is called, or other benefits or adequate housing within 28 days. The reasons for this are complex, but the problem is not solved by increasing the 28-day move-on period, for reasons I have explained, and that is why our focus has been on implementing practical changes with the aim of securing better outcomes for refugees within the 28-day move-on period. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, talked about some of the things that have been done during the pandemic that have actually improved the situation. These include ensuring that the 28-day period does not start until refugees have been issued with a biometric residence permit, the document that they need to prove that they can take employment and apply for universal credit, and that the national insurance number is printed on the permit, which speeds up the process of deciding a UC application.

We also fund Migrant Help which, as noble Lords will know, is a voluntary sector organisation that contacts refugees at the start of the 28-day period and offers that practical, move-on assistance, including advice on how to claim UC. I think this is a big change from the last time the noble Baroness and I spoke on the subject. We offer advice on the importance of an early claim; on other types of support that might be available; on booking an early appointment at their nearest DWP jobcentre, if needed; and on how to contact their local authority for assistance in funding alternative housing. We did evaluate the success of the pilot scheme that booked an early appointment with the local jobcentre for those who wanted one. The evaluation showed that all applicants for UC in the survey received their first payment on time—that is, 35 days from the date of their application—and that those who asked for an earlier advance payment received one, although I take her point about the advance payment. This assistance is now offered to all refugees leaving asylum support and is provided by Migrant Help, which again, as the noble Baroness knows, is a voluntary organisation funded by the Home Office.

Asylum accommodation providers are under a contractual duty to notify the local authority of the potential need to provide housing where a person in their accommodation is granted refugee status. Refugees can also apply for integration loans which can be used, for example, to pay a rent deposit or for an essential domestic item or work equipment, or for training.

We have a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, and I can reassure the Committee that this Government are committed to ensuring that all refugees are able to take positive steps towards integrating and realising their potential. We keep the move-on period under review, but we must consider the strong countervailing factors that make increasing it very difficult at this stage. For the reasons that I have outlined, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord and I will clarify the point on this issue. He knows that I will clarify that for him.

Amendment 67, if we can get on to that, seeks to weaken the message that this Bill strives to send. People should not risk their lives using unseaworthy vessels—I do not think anyone would think that they should—to reach our shores when they have already reached safety in a country such as France. It puts their lives at risk, and those of Border Force and rescue services. Events in recent months have all too starkly demonstrated the devastating human cost of undertaking these journeys. This provision is just one of a host of measures which aim to deter illegal entry to the UK. It is right that we prioritise protection for the most vulnerable people rather than for those who could have claimed asylum elsewhere.

Parliament has already had an opportunity to scrutinise these measures when they were placed in the Immigration Rules in December 2020. It has been a long-standing practice in place for many years to only accept claims for asylum in person at the individual’s first available opportunity on arrival in the UK. These provisions simply seek to place these long-standing requirements on a stronger statuary footing.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his intervention. From memory—and I have to say, no pun intended, that I am finding it difficult to keep my head above water with this Bill—we come on to pushback in a later group. Maybe the Minister might be able to say more when we get to the appropriate group on that issue.

But on this issue, there are lots of things in Immigration Rules that are not in primary legislation, and I do not understand why this particular issue is different. If it is simply to put something that has been for a long time been in Immigration Rules on a more secure statutory footing, why are we not seeing many more Immigration Rules being put on a firmer statutory footing by putting them into primary legislation? This leads me to believe ILPA—that there is some other motivation behind it related to pushbacks, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said.

But there will be an opportunity to revisit this when we come to the groups debating pushbacks, so at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am saying that there are a number of ways in which we can seek to secure this—formal, informal, diplomatic and otherwise. I am not saying there is a single solution to returns. Therefore, Clause 15 still needs to be in place.

It might not always be appropriate to apply inadmissibility to all claimants who have travelled via or have a connection to a safe country. The provisions that we have drafted already have flexibility that allows us to consider whether an individual has exceptional circumstances to warrant consideration of their asylum claim through the UK asylum system. As I said, this includes best interests. We also have the family reunion provisions that I mentioned earlier so, if individuals have family members in the UK, they should apply under those provisions. The inadmissibility provisions should not be used to circumnavigate those provisions and create a back door to enter the UK by dangerous means.

Furthermore, if an individual has not been recognised as a refugee, but has been provided with a different form of protection from refoulement, that country is safe for them to be removed to. To define a “safe third State” in the way suggested by the amendments ignores the other forms of protection available to individuals, which ensure that these countries are safe for them to be removed to.

Regarding Amendments 74, 73B, 74A and 75B, the UK should not be obliged to assess the substance of an asylum application where the applicant, due to a connection to a safe third country, can reasonably be expected to seek protection in that third country, or where they have already sought protection in a safe country and have moved on before the outcome of that claim, or where a claim has already been granted or considered and refused. This is a necessary part of achieving the policy aim of deterring those unnecessary and dangerous secondary movements. We are not alone in operating this practice. These amendments ignore the other forms of protection available to individuals that ensure that these countries are safe for them to be removed to. Amendments 75, 75A, and 76 would significantly undermine the aim of these provisions. The provisions as drafted send that clear message for those who could and should have claimed asylum in another safe country to do so.

I commend the spirit of Amendment 76, which would introduce a new clause to strengthen our inadmissibility provisions and deter irregular entry to the UK, particularly where that means of entry indicates that individuals have travelled to the UK via a safe country. I agree with the premise of this amendment—that access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need and not driven by criminal enterprise. The provisions in the Bill send that clear message. However, this proposed new clause probably goes too far, and would breach our international obligations. It could place individuals in indefinite limbo, which would be against the object and purpose of the refugee convention. The provisions as drafted ensure that individuals are not left in limbo, with their asylum claim neither considered in the UK nor another safe third country. If after a reasonable period it has not been possible to agree removal of the individual to a safe third country, as I said earlier, their asylum claim will be considered in the UK. The introduction of Clauses 14 and 15 as they stand aims to strengthen our position on inadmissibility, further disincentivise people from making dangerous journeys, and encourage them to claim asylum in the first safe country.

I will leave it at that. I hope that noble Lords will be happy not to press their amendments.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that two issues were widely recognised internationally. One was the definition of a safe third country and the other was on the first safe country principle—that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked for the definition, in the amendments, of a third safe country, so it does not agree that it is a widely recognised international definition. The UNHCR also says that it does not recognise the first safe country principle and that there is nothing in international law about it. Does the Minister accept that, even if she says that these things are widely recognised internationally, they are not recognised by the UNHCR?

Data Protection: Immigration Exemption

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 31st January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Perhaps I could reiterate that Recital 41 states that:

“Where this Regulation refers to a legal basis or a legislative measure, this does not necessarily require a legislative act adopted by a parliament”.


We will beg to differ on that, but I am just quoting what Recital 41 says.

To address the court’s concerns, the regulations therefore amend the immigration exemption, primarily to include all the relevant matters in Article 23(2)(a) to (h) of the UK GDPR. It might be helpful if I provide some details on those matters that are not relevant and are already covered in the DPA 2018. For those particular matters, no amendments are needed to the legislation, as well as for those matters that are not relevant. I will provide some details on the measures that are relevant and for which amendments have been made.

Before I do that, I point out that the regulations introduced a statutory requirement for the department to have an immigration exemption policy document before the immigration exemption could actually be applied—that is in response to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Regulation 2(2)(b) specified what must be addressed in the policy, and the controller must have regard to it. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, we are working to tighten the deadlines set by the court, and we did publish the IEPD draft on 10 December on GOV.UK.

Continuing now on what is and is not relevant, the following limbs of Article 23(2) are already sufficiently covered in the DPA 2018. Therefore, no amendments will be made to the legislation in relation to those limbs. They are, from Article 23(2):

“(a) the purposes of the processing or categories of processing; (b) the categories of personal data; (c) the scope of the restrictions introduced … (g) the risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects”.


The requirement under Article 23(2)(f) to make provision in respect of

“the storage periods and the applicable safeguards taking into account the nature, scope and purposes of the processing or categories of processing”

is not relevant, as the immigration exemption does not purport to extend data storage periods, and so no amendments are proposed in this regard.

On amendments made in relation to Article 23(2)(d), including the IEPD, the article states that where relevant there shall be provisions for safeguards to prevent abuse or unlawful access or transfer. This instrument will introduce additional measures to address Article 23(2)(d). It will mandate the Secretary of State to have an immigration exemption policy document in place prior to the exemption being relied on; that they must have regard to their IEPD when applying the exemption; that a record is kept of the application of the immigration exemption; and that the data subject be informed of its application, save in certain circumstances.

The IEPD and any subsequent updates to it will be published in a manner that the Secretary of State considers appropriate. Publication will allow for flexibility, where future concerns arise—I will take back the comments that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made this evening. There is no requirement to go through Parliament and any future concerns, if they arise, could be addressed in a shorter timeframe.

The regulations also specify what the IEPD must address. This additional measure will promote high standards of safeguards in applying the immigration exemption, consistent with those in relation to personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences. The IEPD explains how the immigration exemption must be operationally applied and the circumstances in which data rights might be exempted. These are set out in clear and precise terms. They will form part of Schedule 2 to the DPA 2018 once in force and, as such, will clearly constitute legislative measures.

Amendments are also made to Article 23(2)(e), on provisions as to the specification of the controller or categories of controllers, and to Article 23(2)(h), which states that where relevant there shall be provisions for the right of a data subject to be informed about the restriction, unless that is prejudicial to the purposes of the restriction—we went through that during the previous debate. The instrument will amend the immigration exemption so that the controller will have to inform the data subject that the exemption has been relied upon unless to do so would prejudice the purpose of the restriction, once again proving our commitment to be as open and transparent as we are able.

I am not sure whether it was the noble Baroness or the noble Lord who asked about the consultation process, but they almost played my words back to me. We consulted the parties to the litigation and the ICO and considered carefully their observations and comments, making amendments to the draft as appropriate, but clearly we did not take everyone’s comments on board, and therefore the court process came into being. We have tried, as far as possible, to address the issues through the IEPD.

I hope that noble Lords are now satisfied—I do not think they are, judging by their faces. I shall leave it there.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for reiterating the Government’s position. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lady Hamwee for her detailed analysis of the issues, my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones for his support, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. To quote the Minister, I think we will have to agree to disagree. Sadly, another case appears to be inevitable. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, can the Minister clarify something? She gave us some figures; I did not have a chance to write to them down. She talked about the figures peaking at, I think, somewhere around 1,700 cases. Is that the number of stateless children born in the UK who are granted British citizenship, or are they cases where parents deliberately chose not to register their child’s birth in order to take advantage of the system?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I assume that it is the latter, but I will write to the noble Lord with the details of the figures I have here. In particular, I will give him more detail about the countries from which these cases derive.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2022

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for their very constructive points during this debate. The case example that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, gave was very pertinent to how we might approach drug use in society: seeing someone as a user but also as a potential victim. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, may have told me before his moving story about the tragic consequences of using a drug that, as he said, is not only hard to detect once taken but very difficult to detect post-mortem because of how quickly it clears from the body. If someone is in a slightly confused state, having taken it and forgotten that they have taken it, the danger is compounded. I thank them both very much for those stories. On what further work will be done on post-mortem, which in itself is a difficult thing to determine, I will get more information if I can, but we recognise the difficulty of detecting post-mortem. I assume that people whose intent is criminal exploit those difficulties.

As I said earlier, the ACMD recommended that GHBRS be moved from class C to class B. We hope that reclassification will benefit the public by reflecting our new understanding of the harms of those drugs. Increased penalties for offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act, coupled with the effect of the regulation in restricting supply, are expected to deter and prevent crime, but I take the points of both noble Lords about education. The Government’s drugs strategy is not a simple one of legislation; it is about support, education and moving “from harm to hope”, as the long-term strategy on drugs we have in place is called. That symbolises what the Government are trying to do.

On investment—putting our money where our mouth is—we are investing another £780 million to rebuild drug treatment and recovery services, including for young people and offenders, with new commissioning standards to drive transparency and consistency. Strengthening the evidence base for how best to deter use, ensuring that adults change their behaviour, alongside targeted activity to prevent young people from getting into this lifestyle in the first place, is really important.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that young people do not pay attention to classification—I totally agree—so how would reclassification meet our ambition in the drugs strategy? We need to take a better approach; I think we have all recognised that. No matter who you are and where you use, you should be encouraged to change your behaviour and to face consequences if you do not. We all know that recreational drug use fuels criminal markets—they thrive on it—which has a terrible impact on those involved in supply and the communities in which it takes place.

The noble Lord also asked me about treatment available to support users of GHB. As I said earlier, there is now significant investment in treatment, which will mean that everyone who needs help with their drug use will be able to get it. Substance misuse commissioners and sexual health commissioners will be supported to work together to improve pathways between services for those who use drugs in a chemsex context, where GHB is of course frequently used, and local authorities will continue to play their role here.

On challenging the Government’s approach to drugs, we are clear that it is anchored in education and effective consequences to reduce demand, tough and intelligent enforcement to restrict supply, and evidence-based treatment to aid recovery and co-ordinated global action. As we know, the problem is a global one.

On discriminatory effects and the groups that are disproportionately affected by tougher penalties, I refer now to the MSM community. The ACMD says in its report that men who have sex with men are the largest user group of GHBRS—I do not think that is disputed. They are often taken in the context of chemsex. The changes in classification and scheduling will disproportionately impact this group. However, the potential benefits of reducing the prevalence and the harms from GHBRS will also benefit the group.

As both noble Lords have said, legislative changes in and of themselves will not act in isolation. We expect to respond shortly to the ACMD’s educational and treatment-based recommendations, which will be delivered by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. We hope that this will help to counteract any unintended impact of the reclassification of GHBRS.

I hope that I have answered both noble Lords’ questions. I am sure that if I have not, they will intervene on me. If there are no further points, I commend the regulation to the Committee.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I thank the Minister for her comprehensive explanation. I was not suggesting at all that it would be wrong if this change had a disproportionate impact on a particular section of society. My main concern is that, to me, with the knowledge that I have of controlled drugs and the way they are used, I cannot think of anything more dangerous in terms of risk to life than GHB and the related substances. Perhaps the ACMD felt that it could not do two steps at once—in other words, it could not go from class C to Class A, because that might undermine its previous assessment of the drug. As I explained, I understand that the long-term effects of cannabis can be quite damaging to people’s mental health, but there is not the same danger of cannabis being weaponised to commit sexual offences, for it to be used as a murder weapon, as it was in the Stephen Port case, or as an overdose resulting in immediate and sudden death. Yet it is being reclassified as the same class as cannabis when it appears to me, from my experience, to be far more dangerous than cannabis. Does the noble Baroness have anything to say on that point?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - -

I did not for a moment think that the noble Lord was objecting to the disproportionate effect on certain groups. When the ACMD considers things, it considers them very carefully and keeps them under review. I have tried to outline concern today about the stigma caused by increasing the classification on those who use the drugs, but also the desire to help people with the terrible problems that these drugs can cause. I am sure that it will keep it under review, and the noble Lord may well be right: it may recommend further classification in due course.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I remind noble Lords that this group includes 26 amendments, and that noble Lords are entitled to speak only once on each group, in case people were thinking of having another go. I cannot possibly speak on all 26 amendments; if I spent only one minute on each, I would be here for 26 minutes. But we on these Benches oppose all the measures in Part 3 of the Bill, including the new government amendments introduced late at night in Committee. We will come to those in a later group.

I am a former senior police officer and part of a small, specially selected group of senior police officers trained in the policing of protests. My view, and the view of the majority of police officers interviewed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, contrary to what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, has just said, is that the limiting factor in the policing of protests on the police’s ability to control protests is the number of suitably trained police officers available, not a lack of police powers or legislation.

Not only are new powers and new offences unnecessary but there is a very real danger of dragging the police into political decisions on which protests should go ahead and which should not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, has just said. There is a very real danger of more scenes like those we saw at the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common happening with greater frequency. There is a real danger of more and more police officers being drawn into policing protests to enforce more and more restrictions and bans, taking them away from policing their communities and, as a result, further undermining trust and confidence in the police and their ability to enforce the law.

I spoke at length in Committee and do not intend to repeat myself. I refer noble Lords to the Official Report. We support all the non-government amendments in this group. Particularly, we do not agree that protests should be banned because the police think they might be too noisy—so we will be voting in support of Amendment 115.

We agree with the former Conservative Home Secretary who led on the original public order legislation in 1986 that the police should not be able to dictate where and when public meetings or assemblies should take place or to ban them completely. To quote Lord Hurd of Westwell,

“that would be an excessive limit on the right of assembly and freedom of speech.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/1/1986; col. 797.]

The Minister may say that the provisions simply bring limitations on assemblies into line with the limitations on processions, but I ask what has changed. It is still an excessive limit on the right of assembly and freedom of speech. I will therefore be testing the opinion of the House on Amendment 132. These measures are an outrageous limitation of people’s fundamental right in a democracy, and we oppose them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I start by quoting the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, who said that good debate relies on good listening. I hope that noble Lords will listen, as they did in the previous group, to what I have to say.

My noble friend Lord Deben and the noble Lords, Lord Hain and Lord Coaker, were all in agreement that many of them would have been in breach of these provisions in protests that they took part in. No. I disagree with that; the police rarely impose conditions on a protest, and we expect that to continue to be the case.

I thought the noble Lord, Lord Walney, made some compelling arguments about how lucky we are to live in a democracy and how much we value protest—we can hear the drumbeats outside, which no one is going to stop. To answer the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, the provisions are not new today; they have been in the Bill from the start.

The government amendments give effect to the recommendations made by both the DPRRC and the Constitution Committee. Under the Public Order Act 1986 as amended by the Bill, the police may attach certain conditions to a public procession, public assembly or one-person protest, including where that is necessary to prevent serious disruption. The Bill enables the Secretary of State to define the meaning of “serious disruption” in regulations, and we have published an indicative draft of such regulations.

However, both the DPRRC and the Constitution Committee argued that definitions should be in the Bill, although the DPRRC agreed that there should be a power to amend the definition by regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. The government amendments therefore take the definitions as set out in the draft regulations and write them into the Public Order Act. Again, I express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Blencathra—although I do not see him in his place—the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, and the other members of the DPRRC and the Constitution Committee for their scrutiny of the Bill. I trust that the amendments will be acceptable to them and indeed to the House as a whole. The word “significant” is lifted from the draft regulations that the Constitution Committee said were not unreasonable.

Amendment 115, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would remove the new noise triggers for the police to impose conditions on public processions. Amendments 123, 124, 125 and 147 would collectively do the same for public assemblies and single-person protests. In response to those amendments, I reiterate to the House that noise generated by protesters can have a significant and detrimental impact on the wider public. It is unacceptable, as my noble friend Lord Hailsham says, that certain protests can seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary people.

It is absolutely right that the Government give the police the tools that they require to tackle disruptive protests. As the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, stated during the debate in Committee on these measures,

“noise can be more than an irritant.”—[Official Report, 24/11/21; col. 944.]

In some contexts, it can be tortuous, and it is important to contextualise the different situations in which it can happen, such as the time of day or where it takes place. Is it outside an old people’s home, or is it in Parliament Square? Is it anti-vaxxers outside a school, or in St Ann’s Square in Manchester?

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps I could deal with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, to begin with. My recollection is that the report on public order from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services showed that many officers did not want additional powers to deal with locking on. That is in the report. My experience is that the police are getting better and better at dealing with locking on, particularly people supergluing themselves to roadways—people are not now glued to the roadway for very long.

On hospitals that are on minor roads, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made it quite clear that he wanted the increased penalty of imprisonment for highway obstruction on the strategic road network where there is no realistic way around a blockage that has been put in. A hospital may be on a minor road, but there are other ways of getting to it, and I do not feel that that argument holds water. I will come to the noble Lord’s comments about the serious disruption orders shortly.

The Minister said that these amendments were debated in Committee. That debate started at 11.50 pm. The Minister stood up to make her closing remarks at 1 am. Does she really think that that is serious consideration and debate of these measures?

These government amendments were a hurried response to the Home Secretary’s knee-jerk, populist reaction to Insulate Britain protests at the Conservative Party conference. Consideration of this part of the Bill had to be taken out of order, to give civil servants time to cobble together these last-minute, ill-conceived, badly thought-through acts of desperation, introduced into this House late at night on the last day of Committee without any consideration by the other place. If the Government are determined to bring in these draconian, antidemocratic laws, reminiscent of Cold War Eastern bloc police states, they should withdraw them now and introduce them as a separate Bill to allow the democratically elected House time to consider them properly.

We oppose all these government amendments, for the reasons I set out in Committee—albeit in the early hours of the morning—and I refer noble Lords to the Official Report. Given the hour, we will vote against the most egregious measures: Amendment 151, which is clearly targeted at climate protesters; Amendment 155, which gives police the power to stop and search anyone and everyone in the vicinity of a protest, including innocent passers-by; and Amendment 159, by which the police can apply for an order to ban people from their democratic right to protest, even when they have never been to a protest in their life, let alone been convicted of any offence in connection with a protest. That is the power in these measures—you do not even have to have been to a protest to be banned from future ones. You do not even have to be convicted of an offence in connection with a protest before you can be banned from going to protests.

If the Official Opposition decide to vote on Amendment 148, on locking on, we will support them. We will also vote in favour of Amendment 150A, to restrict imprisonment for highway obstruction to blocking motorways and other parts of the strategic road network.

The anti-protest measures in the original Bill were dreadful. These measures, and the way they have been introduced, are outrageous.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am not sure whether noble Lords want more time to debate or me to hurry up. If noble Lords will indulge me for a minute, I will thank them for the support for the new measures that has come from one area of the House, but it is clear that a number of other noble Lords are less enamoured of the government amendments. As I said in opening the debate, I think the British public will fully support these reasonable and proportionate measures to ensure that their daily lives are not disrupted by the sorts of tactics we saw from Insulate Britain last autumn. This is not an argument for or against climate change; it is about the disruption caused to the lives of the working British public.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, talked about demonising protest—I bet she is looking forward to Monday. The noble Lord, Lord Walney, talked about exclusion zones around Parliament; there are significant powers to protect Parliament from this sort of thing.

As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has explained, this amendment is a significantly improved version of the one considered in Committee, with numerous safeguards. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, I am “glass half full” man: I think that the safeguards here are actually quite significant, in that it requires the consent of the leadership of any school affected or of the NHS body responsible for any vaccination centre affected and, in addition, of the local police chief. Generally speaking, the police are very averse to making political decisions and siding with one particular protest group against another, so that is a significant safeguard. It also requires the consent of the local authority leader, which is another significant safeguard. The potential for selective protection orders based on the issue being protested about—the one the noble Baroness raised in Committee—is therefore significantly reduced.

In addition, contrary to what the noble Baroness said, the statutory duty to consult the public on the order is not waived at all but can take place concurrently with the order taking effect, if the matter is urgent. It also cannot last more than 12 months; the initial grant is for six months, and it can be extended only once. If only the Government were to take such a reasonable approach to the renewal of orders in other aspect of the Bill.

In the light of recent events such as the invasion of the test and trace centre in Milton Keynes last month, we have seen the importance of such orders and the need for the police to secure intelligence and take action to prevent such interference with the vaccination effort, which does not seem to be going away any time soon. There is ample recent evidence of the need for this amendment, and we support it.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I start by joining the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in deploring the anti-vaxxers who stood outside my right honourable friend Sajid Javid’s house. I deplore it every time they disrupt our public services such as schools and hospitals. More recently, they have taken part in some very disruptive and abusive activity. On the point about Parliament made by the noble Lord, Lord Walney, we will of course debate that on Monday.

I actually share the aims of this amendment, and I am grateful for the further opportunity to debate the policing of anti-vax protests and consider the merits of fast-track public space protection orders, or PSPOs. The amendment is very similar to one debated in Committee that sought to provide the fast-track PSPOs to protect schools from harmful protests, but it goes further, also allowing for fast-track PSPOs outside premises providing NHS vaccination services. It also removes the need for a consultation in advance of a PSPO outside these premises being implemented.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, pointed out, I set out in Committee the powers of the police to protect pupils, teachers and staff from disruptive protest activity outside schools, as well as the benefits that some of the new measures in the Bill will bring. Many of these existing or new powers apply also to disruptive protests at vaccination sites. I sympathise with the noble Lord’s intention to protect schools and vaccination sites from harmful protests, but this amendment will not help to achieve that aim. It removes the need for a consultation prior to a PSPO being put in place, instead requiring consent from the relevant school or NHS body, the chief of police, and the leader of the local authority. This is unlikely to materially speed up the process in which a PSPO can be implemented as there is currently no minimum consultation period required before a PSPO can be put in place. I struggle to understand how we can implement the PSPO and run a consultation concurrently.

It is also important to note that in making a PSPO under this amendment a local authority would still be accountable, potentially in legal proceedings, for demonstrating that the order is compliant with Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR. Consultations can provide supporting evidence to demonstrate this compliance, meaning that a local authority could find itself subject to increased legal risks if it does not perform a consultation prior to implementing a PSPO, even if legislation states that it is not necessary. I share the unease of the noble Lord, Lord Walney, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, that it would, at the hands of a very few people, allow local areas to pick and choose which protests were politically acceptable.

Although I support the underlying aims of the amendment, in the sense that no one working at a school, hospital or other vaccination site should be subject to abusive or highly disruptive protests, powers are in place, which we are strengthening through the Bill, to assist the police and others to tackle such protests. We will be discussing many of them on Monday. The powers already include the ability for local authorities to make, at speed, a PSPO. Given this, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is happy to withdraw his amendment.

Metropolitan Police: Stephen Port Murders Inquest

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 14th December 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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I join the noble Lord in lamenting the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor, three of whom might not have died. The inquest’s conclusions provide very serious lessons for policing to consider and act upon. It is also right that independent and professional bodies have the opportunity to review the case. HMICFRS has been asked to conduct an inspection into the standard of the Metropolitan Police Service’s investigations. The IOPC will also assess whether to reopen, either in full or in part, its investigation.

I understand that the coroner ruled that on the basis of the evidence, it would not have been possible for a conclusion to be reached on whether homophobia was an overriding factor in mistakes made, but the MPS has already announced an independent review, headed by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, into its culture. I will, of course, take a very close interest in her findings and any recommendations she makes.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I speak as a gay former senior police officer whose former partner died, as these men died, of the drug GHB. There is an expectation that the Commissioner will front press briefings when the reputation of the Metropolitan Police is in jeopardy, as she did over the death of Sarah Everard and the photographing of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry. When the jury in this case concluded that the deaths of three young gay men could have been prevented had the police done their job properly, she was nowhere to be seen. Can the Minister explain why? Did the Commissioner think this was not important enough? Is this further evidence of institutional homophobia? There may be an innocent explanation, but I hope the Minister understands how this looks.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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In response to the noble Lord’s question about why the Commissioner was not publicly fronting any statements or comments, one thing we can say is that attitudes in the police have changed since the time of those young men’s murders, which is not to diminish this in any way. The Commissioner is, of course, a member of the LGBT community. I do not know the answer. I do not think it diminishes in any way the horror and the feelings of the Metropolitan Police about what has happened. I will say that, since the time of those murders, diversity within the police has improved—it has a long way to go, but it has improved—and there is more training in place to improve that diversity and the culture in which the police operate.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we support this amendment. As I said in Committee, it is not just victims of domestic violence that need help and support from housing authorities to escape serious violence; young people groomed and exploited by criminal gangs, for example, also need and deserve to be urgently rehoused in certain circumstances. The police need to provide information to housing authorities where they believe that someone is being coerced into criminal activity, where they are being threatened with serious violence if they do not comply, and where the police believe that taking the person out of that scenario by rehousing them can reduce the risk of serious violence. Many of the young people involved in county lines drug dealing have been groomed into criminality and been the victims of child criminal exploitation. They and their families are often terrorised by those higher up the drug-dealing network. In this sort of scenario, the police need to work with social housing agencies to provide a route out of serious violence. We support the amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for setting out the case for his amendment. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I fully agree that local authorities can and do make a significant contribution to local efforts to prevent and reduce serious violence, and it is vitally important that all victims of serious violence who need to leave their home to escape violence are supported to access alternative safe and secure accommodation. As my noble friend has already outlined, the statutory homelessness code of guidance provides guidance on local authorities’ duties under Part 7 of the Housing Act. The amendment seeks to place a requirement on the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice under Section 214A of the Housing Act 1996.

The implementation of the serious violence duty will bring additional guidance to which local authorities will have a statutory duty to have regard. The guidance accompanying the duty, to be issued under Clause 18 of the Bill, will reinforce and complement the existing guidance issued under housing and homelessness legislation. Taken together, I hope there will be sufficient guidance in place to ensure local authorities are clear on how the legislation applies in addressing the housing needs of victims of serious violence.

I hope my noble friend agrees—and I think he would—that to introduce another code of practice in addition to the existing homelessness code of guidance and the serious violence duty guidance would lead to unnecessary confusion and duplication. I hope to assure my noble friend this evening that the points his amendment is seeking to address are already covered, and are what we are planning to do in future.

Paragraph (a) of my noble friend’s new clause would require the code of practice to provide guidance on the operation of Section 177 of the Housing Act 1996 in relation to people who are at risk of serious violence.

The Housing Act 1996, as amended by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, puts prevention at the heart of the local authorities’ response to homelessness and places duties on local housing authorities to take reasonable steps to try to prevent and relieve a person’s homelessness. When assessing if an applicant is homeless, local authorities should consider any evidence of violence and harassment. Section 177 already provides that someone is considered homeless if it would not be reasonable for them to continue to occupy the accommodation and it is probable that this would lead to violence against them, their family or their household.

Paragraph (b) of the new clause seeks to update the homelessness code of guidance to include a chapter on the duties of local authorities. We are committed to supporting victims of serious violence and know the important role that local authorities play in making sure that such victims get support when they are in housing need.

As noble Lords will know, we published a draft of the statutory guidance for the serious violence duty in May. The debates in both Houses have helped to identify areas which need further development prior to publishing a revised draft, which will be subject to a formal consultation following Royal Assent of the Bill. Officials will work closely with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and representatives from the housing sector to strengthen the statutory guidance for the serious violence duty. This will point to the legislation and guidance that is already set out in the homelessness code of guidance and the allocation of accommodation guidance, and showcase examples of good practice in this area which local partners can draw on to raise awareness across public authorities of the legislation which protects this cohort.

I can also give a commitment this evening that we will expand the homelessness code of guidance to include a new chapter on supporting victims of serious violence, which I hope gives my noble friend the assurance he seeks in this regard.

Paragraphs (c) and (d) of the new clause concern the role of the police in timely collaboration with housing providers on reducing the risk of serious violence to individuals, and guidance on the disclosure of information. Of course, we must do all that we can to identify and provide support to the individuals most at risk of involvement in serious violence, including those who might be at risk of homelessness.

As noble Lords have stated, many housing authorities already work with the police and other key partners to reduce the risk of serious violence, including through the provision of alternative accommodation. Where this works well, it is clear that it is vital that services such as youth offending teams, educational authorities and national probation services work together locally to provide support for the household and victim of violence. Housing alone without support, I think noble Lords will agree, is not a sustainable option.

As part of the work to prevent and reduce serious violence, specified authorities in a local area will be required to work together to identify the kinds and causes of serious violence and, in doing so, to establish the groups of individuals who are most at risk in local areas.

The new serious violence duty will facilitate this and is intended to generate better partnership working locally to further protect this cohort. The draft guidance is clear that local authorities are responsible for the delivery of a range of vital services for people and businesses in a local area, including—but not limited to—children’s and adult’s social care, schools, housing and planning, youth services and community safety, so they will have an essential role to play in partnership arrangements. The inclusion of this detail in the guidance for the new duty, alongside the existing homelessness legislation and guidance, is the most effective way of supporting these victims of serious and gang-related violence to relocate and start afresh.

To support the collaboration, Clause 9 provides that regulations can also be made to authorise the disclosure of information, which we talked about earlier, between authorities and prescribed persons, which might be external bodies for this purpose, so long as it would not contravene existing data protection legislation or be prohibited under provisions of the IPA 2016. This of course would be a permissive gateway, permitting but not requiring the sharing of information.

I hope that, in the light of the assurances and commitment I have given in relation to the statutory guidance and the relevant existing legislation on this matter, my noble friend will be content to withdraw his amendment—and I apologise for the lateness of the arrival of the letter.

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (Continuation) Order 2021

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 30th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It is quarterly. I turn to the review of Prevent. Sorry, I did not quite finish the previous point. As to the effectiveness of resources, clearly, I cannot comment on individual cases. I can, however, assure the Committee that they have the support of the police and of the Security Service. Successive courts have ruled that TPIMs are lawful and effective tools for managing individuals engaged in terrorism. The Home Office is confident that the TPIM regime is fully resourced to manage any number of TPIMs, although they are few in number. The review of Prevent will be laid in the Houses of Parliament by 31 December.

I thought the question from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about lone wolf terrorism was very pertinent. We are seeing increasing numbers of lone actors. How can TPIMs help? If a lone actor is not on the radar, it is very difficult to pre-empt what that person will do. The intelligence that our various agencies have is there to help identify people who may be vulnerable to such acts. The TPIM is threat-agnostic, and goes across a range of threats.

How can we best use external experts? I have spoken to a number in the field not just of counterterrorism but of counterextremism. The noble Lord was pointing towards this. Our current independent reviewer of Prevent is clearly an expert in his field. We are lucky to have the experts we do, giving advice to the Home Office and the Government. I think I have answered all questions.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, raised a couple of issues. He suggested that the Government had justified the TPIM regime on two bases. The first is that reviews take place. Whether this is an independent decision by the Legal Aid Agency or not, we have heard that people are abandoning their reviews because they are not being funded for legal representation. Presumably they feel it is a waste of time unless they have representation. Secondly, they say that these hearings give the subject the opportunity to hear the national security case against them. Clearly, the TPIM subject does not hear the national security case in court. Perhaps there is a hint of what might lie behind it, but they do not hear the case. The Minister did not answer those particular questions. Perhaps she could write to noble Lords.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I partly answered them, but I am happy to clarify in writing. I beg to move.

Small Boats Incident in the Channel

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Thursday 25th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I repeat that my thoughts are with all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy in the channel. I asked for the Statement to be repeated so that Members of this House who had not signed up to the debate that we just had on this subject, scheduled before this tragedy happened, had an opportunity to question the Government.

The Home Secretary talked about traffickers finding people to manipulate and said that some of them do not even know that they are coming to the UK. What evidence can the Minister share with the House that people smugglers

“threaten … bully and assault the people who get into these boats”?

What evidence is there that asylum seekers, who must know that they are in France, or at the very least in mainland Europe, who are getting into boats, do not know that they are coming to the UK?

The Home Secretary gives the impression that vulnerable people are being forced against their will into these boats. Surely people traffickers would be only too happy to save money on boats and leave those who had already paid them in mainland Europe? Is it not the truth that these desperate people, who often speak English and no other European language, and who often have relatives or other people they know in the UK, know that they cannot seek asylum in the UK unless they are in the UK?

The Home Secretary says that people traffickers

“use the money they make for other heinous crimes”.

What are the heinous crimes to which the Home Secretary is referring? She also talked about a

“wide range of operational and diplomatic work”.

How can the Home Secretary talk about boat turnarounds the day after at least 27 people lost their lives, given that it is a tactic that can only increase the risk of further tragic deaths?

On diplomatic work, Ministers have talked about processing asylum claims in places such as Albania and Ascension Island. Meanwhile, Albania angrily denies any discussion on the issue and says that it would never agree, even if there had been discussions. Are the Government just making it up, and have they not got beyond the letter A in the list of fictitious partners?

The Home Secretary talked about the Government not being able to do it alone and it being impossible without close co-operation between international partners. Has leaving the European Union made such co-operation easier or more difficult? Is it not the case that, rather than pointing the finger at the French, who take more asylum seekers per head of population than the UK, or at the people traffickers, whom Clare Moseley of Care4Calais described as a symptom of the problem and not its cause, the Government should look in the mirror? The problem is not taking climate change seriously enough. The problem is reducing the UK foreign aid budget. The problem is UK foreign policy failures. All make it more difficult for people to remain where they are. The problem with channel crossings is that this Government refuse to allow people to claim asylum unless their feet are on British soil.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, for their points. I join with them both in mourning the loss of those lives in the small boat yesterday. It is a tragedy.

In terms of the various questions they asked, I am going to slightly work backwards. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about offshoring. The Home Secretary has made it quite clear that she is considering all options and that nothing is off the table.

In terms of the heinous crimes that the Home Secretary talks about, it is interesting when you look at serious and organised criminals that these people are involved in multiple types of crime, not just people trafficking but money laundering, drugs and other things of that ilk.

In terms of evidence for bullying and people not knowing that they are coming to the UK, I am sure that the Home Secretary has said that based on the intelligence and information that she has got, so I think that stands. I assume it is fact.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said that France is not the first safe country. That is precisely the point—people are not claiming asylum in the first safe country. They are then travelling to France and trying to get to the UK.

The noble Lord asked about the turnaround tactics. They are lawful, as I explained in the previous debate. They are delivered in accordance with domestic and international law and obligations. However, I will say what I said before, which is that our priority—first and foremost—is always to save lives. Every action that the Border Force takes is safe and in accordance with the law.

The noble Lord also asked about surveillance. I do not know how frequently they are operating. That is a question of detail that I do not know. Of course, there is the fact of French law being different from UK law, so there are privacy issues around the use of drones. I know that they are working on legislation to put it through parliament. We, of course, have the joint intelligence cell, which was established back in 2020, with the UK and France working together. It is a cross-European problem. This is not isolated to the United Kingdom. All countries across Europe are seeing it.

The noble Lord asked about Dubs and the 3,000—3,000 was never agreed in Parliament and therefore was never pledged. We met our obligations under Dubs, and I outlined some of the other schemes under which people have come to this country since 2015, such as the Syrian resettlement scheme, family reunion visas and the BNO scheme. We now have the global resettlement scheme, the mandate scheme, the children’s resettlement scheme and the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. There are many routes under which people have come and will still be able to come here.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about law enforcement co-operation. That has been offered. We want to work with our French counterparts and we do through the joint intelligence cell, as I have said. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary spoke to Minister Darmanin this morning and again reiterated returns offers. As I said in the Statement, the Prime Minister spoke to President Macron last night. The Home Secretary was exploring the various gaps in our mutual capabilities and how we could solve what is now a mutual problem.

Windrush Compensation Scheme

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for that. That claim that only 5% of people, or one in 20, have received a payment is actually a bit misleading. When we first set up the scheme, we made an estimate, which I remember saying to the House was quite difficult to make, of the number of people we thought might be eligible. That estimate was originally 15,000 and was then revised down to 11,500. It is now 4,600. Obviously, we will try our best to ensure that anyone who comes forward gets the compensation that they deserve. We now estimate, based on what I have just said to my noble friend, that 29% of people who have submitted a claim have received a payment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend’s tireless efforts. We now know that there are lengthy delays, even in clear-cut cases, to making an initial payment. But we know that the Home Office is capable of moving quickly: it has tabled 18 pages of new offences and police powers for the police Bill within two months of the Home Secretary asking for them. So what is it about the Windrush generation that means that they are not a priority for the Home Office?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think that statement is incorrect. The Windrush generation and the Windrush scheme are a priority for the Home Office. I have been through some of the improvements that we have made: we are increasing the number of caseworkers, and the amount of compensation has risen quite dramatically since we put some of the changes in place, from £3 million to over £31.6 million, with a further £5.6 million having been offered. There is no cap on the amount of compensation that we will pay out. We have also removed the time limit so that as many people who can apply do.

Some of the cases can be quite complex and therefore take longer than might be normal—and, of course, we are going back decades in time—but we are keener than ever, and it remains a priority, to ensure that anyone who is due compensation will be paid it.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in what he has just said. I have heard two rumours—one, that the Government Chief Whip is urging people to keep their comments on the Bill today short. I wish to declare to the Government Chief Whip that that is not possible, bearing in mind the number and complexity of issues that we are supposed to debate today. The other rumour that I have heard is that, if the House is still debating at 2 am, only then will the debate be adjourned. If that is right, looking at the timetable, that means that the most contentious parts of the Bill—the new amendments, as the noble and learned Lord said, which have not even been considered by the House of Commons—will be debated either side of midnight. That is no way for this House to be treated.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I have not heard the rumour about keeping comments short. We are about to begin the 11th day in Committee of this Bill. In total, this House has sat for 60 hours in Committee, including starting early and going beyond 10 pm, as well as allowing three extra days. By the time when we finish today—and we intend to do so—we will have considered and debated more than 450 amendments.

As for the new clauses, they have been agreed with the usual channels and with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I would say to noble Lords who have spoken that we intend to finish Committee today.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lady Thornhill has spoken comprehensively on these amendments, so I can be brief. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, for introducing the amendment. She rightly points to the failure of the current legislation to adequately deal with this problem on the basis of the facts that she presented. Something clearly needs to be done to ensure that the police play their part. If South Yorkshire Police can do it, why cannot every force? We support this amendment.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for his Amendment 292J. Noble Lords may have seen the ITV “News at Ten” last night on how young people are increasingly being exploited, particularly by drug dealers. That is in addition to a 6% increase in reported domestic violence during lockdown, when many more children would have become vulnerable. There is too much emphasis on the criminal justice system as a way to deal with these vulnerable young people, rather than there being a statutory duty on local authorities, the NHS and the police, as this amendment suggests. We support it.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, introduced Amendments 320 and 328. I remember being told as a young constable about the antiquated legislation—the Vagrancy Act 1824—introduced to deal with soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars. That was in 1976—not the Napoleonic wars, when I was a young constable; they were a bit earlier. People should not be criminalised simply for begging and sleeping rough. There is adequate alternative legislation to deal with anti-social behaviour and the Vagrancy Act is now redundant. As the explanatory note says, these amendments would require police officers

“to balance protection of the community with sensitivity to the problems that cause people to engage in begging or sleeping rough and ensure that general public order enforcement powers should not in general be used in relation to people sleeping rough, and should be used in relation to people begging only where no other approach is reasonably available.”

On that basis, we support these amendments as well.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, perhaps I may begin by saying that I have great sympathy with the wish of the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, to firmly stamp out the illegal eviction of tenants. This distressing activity has no place in our society and it is an unacceptable practice carried out by rogue landlords, perpetrated on tenants.

I totally agree that the police and local authorities need to work together to tackle that. Many noble Lords have spoken in today’s Committee who have experience of this type of multiagency working. It is essential in terms of supporting the vulnerable, and there are many examples of that. I always talk about the troubled families programme, which is one such intervention but it is such an important one because some people have multiple problems. It is a fantastic way for agencies to sort them out together. Local authorities and the police also have mechanisms in place to work collaboratively to tackle criminal landlords. The police are also able to establish protocols for information sharing, which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, spoke about. We expect them to use those protocols to their full extent to aid investigations into illegal evictions and enforce the law.

If the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, has examples that suggest a lack of effective co-operation, I should be very happy to pass them on to my colleagues in DLUHC. As has been pointed out, there are lots of good examples of how interventions have worked well, particularly in Westminster. If there is an issue, the solution here is not more legislation. The existing powers we have are sufficient. But I accept that it is incumbent on the police and local authorities to work collaboratively to tackle crime in their areas, including on illegal eviction investigations. As regards the point about police saying that issues are a civil matter, which the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, mentioned, the police have powers of arrest and it is important that those powers are used appropriately, including on illegal eviction investigations.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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What I was trying to say was that legislation is in place but, if it is not always followed in practice, it would be very helpful to know about it. However, I accept the final point that the noble Baroness makes.

I turn to the issues that the noble Lord raises in his amendment. If you consider first children impacted by domestic abuse, it is totally unacceptable that some children have to witness abuse carried out in their home by those whom they should trust the most. This Government have demonstrated their absolute resolve to tackle domestic abuse and its impact on children, both in legislation earlier this year—the Domestic Abuse Act—and through the upcoming domestic abuse strategy.

As part of the landmark Domestic Abuse Act, children are recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right where they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse. This is an important step which will help ensure that locally commissioned services continue to consider and address the needs of children. Further, the Act created the role of the domestic abuse commissioner in statute to provide public leadership on domestic abuse issues and to oversee and monitor the provision of services for victims, including children. The provisions of the Act came into force on 1 November.

It is really important that young victims receive the right support at the right time—which was precisely the wording that the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, used—to help them cope and recover and to mitigate the long-term impact of their experiences. We are determined to continue to improve the standard of support for victims of crime. This year the Government will provide £150 million to victim support services, which includes an extra £51 million to increase support for rape and domestic abuse victims. That includes support for children and young people.

Through the children affected by domestic abuse fund we have provided £3 million this year for specialist services for children who have been affected by domestic abuse. This funding is enabling a range of therapeutic interventions for children, such as one-to-one or group support. In addition, the Home Office is this year providing £169,000-worth of funding to Operation Encompass, a scheme which connects the police to schools through a specialist support helpline for teachers concerned about children experiencing domestic abuse. The helpline was established during the Covid-19 pandemic, as noble Lords might recall, and we are continuing to fund it this year.

Turning to the matter of child criminal exploitation, the Government are investing in specialist support for under-25s and their families who are affected by county lines exploitation in the three largest exporting force areas—London, the West Midlands and Merseyside. The Government are also funding the Children’s Society’s Prevention Programme, which works to tackle and prevent child criminal exploitation, child sexual abuse and exploitation, and modern-day slavery and human trafficking on a regional and national basis. This has included supporting the #LookCloser public awareness campaign, which focuses on increasing awareness and encouraging reporting of the signs and indicators of child exploitation. We also fund Missing People’s SafeCall service, which is a national confidential helpline for young people, families and carers who are concerned about county lines exploitation.

Through cross-government efforts we are working to identify areas of learning with regard to child criminal exploitation and improving our response to it. The Home Office and the Department for Education are currently testing the effectiveness of how multi-agency safeguarding partnerships respond to serious violence and county lines through a series of deep dives. We have recently received the findings from those reviews and are considering the best way to share the learning and practice with local areas.

In the wider landscape, the noble Lord will be aware that the Government will be consulting on a victims’ Bill. As part of that consultation, we will seek views on the provision of community-based support services for victims, including children. The consultation will carefully look at how local bodies collaborate to support victims and will consider the evidence to determine where legislation could be used more effectively. Therefore, although I am very sympathetic to the aims of the noble Lord’s amendment, I hope that he is sufficiently reassured by the extensive ongoing efforts to tackle these two issues, the existing arrangements in place and, indeed, our plans to consider the duty to collaborate further as part of the victims’ Bill.

Finally, in relation to Amendments 320 and 328, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Best, that the time has come—

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. Before we get on to the Vagrancy Act and the other amendments, she talked about treating children as victims of domestic violence if they witness it, and about child criminal exploitation. There is a third group: children who witness violence, particularly in the home, and suffer adverse childhood experiences as a result which lead them into committing crime. I remember attending a juvenile detention facility in Scotland, where almost every child in custody had experienced violence in the home as a cause. The Minister talked about two issues, but there is this third issue of adverse childhood experiences leading to offending behaviour, which I believe the noble Lord’s amendment addresses in a way that the Minister has not.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My intention was not to leave out that issue; we could have a whole debate on the effect of childhood abuse, trauma and witnessing violence on the future prospects of a person when they become an adult and their increased likelihood of going on to abuse, but my intention was not to dismiss it. I apologise that I did not mention it, but the intention certainly was not to dismiss it at all.

Finally, I move to the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best. As I said, the time has come to reconsider the Vagrancy Act—some of the language that was used is so antiquated that it would perhaps be alien to some of this generation. I agree that nobody should be criminalised just because they have nowhere to live. Back in 2018, we committed to review the legislation following mixed views among stakeholders regarding the continued relevance of the Act, given that it is, as noble Lords have said, nearly 200 years old. I am sure that noble Lords can understand that announcing the outcome of this review has been delayed by several factors. One noble Lord mentioned the dedicated response for vulnerable individuals who are sleeping rough during the pandemic, which was outstanding.

It has been imperative to understand the full picture of how and why the Vagrancy Act is used, and what impact any change to or repeal of the Act will have. Rough sleeping and begging are complex issues, and the Act continues to be used. The review considered a range of factors and at its heart has been the experiences and perceptions of relevant stakeholders, including local authorities and the police. The Act continues to be used to tackle begging, and, if repealed, a legislative gap would be left that might impact on the police’s ability to respond to it.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is not an alternative in this context. The powers in the Act are available to police and local authorities to tackle specific forms of behaviour that meet the legal tests in that legislation—for example, behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to a victim or community. As I have said, begging is complex, but plainly it does not always come with these forms of accompanying behaviours.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, as we have heard, this group contains two completely different issues: protection of the routes around Parliament and potential places where Parliament may sit while renovation work is undertaken; and the new statutory offence of public nuisance. How putting these two issues into one group is supposed to save time, I have no idea.

Clause 58 is about the obstruction of vehicular access to Parliament. Noble Lords, particularly those with mobility issues, have had difficulty accessing Parliament, particularly during Extinction Rebellion demonstrations, although I would not describe the Prime Minister being hindered from attending Prime Minister’s Questions in September 2020 as someone with mobility issues, unless you are talking about levelling up. It is a bit late for subtle jokes like that.

These provisions go much further. They expand obstruction to include

“making the passage of a vehicle more difficult.”

Presumably, any delay caused, even slow-moving traffic, would be covered by such an offence, and this could potentially criminalise any protest within the expanded controlled zone outlined in these proposals. Protests that have resulted in Members of Parliament being prevented from accessing Parliament have been few and far between, which suggests that the existing provisions are adequate. Clause 58 is unnecessary.

Clause 59 allows the Secretary of State to move the controlled area in the event of either House of Parliament being relocated because of building works under the restoration and renewal programme. This enables the Secretary of State to impose restrictions on protest to whatever area she thinks fit, however wide, by regulations. Parliament has no chance to question or vary the extent of the controlled area; it must either accept or reject the proposal made by the Secretary of State. The clause also gives the Secretary of State power to

“make provision for any other enactment, or any instrument made under an enactment, to have effect with modifications in consequence of regulations”

under this provision. This is too much power given in regulations to the Secretary of State, who could effectively ban protest almost anywhere within a wide area around any place where Parliament may be relocated to. Clause 59 is too broad and should not stand part of the Bill in its current form.

Parliament is at the heart of democracy in this country, but what about other institutions and organisations that are also important to the democratic process? What about news broadcasters or print journalists who hold politicians generally, and the Government in particular, to account? Where is the protection from protests aimed at disrupting a free media, such as the blockading or invading of television news and radio studios and newspaper printworks? This looks very much like protecting the Government and Government Ministers while doing nothing to protect those who hold the Government and Government Ministers to account.

Clause 60 creates a new statutory offence of public nuisance, as recommended by the Law Commission, but the provision appears to be far too wide and could potentially impact on all protests. Liberty’s briefing quotes Lord Justice Laws, who said in the case of Tabernacle v the Secretary of State for Defence in 2009:

“Rights worth having are unruly things. Demonstrations and protests are liable to be a nuisance. They are liable to be inconvenient and tiresome, or at least perceived as such by others who are out of sympathy with them.”


If someone is seriously annoyed or inconvenienced, or is put at risk of being seriously annoyed or inconvenienced, by someone doing something, that person commits an offence if they intend to seriously annoy or inconvenience the public or a section of the public.

Almost every protest could be criminalised by this provision, and not just public protests on the streets, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said. Are the Government a “section of the public”? If they are, take me away now. As a minority party in this House, we are, very often, unable to change what the Government plan to do, but we can seriously annoy the Government by pointing out the error of their ways and by holding them to account for their actions. Even if we do not have the intention of doing the Government serious harm—maybe—we may be at least reckless as to what harm it causes. Are we too to be criminalised by this provision, however much some noble Lords might like us to be?

The Government will point to the “reasonable excuse” defence contained in the provisions, but that applies only once a person has been charged with an offence under these provisions. The provisions do not say that a person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, the person does an act. Therefore, the police would be justified in arresting and charging people who believed that they had a reasonable excuse because the reasonable excuse provision applies only once a person has been charged.

We oppose in its entirety this provision as drafted, but we have Amendment 314, which removes the obstruction of

“a section of the public in their exercise of a right that may be exercised or enjoyed by the public at large”

from these provisions, to at least narrow the extent of this proposed new offence. A counterdemonstration against a far-right group, for example, would be caught by the provisions of this new offence as drafted, but not as we suggest that it should be amended. We support Amendment 315, as far as it goes, in attempting to ensure that the serious harm applies not just to one person but must be caused to the public, further limiting the extent of the offence.

We also support Amendment 315A tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Morrissey, to leave out serious harm to a person if, as a result, the person suffers disease. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has said, we saw during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly with the attempt the ban the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, restrictions on protest on public health grounds. That is why the police intervened in the Sarah Everard vigil. They felt that there was a public health risk. Although the provisions under which the Sarah Everard vigil was done have been repealed, this appears to be an attempt to reintroduce them. As drafted, it matters not whether the protesters intend to spread disease. They must only be reckless as to whether it would have such a consequence.

We also support Amendment 316—again, as far as it goes—but we would prefer there to be a reasonable excuse provision added to the offence itself, as I have said before, rather than protesters, for example, having to raise their reasonable excuse in court. People such as protesters, who have a reasonable excuse, should not be arrested in the first place. They should not be charged, and they should not have to appear in court. With respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, I am sure that his amendment is right, but I am not sure that it is necessary. However, I am sure that the Minister will enlighten us.

This clause needs to be withdrawn and thought through again.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate on Clauses 58 to 60. These three clauses will help ensure unimpeded vehicular access to Parliament and implement the Law Commission’s recommendation to codify in statute the common-law offence of public nuisance.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, mentioned pressure from “wherever” regarding Clause 58. In fact, the clause gives effect to a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which Harriet Harman is chair, to protect the right of access to the Parliamentary Estate for those with business there, including, of course, Members of your Lordships’ House. The clause amends the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to allow a police officer to direct an individual to cease, or not begin, obstructing vehicular access to the Parliamentary Estate. If a person does not comply with a direction, they will be committing an offence and may be arrested. Currently, parliamentarians and others conducting business in the Palace can face delays in entering and leaving Parliament via vehicular entrances, both impeding the functioning of our democracy and creating a security risk, with vehicles held stationary while police clear the way.

I should stress at this point that this power does not stop people protesting in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster. Those who want to protest outside Parliament can continue to do so but, if asked by a police officer, must allow the passage of vehicles through the Palace’s gates or face the consequences.

Should Parliament need to relocate for any reason, such as the ongoing restoration and renewal works, Clause 59 provides the Home Secretary with the power to designate a new controlled area around Parliament’s new temporary location. This would ensure that the protections afforded by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, as amended by this Bill, applied wherever Parliament relocated to.

Clause 60 implements the Law Commission’s recommendation that the common-law offence of public nuisance should be codified in statute. We heard last week calls for the Government to be more diligent in implementing Law Commission recommendations, so I hope noble Lords will support and welcome this measure. Putting the long-standing common-law offence of public nuisance into statute will provide clarity to the police and potential offenders, giving clear notice of what conduct is forbidden.

We have followed the Law Commission’s recommendation as closely as possible. In doing so, we are narrowing the scope of the existing common-law offence. That is being achieved by retaining the use of the terms “distress”, “annoyance”, “inconvenience” and “loss of amenity” within scope of the offence but by requiring that these harms be “serious”. We are also increasing the fault element of the offence. Currently, a person would be guilty through negligence; under the new offence, that is raised to intent or recklessness. Finally, we have made it a defence for a person to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their act or omission that caused a public nuisance.

The Law Commission’s report stated that as the offence is intended to address serious cases for which other offences are not adequate, if a maximum sentence is set then it should be high enough to cover these cases. We have therefore set the maximum custodial sentence at 10 years. It is worth noting that that is lower than the current unlimited maximum sentence available under the common-law offence.

I turn to the amendments tabled to Clause 60, beginning with Amendment 314 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As the clause is currently drafted, the offence is committed if a person’s act or omission causes serious harm to the public or a section of the public, or obstructs the public in the exercise or enjoyment of their rights. The amendment would limit the scope of the offence to only where serious harm is caused to the public. That would significantly narrow the scope of the offence. Most forms of public nuisance will, by their nature, impact on only a section of the public rather than the public generally.

However, I believe it is right that the offence be committed if it affects a section of the public. It is a fundamental part of the common-law offence of public nuisance that not every member of the public need be affected but a section of the public must be. Similarly, the offence should include where the rights of the public are infringed; the Law Commission concluded it is right to do so. For example, the effect of excessive and persistent noise or the release of a foul-smelling substance or gas in a public place may affect only a small number of local residents but potentially affects any member of the public who enters the relevant area.

Amendment 315 flows from a JCHR recommendation that aims to clarify that this offence is not committed if serious harm is caused to a person. That would be achieved by removing the word “person” from the definition of “serious harm”. I understand that the noble Lord is trying to clear up ambiguity as to whether an offence of public nuisance can be committed to a person, but I remain to be persuaded that the amendment is strictly necessary. Subsection (1) of the clause already sets out that the offence of public nuisance can be committed only against the public or a section of the public, with the references to persons in the definition of “serious harm” being an interpretive provision that does not affect the scope of the offence. That said, I am ready to consider this point further ahead of the next stage.

The amendment would also raise the threshold at which the offence is committed where an individual put the public at risk of serious harm. The amendment would raise that to “serious” risk of serious harm. We have followed the Law Commission’s recommendations in setting the scope of the offence and the thresholds at which it will be committed. The commission conducted a rigorous consultation on the offence, and it is right that, in this instance, we follow the recommendations set out in the report.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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They are civil orders; they are preventive measures.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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If I can assist the House, the first amendment moved in the group was that of the noble Baroness, not mine.

Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I will certainly take my noble friend’s point back. I know the College of Policing welcomes engagement with faith community leaders and others who have concerns about the current authorised professional practice to understand views and consider possible next steps for this issue.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, surely there is a difference between the perpetrator sitting at the scene of a stabbing waiting to be arrested and an explosion where forensic recovery is essential. Can the Minister not bring together faith and police leaders nationally to discuss the potential use of discretion, in appropriate cases?

Stop and Search Powers

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 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 am grateful for the opportunity to correct some of the inaccurate claims. The first was that the delay was due to a record level of data, but that was a misrepresentation by journalists; actually, the Home Office needed additional time to quality assure more granular record-level data. Secondly, the decision for delaying the statistics for the PCSC Bill was made by the head of profession, in line with the code of practice for statistics, and was announced at the earliest possible point on GOV.UK.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I understand what the noble Baroness has said, but is she aware how this delay looks? On last year’s figures, black people were 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people when the police have the power to stop and search without reasonable suspicion. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill already contains new provisions to allow even more stop and search without suspicion and, on Monday, the Government laid 18 pages of new amendments to the Bill for debate next week, further extending the ability of the police to stop and search people without any reason to think the person they are searching has anything on them. What equalities impact assessment has been made of these new powers and what was the result?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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An equalities impact assessment has been done on the Bill, as is done on every Bill, as the noble Lord knows. On how this looks, I have explained the process for producing the statistics and I hope that is satisfactory for the noble Lord. I was disappointed that this Question was not being asked tomorrow, so that we could debate it more fully, with the statistics before us.

Terrorist Incident at Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his questions, and I join him in paying tribute to our emergency services, who acted so quickly to try to preserve life at the scene of the attack, and to the taxi driver, who really was a hero in what must have been an extremely frightening situation. We wish him and his family well. With regard to the first question about lone actors, clearly we get information from all sorts of sources. The noble Lord is absolutely right to point out that the nature of terrorism is changing, and we have seen a number of lone-actor attacks in the past few years. I cannot comment on this attack further because clearly it is a live and very new investigation. The facts of the case will come out as the investigation continues, but I know that the police made a statement today. I will get back to him on the report he referred to if I can. I am not sure what more I can say about it today.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I understand the caution that the noble Baroness has expressed about the incident itself; it did not seem to stop the Home Secretary reportedly saying that

“The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past”.


Despite that, I also express my thanks to the police, the security services and the taxi driver. Does the Minister agree that so-called lone-wolf or lone-actor attacks are some of the most difficult to prevent, whatever motivates them; and that, while the police and the security services do an outstanding job, they cannot be successful without the help and support of people from every community? What are the Government doing to build trust and confidence with communities where this is lacking?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I totally agree with the noble Lord that these things are hard to predict and hard to deal with when they happen. I have seen a couple of comments, particularly from BAME communities in Liverpool, saying that they have faced hate incidences in the last couple of days, and we have seen before that, when an attack happens, quite often it is women who bear the brunt of the hatred and the name-calling. When I was Minister for Counterextremism, I remember going to many different communities, such as Muslim communities and Polish communities after Brexit, trying to provide reassurance. The police have been fantastic on the back of some of the attacks in reassuring local communities.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Paddick
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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If the Sikh was going about his business with his knife in his pocket, he would have reasonable excuse. If he then got into a fight and the knife was not used in the commission of the common assault, the knife would be irrelevant to the case. But I must absolutely caveat my comments: the court would decide the facts of the case.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Could I further clarify what the Minister has just said? If the Sikh becomes involved in a fight and does not go for the knife that they are carrying during that offence, the Sikh can still be made subject to an SVRO, because they committed an offence and had a knife with them at the time the offence was committed, even though the weapon was not used.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have just fallen into a trap that I do not like to fall into, which is to take on specific cases. The court would have to determine the facts of the case to decide whether the knife was relevant and, therefore, whether an SVRO could be made.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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This is Committee and it is important to get this clear. My clear understanding of the legislation is that it does not matter whether the knife was used in the commission of the offence; it is simply the fact that the person had a knife with them when they committed the offence which means that not only can that person be made subject to an SVRO but any person convicted with them who did not have a knife can also be made the subject of an SVRO by the court. So, without using specific examples, can the Minister please clarify that I am correct?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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What I can clarify is that I will not take theoretical cases again. But the court would need to consider whether in the circumstances it is proportionate to make an order. That does not go into the specifics of any given case.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank my noble friend—and he is my noble friend because he has come to my rescue time and again. I am not a lawyer and even less of an expert in criminal law.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Perhaps I could just say that those examples should include, if they are right, non-violent offences where a weapon is not used in the commission of the offence in any way, where the person only has the weapon on them, and they have an accomplice who did not have a knife on them but should have known that the person had one concealed on their person when they committed a non-violent offence without using the weapon.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think I need to reflect further on what noble Lords have said. I will try to answer the noble Lord’s question in a letter before we start talking about examples. We are, after all, in Committee, and I am learning, like other noble Lords, as we go along.

Amendments 226, 226A and 226B would remove the provisions that enable a court to issue the SVRO if two or more people commit an offence but not all of them used or were in possession of the weapon—that is slightly going back on what we were discussing. When a knife offence or offensive weapon-related offence is committed, it is not always the case that all the offenders had the weapon in their hands—as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out—during the commission of the offence. But if the court is satisfied that a person knew or ought to have known that another person committing the offence had a knife or an offensive weapon during the commission of the offence, and this person committed an offence arising out of the same facts, we think it would be appropriate for an SVRO to be available. Again, I will put the various permutations and combinations to noble Lords in a theoretical way. This would allow SVROs to be made in relation to all the individuals who were involved and were convicted of such an offence, should the court consider an SVRO to be necessary in respect of those individuals.

This provision intends to cover situations such as a robbery or a fight where a weapon was used by one individual, but where other individuals convicted of offences related to the same facts knew, or ought to have known, that a weapon was being used or carried by another person involved in the offence, even if they themselves were not carrying the weapon. This is very similar to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, except that that individual was brandishing the weapon.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am sorry, but that is not what the proposed law says. It does not talk about when there is a fight and somebody uses a weapon, and a person who was with them should have known they had a weapon. What the Bill as drafted says is that anybody who commits any offence—such as, for example, smashing a car window—who has a knife in their pocket can be given an SVRO. It may be that that is what was intended, but it is not what the legislation says.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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What I am saying, and what I said earlier, is that it will be up to the courts to decide whether it is appropriate, bearing in mind the facts of the case, and whether the court thinks an SVRO in respect of an individual is necessary to protect the public or any particular members of the public in England and Wales.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I completely understand that point it in the context of the previous debate. One of the things that we will be testing as part of the pilot is the impact of SVROs on the individuals subject to them, and how to ensure that vulnerable offenders—because sometimes people are caught up in these things completely unwittingly—are directed to local intervention schemes to help steer them away from crime. But SVROs used as part of a wider crime prevention approach will send a clear message that, if people are vulnerable and want to move away from crime, and in particular if they are being coerced into carrying things, or coerced generally, we will of course support them.

Amendment 228 seeks to increase the requirements for SVROs to be made. It would require that an order can be imposed only if the SVRO is proportionate to one or more of the relevant aims of the order. It is already a requirement for the court to consider the making of the order necessary to protect the public, or any particular member of the public, including the offender, from the risk of harm, and to prevent the offender committing an offence. It would be for the court to decide the seriousness of any offence, based on the individual facts of the case, and to decide whether it is necessary and proportionate for an order to be made in respect of an individual. Any order made will be at the court’s discretion.

An individual convicted of an offence involving a bladed article or offensive weapon could cause harm to any member of the public, including particular individuals. The provisions in the Bill allow a wide range of considerations to be made, so that an SVRO will have the greatest impact and protect members of the public, including the offender themselves, from the risk of harm.

Amendments 229, 230 and 231 seek to amend the evidentiary requirements for an SVRO to be made. They would provide that the court may consider only evidence led by the prosecution and by the offender and would remove provisions that allow courts to consider evidence that would have been inadmissible in the proceedings in which the offender was convicted. We think it appropriate that the court can consider a wider range of evidence about the offender that may not have been admissible in the proceedings. This goes in some sense to the heart of what we have just been discussing. For example, in answer to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the offender may have a history of knife carrying that would be relevant to whether an SVRO would be necessary to protect the public.

Amendment 239 would make the guidance to be issued under Clause 140 subject to the affirmative procedure, as recommended by the DPRRC in its report on the Bill. As I have indicated in response to other amendments, we are considering carefully the arguments put forward by the DPRRC and will also reflect on today’s debate before responding to the committee’s report ahead of the next stage of the Bill.

Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher—through the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—has tabled Amendment 240 to Clause 141, which makes provision for the piloting of SVROs. I talked about this earlier. I can assure noble Lords that we will take the matters set out in Amendment 240 into consideration as we progress the design work for the pilot and agree the terms of the evaluation. That said, the general point is that it is not necessary to include such a list in the Bill. The approach adopted in Clause 141 is consistent, for example, with the piloting provisions in the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 in respect of knife crime prevention orders.

Working with the four pilot forces our aims are: to monitor and gather data on a number of different measures—including, as I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, the impact of SVROs on serious violence; to build evidence on reoffending and the outcomes for offenders who are subject to SVROs; to understand and learn how we ensure that vulnerable people are directed to local intervention schemes; and to understand community responses to the orders.

I think we can conclude by agreeing on the need to do all we can to tackle the scourge of knife crime, which is wrecking far too many lives. I hope that I have been able to persuade noble Lords of the case for the new orders as part of our wider work to prevent and reduce serious violence, and that I have reassured the Committee—although not on certain things, on which I will have to write—that many of the issues raised will be considered as part of the piloting of SVROs in advance of any national rollout. I reiterate my commitment to consider further the DPRRC’s recommendation in relation to parliamentary scrutiny of the guidance. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, will be happy to withdraw the amendment.