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

Thu 7th Apr 2022
Mon 14th Mar 2022
Wed 2nd Mar 2022
Mon 28th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage
Mon 28th Feb 2022
Thu 10th Feb 2022
Wed 9th Feb 2022
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Tue 1st Feb 2022
Tue 1st Feb 2022
Thu 27th Jan 2022
Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Thu 28th Oct 2021
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Mon 25th Oct 2021
Mon 25th Oct 2021
Thu 14th Oct 2021
Mon 12th Jul 2021
Wed 26th May 2021
Tue 25th May 2021
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Lords Hansard
Wed 3rd Mar 2021
Thu 11th Feb 2021
Wed 10th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 8th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 27th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 25th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Thu 21st Jan 2021
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 11th Jan 2021
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords & Report stage
Thu 10th Dec 2020
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 3rd Dec 2020
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 16th Nov 2020
Wed 21st Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 12th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 6th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 5th Oct 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wed 30th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Mon 28th Sep 2020
Wed 16th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

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: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 9th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 7th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 21st Jul 2020
Mon 3rd Feb 2020

Mr Mike Veale

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

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I will just repeat what I have already said: that the IOPC is by its very name independent and will conclude its investigations in due course. This House trying to get me to opine on an ongoing investigation is not the best idea for the outcome of that investigation.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I must say that the answers to the questions being asked seem like a “no comment” interview on the part of the Government. Let us just repeat some things. Mr Veale, the controversial former chief constable of Wiltshire, resigned after 10 months as chief constable of the Cleveland force in January 2019 following gross misconduct allegations. The IOPC investigated the claims over a two-year period and came to the conclusion that

“there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Mr Veale had breached the standards of professional behaviour”

and

“should face proceedings for gross misconduct.”

Yet he is now carrying out well-paid advisory work for the police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire. As has just been said, his responsibilities apparently include holding the chief constable of Leicestershire to account at a time when he himself faces an outstanding misconduct hearing. You could not make it up. At a time when trust and confidence in the police is not at a level we would wish, what action does the Home Secretary intend to take in respect of Mr Veale’s case, which is doing nothing—to put it mildly—to restore confidence and trust in our police? The whole situation with Mr Veale is a joke and a pretty sick joke at that. For how much longer does the Home Secretary intend to take a back seat? I thought she had responsibility for the standing and status of, and confidence in, our police force on a national basis. It is time she took action on this.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as I have said, the misconduct proceedings are ongoing. If an independent panel finds a former officer guilty of gross misconduct, it can determine that the officer would have been dismissed had they still been serving. If that occurs, the officer would be placed on the College of Policing’s barred list, preventing them rejoining policing.

Live Facial Recognition: Police Guidance

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Monday 4th April 2022

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have outlined the conditions in which it should be used. To compare its use with how China looks at its people is really taking a leap forward. As I have just pointed out, I think that its use when fair, proportionate and for a policing purpose is absolutely reasonable.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, the new guidance acknowledges long-running concerns around algorithmic bias. Forces are rightly required to identify and mitigate against bias but doing so requires expertise and, as a result, additional costs. I have two questions: first, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that forces across the country have access to the resources they need to uphold these new elements of the public sector equality duty? Secondly, which independent body or individual has oversight powers to ensure that facial recognition powers are used appropriately by police forces and not inappropriately or for inappropriate purposes?

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

Police and Crime Commissioners: Budget

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

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Is it not the reality that the new PCC for Leicestershire has, from the third tranche of the Government’s police uplift programme and the maximum permitted increase in council tax of £10 per year per dwelling, the resources for another 100 officers in 2022-23, as previously budgeted for and agreed? He has decided not to use the money for that purpose, even in part. The number of officers there will remain under 2010 levels in 2022-23, despite the Government saying that the overall 20,000 additional officers nationally are to restore the cuts in numbers since 2010. Does the Answer to my noble friend Lord Bach mean that the Government condone what the new PCC for Leicestershire is doing in using money intended to increase police officer numbers for other purposes in 2022-23?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, the Government have been absolutely clear on the police uplift programme: we expect that funding to go towards the 20,000 police officers. That is not in any doubt. What is in debate this afternoon is whether the precept should be used on top of that to fund police officers. Whether a local PCC decides to do that is down to that local PCC. Should local areas need to invest in additional police officers, they have the funding to do so through either the police uplift programme or indeed the precept.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, if I may, I will just detain the House a little longer to mark the end of this Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House. It has been very wide-ranging. It has had five thorough days in Committee and three days on Report. During this time, in response to the terrible situation in Ukraine, we have added important measures to the Bill which introduce new visa penalty provisions for countries posing a risk to international peace and security. I was very pleased to see support for these measures across the House.

I was not so pleased, though, by the removal of some important measures, the aim of which was to find a long-term solution to long-term problems in our asylum and illegal migration systems which successive Governments have faced over decades. Those amendments will now be considered in the other place and no doubt we will debate them soon.

Notwithstanding that, I want to take this opportunity to recognise the contributions of those who have supported me in steering the Bill through the House. In particular, I thank my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart of Dirleton, my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and my commendable noble friend Lord Sharpe of Epsom for sharing the load from the Front Bench.

I also express my thanks to all noble Lords who stayed up very late on a number of occasions and thank Members on the Front Bench opposite for their engagement on the Bill, accepting that there have been some areas of disagreement between us. I thank in particular—because I cannot thank everyone—the noble Lords, Lord Coaker, Lord Rosser, Lord Paddick and Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

I also extend my thanks to officials at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, as well as lawyers and analysts, not only in those two departments but across government. On my behalf and my ministerial colleagues’, I extend our thanks and appreciation to all of them for their professionalism over the past months. I also thank the teams in our respective private offices.

There should be no doubt about the merits of the Bill’s ultimate objectives, namely to increase the fairness and efficacy of our system, to deter illegal entry into the UK and to remove more easily from the UK those with no right to be here. That is what the British people voted for, it is what the British people expect and it is what the Government are trying and determined to deliver. In view of the crises now confronting our world, it is surely now more important than ever that the Bill moves swiftly to become law. On that note, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I will not detain the House for long but I think that I ought to say a few words; first, to thank the Minister, in particular, for the number of meetings that I know she has held—I suspect that she has lost count—and her willingness to respond in writing and in some detail on issues that have been raised, which is certainly appreciated. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Sharpe of Epsom. I will not comment too much about people who stayed late since I probably fell rather short in that regard myself. Some of us made sure we left in time to get last trains, but not everybody did.

Ukraine: Urgent Refugee Applications

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

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Home Office has not stepped up to the mark in processing urgent Ukrainian refugee applications—no doubt in part because the Home Office culture, as shown by the Nationality and Borders Bill, is geared towards keeping refugees out rather than welcoming them in.

On Monday, the Home Secretary claimed that a visa application centre had been set up en route to Calais and was staffed. Yesterday, however, the Commons Minister said that

“we are looking to establish a presence in Lille ... and we expect that to be set up within the next 24 hours.”—[Official Report, Commons, 8/3/22; col. 198.]

Has the Lille centre now been set up, opened and staffed, and how many visas can it process per day?

A week ago, the Home Secretary announced the introduction of a humanitarian sponsorship visa. Yesterday, the Government said in this House:

“The sponsorship scheme … should be up and running very shortly.”—[Official Report, 8/3/22; col. 1265.]


When exactly is the sponsorship scheme going to be “up and running”? Why does the Home Office still not know? What is needed now is an emergency visa scheme for those fleeing Ukraine. Are the Government going to do that?

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.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
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.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, for their contributions to the debate. I also thank the Minister for her response. I appreciate that there are two amendments down: one takes the clause out and the other seeks to amend the clause to provide for safe return agreements to be put in place. I appreciate that other noble Lords can ask for a vote, but I will not be seeking a vote on taking the clause out. Instead, I intend to seek a vote on the amendment we have put down.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The crisis is about 72 hours old, so I cannot say. I really do not know the answer so I will not pretend, but I am sure that, as the hours and days go on, the Government will have in place a system for helping refugees here and, do not forget, back in their home country. Ukrainians want to go back to Ukraine, and the best thing we can do for the whole global effort is to ensure that the war in Ukraine comes to an abrupt end.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What did the Government mean by the assurance that I believe was given to my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti? The assurance given in relation to Ukraine was that, whatever the Government did, it would be aligned with the refugee convention—I think those were the words. Is that aligned with the refugee convention in the same way the Government think the Nationality and Borders Bill is aligned with the refugee convention?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The Nationality and Borders Bill is aligned with the refugee convention.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think I am right in saying that until the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, spoke, all those speakers who had spoken against Clause 9 were noble Baronesses. I am not sure what the significance of that is, and I do not say that in any wrong way; I think it is a great credit to them. Like the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I hope they will forgive me for intruding on their space.

Although we appreciate that the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, are certainly an improvement on Clause 9—I, too, would like to express my thanks to the noble Lord for all the work I know he has put in—as it stands, we do not feel the case has been made by the Government for why Clause 9, and deprivation of nationality without prior notice to the individual concerned, are actually necessary. That is what we are talking about: not whether nationality should be removed but whether it should be possible for the Secretary of State to remove it without prior notice.

Currently, under the British Nationality Act 1981, an individual must be notified if they are to be deprived of their citizenship. So what is the problem when, for example, the present rules already allow for citizenship deprivation letters to be delivered to an individual’s last known address, or to a parent, or to a parent’s last known address? I say that against the background that the Government have already said there have been no cases where the requirement to give notice has stopped—prior to the recent High Court decision—a deprivation of citizenship order coming into being. It is also against a background where the number of people deprived of their citizenship has risen considerably over the last 12 years—an upward trend with a peak, I think, in 2017.

One thing we can be sure of is that if the Government have the powers under Clause 9, even with the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, we will see deprivation of citizenship orders being made without prior notice, because if it is not the Government’s intention to take advantage of the powers to deprive a person of their citizenship without prior notice, why are they seeking them? Against that scenario, we need to be satisfied that there is a real and overriding necessity for this additional power now, when it has not been deemed necessary before, beyond it being perhaps more convenient or helpful on occasions not to have to go through the procedure of giving prior notice to the individual concerned. The lack of a compelling and meaningful government response on that point, and there having been no cases where the requirement to give notice has stopped the deprivation of citizenship order coming into being, is significant.

If a proven national security need does arise for the power not to have to give prior notice of a deprivation of citizenship notice coming into being, the Government can get such necessary legislation through Parliament, as we know, with remarkable speed. In the absence of such a case being made for this power—and the lack of it clearly has not caused a serious difficulty until now—we should be wary of agreeing to Clause 9, even as amended, remaining in the Bill.

I suggest that the situation has not been helped by finding out from information in the Court of Appeal decision that in the D4 case the Home Secretary

“argued that notification had been given to D4 … by simply placing a note on her Home Office file, relying on regulations introduced without parliamentary approval.”

That ought to make us very wary about giving the Secretary of State and the Home Office the additional powers in Clause 9, now that we know how existing statutory powers and requirements on notification have been interpreted and implemented in the D4 case.

The consequences of the clause are likely to be felt most—but certainly not exclusively, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, said—by those from ethnic minority backgrounds. It is no surprise that it is in this area that the Bill, particularly Clause 9, has caused most concern about how the new powers might be applied and interpreted and what the evidence is that they are needed now and have not been needed before.

It is unlawful to deprive someone of their citizenship and leave them stateless. Even so, the Home Office is still on record that British citizenship

“is a privilege, not a right”.

Yet without citizenship people do not have rights, and we are talking about significant rights. It has been estimated that nearly 6 million people in England and Wales could be affected, and that under this proposal two in five British citizens from an ethnic minority background are eligible to be deprived of their citizenship without being told, since they have, or may have, other citizenships available to them—I think that was the basis of the comment about two classes of citizenship—compared with one in 20 characterised as white. That is a sobering consideration for the Government, or should be, when looking at the merits or demerits of Clause 9, not least in the light of how the Secretary of State and the Home Office in the D4 case interpreted and implemented the requirement to give prior notice under the law as it exists at present. What would be tried if Clause 9, even as amended by the amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, gave the power not to have to give prior notice?

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford raised the issue of trust, or rather the lack of it, among society groups. The Government ought to reflect very carefully on that in considering whether Clause 9, even as amended, should remain in the Bill. I have to say that as far as we are concerned the case has not been made for Clause 9, even as amended, to remain in the Bill, and we shall certainly be looking for an opportunity to vote against it.

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, especially the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, who has tabled these amendments; I am very grateful for his expertise in this matter. I also acknowledge Amendment 20, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and Amendment 22, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle.

The House will recall that we debated this matter at length in Committee. I say now, as I said then, that inaccurate and irresponsible media reporting continues to fuel fear and concern about how Clause 9 is to operate. I will repeat what I said then, starting with my noble friend Lady Verma: the deprivation power itself is not altered. Clause 9 does not alter the reasons why a person is to be deprived of British citizenship and we are not stripping millions of their citizenship.

To answer the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and others, Clause 9 does not target dual nationals, those from ethnic minorities or particular faiths, or indeed women and girls; there is no secret decision-making, and law-abiding people have nothing to fear from Clause 9. It is simply about the mechanics of how a deprivation decision are conveyed to the individual concerned.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will certainly wait with interest to hear the response that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham gets to this amendment, because, if I understood him correctly, he said that it is the same amendment he tabled before. I understand that he asked for information and assurances about accommodation centres in Committee, and it is because he did not get them either in Committee or since then—he has had nothing in writing; presumably he asked the questions quite clearly in Committee about what he wanted—that he has had to table this amendment today, and will table it again, seeking to exclude vulnerable groups from the accommodation centres.

I hope that in their response the Government will explain why it has been so difficult to give the right reverend Prelate the answers to the questions he raised last time seeking information and assurances in respect of these accommodation centres. I do not understand what the difficulty can be since, presumably, in putting forward that there will be accommodation centres, the Government have some idea of what they will and will not provide and what they will and will not be like, and are in a position to give assurances when they are sought.

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 who have spoken to this amendment. I just say from the outset that the Bill does not actually create accommodation centres—that was done back in 2005—but when we have more detail on the accommodation centres, I will be very happy to provide it to the right reverend Prelate, including any detail about design.

On the question of how long someone might stay there, the usual time is about six months. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that they have to be humane, welcoming environments.

On the question of who we might accommodate in the centres, as I said before, we will accommodate people only after an individual assessment. There are no current plans to use the centres to house families beyond this. The centres will be used to accommodate only those who require support because they would otherwise be destitute, so those who obtain accommodation with friends or family are not affected by the measure. It is to prevent people becoming destitute.

The provision has nothing to do with unaccompanied minors; it is about adults in the asylum system and their dependants who are accommodated by the Home Office under the powers in the Immigration Act. Unaccompanied minors are not accommodated under these powers.

On the point about certain individuals not being suitable for these centres, there are no plans to accommodate in this type of accommodation asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers who are not destitute. As I have said, those who can obtain accommodation with friends and family will be unaffected. Individuals will have opportunities to disclose information as supporting evidence as to why they should not be housed in accommodation centres, and we do not have current plans to use centres to accommodate those with dependent children.

I may have said this before, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, has just mentioned it: it is not possible to completely rule out placing those with children in accommodation centres in the future, because if there are no available flats or houses to house them in, it might be a better option for them, depending on their situation, and certainly better than using hotels.

On whether they are detention centres, the answer is no. I do not think the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was asking whether they were detention centres; she was making the point that they are not detention centres, and that is correct: people are free to move about. Individuals applying for support because they are destitute will naturally be expected to live there because they have nowhere else, but, as I have said, they can leave the centres at any time they wish because they have obtained alternative accommodation.

I had just asked a question of the Box about payment, and I am going to double-check whether I have the answer. Here it is: facilities at the accommodation include catering, therefore individuals will not require cash for food during their stay, but cash might be provided for other essential items not provided in kind. I hope that with that, the right reverend Prelate will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Between what the noble Lord has just outlined and what the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, has just said, that probably explains both ends of the system in different ways.

On visa extensions, although I fully support the noble Baroness’s determination to improve protections for migrant domestic workers, rewinding the clock and reinstating the features of a route that were deliberately removed almost a decade ago is not the answer—probably, in part, for some of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, outlines.

The overseas domestic worker visa caters specifically for groups of visitors who by definition stay for short periods. That visa allows private domestic staff to accompany their employer where that employer enters the UK as a visitor and where they intend to leave together. Approximately 20,000 visas are issued every year on that basis, and the vast majority leave well within the validity of their visa.

The amendment seeks to reintroduce features of the route which were removed for good reason. We must not forget that abuse existed before 2012 and be mindful that allowing overseas domestic workers to stay could inadvertently create a fresh cohort of recruits for traffickers. We must avoid a route that could be used by criminals to entice victims to come to the UK.

Noble Lords have referred to the report, commissioned by the Government, by James Ewins QC, which, crucially, did not establish a direct link between the length of stay and the likelihood of exploitation. Years later, this picture remains. There is no greater risk if a domestic worker is here for two weeks or 12 months, so increasing the length of time that they can stay will not afford them greater protection from being exploited.

I think that the noble Baroness and I share the same objective of the delivery of a safe and appropriate system for a very vulnerable category of workers. However, for all the reasons that I have given, we do not agree on the means of achieving it.

I am aware of comparisons that have been made between those employed in the healthcare sector who are exempt from the health charge and those who come to the UK as volunteers. However, there are very clear and important distinctions between workers and volunteers on the charity worker visa. The route should not be used to fill gaps in the labour market, even on a temporary basis. To answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, yes, we have been engaging with charities. The Government think that appropriate immigration concessions are already in place, which support volunteers on this route. The charity worker visa offers a low fee, compared to other work routes, and sponsors pay a lower licence fee, in recognition of their charitable status. While the charity worker route is the main route for volunteers, it is not the only way in which volunteers can be recruited to support the work of charities.

I note the concern of the noble Lord, Lord German, that the immigration health charge might deter volunteers from coming to the UK. Published figures indicate that, for the years immediately preceding the pandemic—clearly the years after that are very unusual—the number of charity visas granted remained broadly consistent. This indicates that volunteers are not being deterred by having to pay the health charge.

The NHS must continue to be properly funded and the immigration health charge plays an important role in that. It has generated almost £2 billion for the NHS since its inception, and it ensures that temporary migrants who come to the UK for more than six months make a direct contribution to the comprehensive range of NHS services available to them during their stay. Those who pay the charge can, from their point of arrival in the UK, use the NHS in broadly the same way as a permanent resident, without having to make any prior tax or national insurance contributions. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord German, will not press his amendment.

On Amendment 183, I hear noble Lords loud and clear. I recall the debate that my noble friend Lord Faulks and I had during the Criminal Finances Bill. I also completely acknowledge the point about those relying on funds that have been illegitimately acquired. It is because of those concerns that we have committed to a review of visas issued under the route between 2008 and 2015. We are finalising the review, if noble Lords can be patient, and we will publish it in due course—I knew there would be a sigh from behind me and in front of me when I said that.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Four years is quite a long time to produce a report. Why has it taken four years to date and why are the Government still in a position where they cannot really give any proper indication of when it will be produced? “In due course” is the cop-out expression for a Government who do not really know.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I will have to think of a new phrase: perhaps “shortly”.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Is it this year?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Yes, I hope that it will be this year.

Knife Crime

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 9th February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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If police forces decide to do such things as stop showing pictures of knives, that is entirely a matter for them. Of course, we support whatever works—sometimes showing pictures of knives increases the fear factor in getting involved in things such as knife crime—but it is down to local police forces.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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We share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, about knife crime and the devastating effects it can have on young people in particular. The Minister mentioned violence reduction units, which bring together local partners to tackle violent crime by understanding its underlying causes, and by bringing additional funding. Violence reduction units have been introduced in 18 police force areas. When are they going to be extended to the remaining 25 police areas to support local multiagency work to tackle youth crime?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord that VRUs are a very valuable tool in early intervention. We have provided £35.5 million this year to fund them. They are commissioning a range of youth interventions, and I will keep the House updated as they become more widespread.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 8th February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As I have just said, I will not go any further than my honourable friend did in the House of Common, save to say that people who—

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I understand that the Minister may be unable to respond immediately to the extremely valid question the right reverend Prelate has asked. Presumably, however, the Government as a whole know the answer to his question. Why does the Minister not agree to write to us and tell us what those answers are?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I have said I will write, but to be more explicit than my honourable friend was in the Commons might risk exploitation on routes taken by children. Therefore, this is as far as I will go today. I will lay out the various safe and legal routes through which children can come to this country and reiterate what my honourable friend said in the House of Commons.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, our Amendment 119E, seeks to put a global resettlement scheme on a statutory footing. In that sense, it is very similar to the new Dubs scheme, if I can call it that, for unaccompanied children. I also speak to Amendment 116, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate.

The Government’s stated intention through this Bill is to prevent people risking their lives taking dangerous journeys to the UK, but instead of talking about differential treatment, inadmissible claims, pushbacks, offshoring, reinterpreting the convention and other measures, we should be talking about safe and legal routes. If a person fleeing conflict, torture and persecution has a safe route by which to get here, they will take it. If they do not, they will take other, dangerous routes. Suggesting that other measures have or may have any deterrent effect is frankly not an answer when there is no international evidence, and the Home Office has recognised that asylum seekers often have no choice in how they travel and face exploitation by organised crime groups. If the Government want people to travel here by safe, alternative routes and break the business model of the people smugglers, their efforts need to be focused on providing those routes, which the three amendments I refer to do.

I will concentrate the rest of my remarks, which will be brief, on resettlement schemes. The argument for the Dubs scheme has been made before and was made very powerfully again tonight by my noble friend Lord Dubs. Initially, the Dubs scheme, passed into law by a Conservative Government, was envisaged to take 3,000 unaccompanied children who had fled unimaginable horrors and were travelling or in refugee camps on their own. It has been said tonight that, in reality, the scheme was capped at 480 children, and fewer children were actually resettled before the scheme was closed down. Where is the Government’s commitment to taking unaccompanied children who are in desperate need of safety? Does the Minister accept that, without this route, some children will have turned, and will continue to turn, to people smugglers instead?

Our earlier Amendment 114, Amendment 116 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, and my Amendment 119E all deal with a global resettlement scheme. Amendment 119E seeks to put the UK resettlement scheme on a statutory footing and would require the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on the operation of the scheme and the number of people resettled under it. For now, it does not include a target, unlike Amendment 116. As the Opposition, we have raised concerns that the 5,000 people due to be resettled under the Afghan resettlement scheme may not be enough of a commitment in response to that crisis.

So there are questions about how a target would be designed, but the aim is the same as Amendment 116. It is, first, to create an active global resettlement scheme that can respond flexibly and at speed to needs, as they emerge; and, secondly, to ensure some kind of mechanism to hold the Government to account. This is to ensure the scheme is actually resettling people at the rates and numbers expected and is not simply announced in a press release then left to lie dormant or underperform.

Announcing the UK resettlement scheme, which was launched after the closure of the Syrian scheme, the then Home Secretary confirmed that

“the UK plans to resettle in the region of 5,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the first year of the new scheme”.

Since that announcement, as I understand it, the scheme has settled less than a fifth of that number each year, with an annual average of 770 people. How do the Government expect the other 4,230 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees each year to travel here? Do they expect them to go elsewhere or not go at all?

If we share the aim of ensuring people who are fleeing the worst can do so safely—and I am sure everyone in this House does—we need to work together to provide a reliable, active, responsive route to do so. Currently, the Bill is silent on this and, in answer to questions from the Commons, the Government gave no details about their plans. I hope the Minister is able to give more detail tonight.

The Government should, in this Bill or alongside it, commit to an expanded proactive resettlement route. The mechanism for doing that is provided in both Amendments 116 and 119E.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in what has been quite a full debate. Amendment 115 seeks to introduce a safe route for unaccompanied children from countries in Europe to come to the UK. We all want to stop dangerous journeys in small boats and avoid a repeat of the distressing events of 24 November last year in the channel, where 27 people tragically lost their lives. We all know that children were impacted by that event, and I am sure that every noble Lord in this Committee is concerned about vulnerable children.

I think we can also agree that European countries are safe countries. Together, EU countries operate the Common European Asylum System, which is a framework of rules and procedures based on the full and inclusive application of the refugee convention. Its aim is to ensure the fair and humane treatment of applicants for international protection. There is no need for an unaccompanied child in a European state who needs protection to make a perilous onward journey to the UK, because that protection is already available to them.

I therefore argue that these proposed clauses would put vulnerable children in more danger by encouraging them to make dangerous journeys from outside Europe into Europe to seek to benefit from the scheme. They would create a new pull factor, motivating people to again entrust themselves to smugglers. While they might avoid the danger of a small boat, we know that journeys over land—for example, in the back of lorries—can be equally perilous. We cannot and must not do anything that supports the trafficker’s model. I am resolute on that. I know that is not what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, intends, but it is the reality of this proposed new clause.

The UK does its fair share for unaccompanied children. According to the latest published statistics, there were 4,070 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children being cared for in England. In 2019, the UK had the most asylum applications from unaccompanied children of all EU+ countries and had the second highest in 2020. The Government met their one-off commitment to transfer 480 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children —we did meet that commitment—from Europe to the UK under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, which is referred to as the Dubs scheme. This is essentially that scheme again in all but name.

The clause also fails to take into account the reality for unaccompanied children entering the UK domestic system right now. I am very grateful to the many local authorities who have been able to provide support on a voluntary basis to the national transfer scheme, introduced to enable the transfer of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from one local authority to another, which aims to deliver a fairer distribution of unaccompanied children across the UK. Due to the extremely high intake of unaccompanied children over recent months, particularly as a result of small boat crossings on the south coast, and pressures of entry on local authorities, the national transfer scheme has been unable to keep up with demand. The unprecedented demand resulted in the exceptional decision to accommodate new arrivals of unaccompanied children in hotels to ensure that their immediate safeguarding and welfare needs could be met, pending their transfer to longer-term care placements. It is not ideal and it is not in the interests of those children who are currently waiting in hotels for local authority placements to agree to this clause. We need to prioritise finding long-term placements for those children already in the UK and ensure that we have a sustainable transfer scheme to deliver long-term solutions.

I must pick up the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on one point. He talked about 1,500 places being pledged. He will know that, over the years, I have constantly challenged local authorities to come forward to the Home Office if they have places, and those numbers have not been forthcoming. Unfortunately, places pledged to a charity do not necessarily translate into places. His comments do not reflect our experience on the ground, given that we are using hotels for some newly arrived UASCs while urgently seeking care placements. The Government have mandated the national transfer scheme to ensure that we prioritise care placements for those unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who are in the UK.

Turning to Amendment 116, I understand the desire that Members of this Committee have to establish a minimum number of resettled refugees each year. Our current schemes are non-legislative, operating outside of the Immigration Rules and on a discretionary basis. Operating in this way has seen us resettle over 26,000 vulnerable people since 2015.

It is important that we take into account our capacity in the UK to support people, so that we can continue to resettle people safely and provide appropriate access to healthcare, education, housing, et cetera, without adding to the significant pressure that those services are already under. This amendment seeks to bring in a statutory minimum of 10,000 refugees each year within one month of Royal Assent. We already have over 12,000 refugees and people at risk who we are in the process of resettling permanently and integrating into society.

I turn now to Amendments 118 to 119B. I assure the Committee of my support for the humanitarian intentions behind these proposals and sympathise with the many people across the world who currently face danger and persecution. For resettlement, the UK works according to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality, which means that we do not take into consideration the ethno-religious origin of people requiring citizenship, as we resettle solely on the basis of need. That is not to in any way decry what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has said, but we settle on the basis of need, as identified by the UNHCR.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think it is both. We need to assess people on a case-by-case basis and we need to have return agreements in place. It is not an either/or. I fully acknowledge the need to have return agreements in place. We could not return someone to a country that said it would not accept them; that simply would not be on. That underlines the need to have formal return agreements in place.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Does that mean that the Government accept that Clause 15 is pretty meaningless without such agreements in place? There is no argument about that, then.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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No, I do not accept that Clause 15 is meaningless. I am agreeing that we need to have return agreements in place. I do not think anyone would disagree with that point.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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If we do not have return agreements in place by the time this clause comes in, we will end up with a lot of people being here for six months while the Government try to find out if they can send them back to another country. If you have no agreements with any other countries, you know before you start that that is a further six months wasted before the Government seek to do anything meaningful. Clearly the clause is meaningless without those agreements in place.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I was going to go on to say that if no agreement is possible within a reasonable period, the individual’s asylum claim will be considered in the UK, but I am not disagreeing with the point that return agreements need to be in place. I think I have made that quite clear. Similarly, this is a global challenge, so every nation in the world has to be mindful of the fact that they will be in similar positions as the months and years go on.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I do not know if the noble Lord heard my last point, but we do not necessarily need formal return agreements in place. We can do returns without formal agreements. The point about Dublin is that the formal arrangements that were in place did not necessarily work. It is important to try both—formal and informal, diplomatic and otherwise. It works both ways and, as I said, this is a global challenge. It is not that it is not an EU problem either.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Can I just be clear? Will this then work on the basis of some ad hoc arrangements that will be determined through diplomatic channels, in which other countries take people whom we have declared inadmissible? As I understand it, the number of people we are likely to declare inadmissible will be high. Will all that be done by ad hoc arrangements? Will there not be any agreements and will these countries come forward and say, “Yes, that’s fair enough. You declared the claim inadmissible; of course we will take them back”. Is that how it is going to work?

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.

Independent Office for Police Conduct

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend: I also pay tribute to the recent work of the IOPC, much of which has been in the headlines in the last couple of days. We are not minded to initiate a public inquiry into either Midland or Conifer. It is important that the IOPC is an independent watchdog and essential for the public to have confidence in our model of policing.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, the IOPC has just produced a damning report about misconduct by some Met police officers and the culture that it found. The IOPC says:

“We believe these incidents are not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few ‘bad apples’”,


and that officers who challenged or reported unacceptable behaviour were “harassed, humiliated and excluded.” There is clearly a major problem. An inquiry chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini has been ordered in the light of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, and that has not been the only appalling incident involving police officers that has occurred. In the light of this latest damning IOPC report, will the Government now put the Angiolini inquiry on a statutory footing, with the ability to compel witnesses to attend and have documents produced, in order to provide backing and support for officers who want to blow the whistle on unacceptable behaviour and should not have to face harassment, humiliation and exclusion for doing so? Will the Government now also reconsider their position on regarding misogyny as a hate crime?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I join the noble Lord in expressing my absolute disgust at some of the IOPC’s reporting under Operation Hotton. It provides for very painful reading that members of the police could have said such offensive things in any environment. As I have said before, the Home Secretary can decide, in conjunction with the chairman, whether to put the Dame Elish Angiolini inquiry on a statutory footing if it is not meeting its terms of reference. We brought in the duty to co-operate last year, and police and organisations can find themselves sanctioned if they do not.

Surveillance Camera Code of Practice

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, on securing this debate. Obviously, all who have spoken deserve a response to the points they have raised, but I am particularly interested in what the reply will be to the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, who asked who was and who was not consulted and why. The point she made there most certainly deserves a response from the Government.

The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice was first published in June 2013 under provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. It provides guidance on the appropriate use of surveillance camera systems by local authorities and the police. Under the 2012 Act these bodies

“must have regard to the code when exercising any functions to which the code relates”.

As has been said, the Government laid an updated code before both Houses on 16 November last year and, as I understand it, the code came into effect on 12 January this year. The Explanatory Memorandum indicates that changes were made mainly to reflect developments since the code was first published, including changes introduced by legislation such as the Data Protection Act 2018 and those arising from a Court of Appeal judgment on police use of live facial recognition issued in August 2020, which was the Bridges v South Wales Police case.

Reporting the month before last, our Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee commented that the revised code reflects the Court of Appeal judgment

“by restricting the use of live facial recognition to places where the police have reasonable grounds to expect someone on a watchlist to be”

and added that the technology

“cannot be used for ‘fishing expeditions’”.

The committee continued:

“The Code now requires that if there is no suggested facial matches with the watchlist, the biometric data of members of the public filmed incidentally in the process should be deleted immediately. Because the technology is new, the revised Code also emphasises the need to monitor its compliance with the public sector equality duty to ensure that the software does not contain unacceptable bias. We note that a variety of regulators are mentioned in the Code and urge the authorities always to make clear to whom a person who objects to the surveillance can complain.”


As the regret Motion suggests, there is disagreement on the extent to which the code forms part of a sufficient legal and ethical framework to regulate police use of facial recognition technology, whether it is compatible with human rights—including the right to respect for private life—and whether it can discriminate against people with certain protected characteristics. Interpretations of the Court of Appeal judgement’s implications for the continued use of facial recognition technology differ too.

As has been said, the use of facial recognition is a growing part of our everyday lives—within our personal lives, by the private sector and now by the state. It can be a significant tool in tackling crime but comes with clear risks, which is why equally clear safeguards are needed. It appears that our safeguards and understanding of and frameworks for this spreading and developing technology are largely being built in a piecemeal way in response to court cases, legislation and different initiatives over its use, rather than strategic planning from the Government. Parliament—in particular MPs but also Members of this House—has been calling for an updated framework for facial technology for some years, but it appears that what will now apply has finally come about because of the ruling on the Bridges v South Wales Police case, rather than from a government initiative.

The police have history on the use of data, with a High Court ruling in 2012 saying that the police were unlawfully processing facial images of innocent people. I hope the Government can give an assurance in reply that all those photos and data have now been removed.

While a regularly updated framework of principles is required, as legislation alone will struggle to keep up with technology, can the Government in their response nevertheless give details of what legislation currently governs the use and trials of facial recognition technology, and the extent to which the legislation was passed before the technology really existed?

On the updates made to the code, it is imperative that the technology is used proportionately and as a necessity. What will be accepted as “reasonable grounds” for the police to expect a person to be at an event or location in order to prevent phishing exercises? As the Explanatory Memorandum states:

“The Court of Appeal found that there is a legal framework for its use, but that South Wales Police did not provide enough detail on the categories of people who could be on the watchlist, or the criteria for determining when to use it, and did not do enough to satisfy its public sector equality duty.”


Can the Government give some detail on how these issues have now been addressed?

A further area of concern is the apparent bias that can impact this technology, including that its use fails to properly recognise people from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds and women. That is surely a significant flaw in technology that is meant to recognise members of our population. We are told that the guidance now covers:

“The need to comply with the public sector equality duty on an ongoing basis through equality impact assessments, doing as much as they can to ensure the software does not contain unacceptable bias, and ensuring that there is rigorous oversight of the algorithm’s statistical accuracy and demographic performance.”


What does that look like in practice? What is being done to take account of these issues in the design of the software and in the datasets used for training for its use? What does ongoing monitoring of its use and outcomes look like? The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised the question of who a person should direct a complaint to if they object to the use of the technology, and how that will be communicated.

We have previously called for a detailed review of the use of this technology, including the process that police forces should follow to put facial recognition tools in place; the operational use of the technology at force level, taking into account specific considerations around how data is retained and stored, regulated, monitored and overseen in practice, how it is deleted and its effectiveness in achieving operational objectives; the proportionality of the technology’s use to the problems it seeks to solve; the level and rank required for sign-off; the engagement with the public and an explanation of the technology’s use; and the use of technology by authorities and operators other than the police.

What plans do the Government have to look at this issue in the round, as the code provides only general principles and little operational information? The Government previously said that the College of Policing has completed consultation on national guidance which it is intended to publish early this year, and that the national guidance is “to address the gaps”. Presumably these are the gaps in forces’ current published policies. What issues will the national guidance cover, and will it cover the issues, with great clarity and in detail, which we think a detailed review of the use of this technology should include and which I have just set out? Unfortunately, the Explanatory Memorandum suggests that neither the College of Policing national guidelines nor the updated code will do so or indeed are intended to do so.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for securing this debate and all who spoke in it. Let me clarify that when I referred to those who are interested and knowledgeable about LFR as “geeks”, it was meant as a compliment. Sometimes it is difficult to get people to be interested in some of the things that we do in the Home Office. I am also grateful to the noble Lord for putting on record his views on the revised code, which came into force on 12 January of this year. I understand that it was published in full, and there is more detail in accompanying documents, including the College of Policing guidance and ICO guidance.

As I think the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said, the code was established in 2013 during the coalition Government under PoFA—the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012—to provide guidance to local authorities and the police on the appropriate use of surveillance camera systems.

Surveillance in schools is not really for the surveillance camera code of practice. Private use, which the noble Lord also talked about, is of course a DCMS matter. I am not trying to pass the buck, but it is not unusual for people to get those mixed up. In fact, that goes to the heart of what the Government are trying to do—namely, to try to simplify the landscape, which is all too often far too complex.

The principles in the code enable the police and local authorities to operate surveillance cameras in a way that complies with the breadth of relevant law in this area. Because the code is principles-based rather than technology-specific, it has remained largely up to date despite the pace of technological advancement in this area. Therefore, the changes do not increase the scope of the code or, indeed, its intended impact.

There have been a number of legislative developments and a key court ruling since the code was first published, which noble Lords referred to. The reason for updating the code was to reflect those changes, while we also took the opportunity to make the text easier for users to follow at the same time.

The consultees were mainly among policing and commissioners, including the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner published the draft, so it was in the public domain, and civil society groups commented on it, including the NPCC.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down: is the issue of live facial recognition and its use by the police a matter for the police and crime commissioner to decide or for the chief constable to decide?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It would usually be a matter for local forces in the context in which they are deploying it. In terms of the seniority of the officer who can authorise it, I do not know, actually. I just know it is a matter for local forces to decide when and for what purpose they are using it. But I can write to the noble Lord about that.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I take it, since the noble Baroness did make a reference to democracy and democratic accountability, that surely, at the very least, since the police and crime commissioner is elected and accountable, it must be a decision for a police and crime commissioner, rather than a police constable who is not elected and not accountable in that way.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The PCCs clearly have oversight of what their police forces are doing, and I would be most surprised if the PCC was removed from that sort of operational context.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, noble Lords have repeatedly talked about undermining family reunion. I confirm to the noble Baroness, and for Hansard, so that noble Lords do not come back at me again and again to make this point, that group 2 refugees will be afforded the entitlements in a way that is compatible with the refugee convention, including family reunion, compatible with the ECHR. Most importantly, they will be provided with protection against refoulement. I make that point again: group 2 refugees will be afforded the entitlements in a way that is compatible with the refugee convention, including family reunion. I hope noble Lords will not come back to that point—well, they will do so, but I have made my point, I hope.

If I can, I will continue on the generosity of the great British public and this Government. Over 88,000 BNO status holders and their family members—almost 90,000, as my noble friend said—have chosen to apply for the BNO route, with over 76,000 granted it so far. Meanwhile, we led Europe in airlifting some 15,000 people out of Afghanistan to the UK from mid-August under Operation Pitting. If any noble Lord wants to stand up and say we were not generous in that situation, I beg them to do that now. That is over and above the earlier transfers of around 2,000 locally employed staff and their families under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy. Our new Afghan citizens resettlement scheme also aims to welcome a total of 20,000 people. These people, who noble Lords were talking about earlier, are the most vulnerable people in the world today and our generosity has been exemplary.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I just clarify a point? The Minister has said it is not true that family reunion rights are going to be restricted. But as I understand it, the Government’s New Plan for Immigration did give a detailed indication of what different treatment might look like for group 2 refugees. I am perfectly willing to stand corrected if what I am saying is wrong, but as I understand it, the New Plan for Immigration said, in relation to group 2 refugees who will be granted temporary protection:

“Temporary protection status will not include an automatic right to settle in the UK, family reunion rights will be restricted and there will be no recourse to public funds except in cases of destitution.”


Is that quote from the Government’s new plan wrong? In other words, is it not correct that family reunion rights will be restricted?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is not correct to say that family reunion rights will be restricted for group 2 refugees. They will be afforded the entitlements in a way that is compatible with the refugee convention, including family reunion. If someone, be they a group 1 or group 2 refugee, is deemed a refugee, they will be afforded family reunion rights compatible with the ECHR.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Can I just carry on? I will then of course allow an intervention from the noble Lord; he is always courteous to me.

I want to further reassure the noble Baroness that, even where a refugee or a family member is a group 2 refugee, “reasonable discretion” will be exercised with respect to the determination of differentiated entitlements. We have built this notion into current drafting by ensuring that the determination of whether a refugee is in group 1 or group 2 will depend on whether they could have been reasonably expected to claim asylum in another safe country, and their asylum claim in the UK was made as soon as is reasonably practicable. Our view is that these standards provide adequate discretion to take into account particular facts of an individual case when determining tiering and therefore whether they are granted differentiated entitlements. Would the noble Lord like to intervene now?

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I would because I am getting thoroughly confused, which is something I perhaps do quite frequently, I accept. I will read out again from the JCHR report. It says:

“The policy paper that preceded the Bill, the Government’s ‘New Plan for Immigration’, gave a more detailed indication of what different treatment may look like, as it proposed that instead of fully fledged refugee status, Group 2 refugees would be granted ‘temporary protection’ for a period of no longer than 30 months ‘after which individuals [would] be reassessed for return to their country of origin or removal to a safe third country.’ Temporary protection status ‘will not include an automatic right to settle in the UK, family reunion rights will be restricted and there will be no recourse to public funds except in cases of destitution.’”


Those are quotations from the Government’s New Plan for Immigration policy statement. In relation to group 2 refugees, who are being created by Clause 11 —that is the new bit and what the Bill is doing—it quite clearly states:

“family reunion rights will be restricted”.

I ask again: is that correct or incorrect? If it is not, why is it written in the JCHR report? If the Minister is going to tell me that the JCHR has got it wrong, please say so clearly now.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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As my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett said in moving this amendment, Clause 11 provides that to be a group 1 refugee you must have presented yourself to the authorities “without delay”. This amendment would provide that vulnerable groups are not subject to this time constraint. As one sees from reading the amendment, this would include, though not exclusively, children, survivors of torture, sexual violence and gender-based violence, LGBT refugees, victims of modern slavery and disabled refugees. This is a probing amendment to find out more about how the “without delay” provision will work in practice. As has been said, traumatised people, for example survivors of sexual or gender-based violence, who are largely, but certainly not exclusively, women, do not always feel —to put it mildly—in a position to unburden themselves to the first complete stranger or border, immigration or other government official that they meet on arrival.

The position of single men and sexual orientation has also been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, referred to the article in the Times about single men who arrive from across the channel being detained and locked up. In a previous debate, I asked whether the Minister could say whether that Times article was true. I ask again: is that article true or false? It is important that we get an answer because it relates to this amendment as well.

As well as answering that question, I hope the Minister will give some indication of how the “without delay” provision will work in relation to the vulnerable groups covered by the amendment, what kind of leeway or otherwise the Government intend there to be and what exactly “without delay” means in this context.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate for what have been very thoughtful contributions. I will directly address the question that the noble Lord asked me in the previous group about locking single males up. I have not seen the Times article. If he will allow me, I will look at it and respond in due course.

Although the policy is intended to deter dangerous journeys and encourage people to claim asylum in the first safe country, I assure noble Lords that we have been very careful to strike the right balance between how the policy achieves its aim and protecting the most vulnerable, which is what noble Lords have spoken about this evening. Before I explain why I think statutory exemptions are probably not needed, I will offer a few thoughts in relation to how the “without delay” element of Clause 11 is anticipated to operate.

There are two broad categories under which I envisage the exercise of discretion is most likely to be appropriate. The first is where a person finds themselves unable or unwilling to present themselves to the authorities for any reason that pertains to their proposed asylum claim. In such instances, there will need to be very careful consideration of whether it was reasonably practicable for that person to have claimed without delay. For example, if they had been tortured—noble Lords have given this sort of example—suffered sexual violence at the hands of state authorities or, indeed, feared admitting their sexual orientation due to state persecution on those grounds, this sort of situation would trigger very careful consideration.

The second category is where a person was simply not in control of their actions. In such circumstances, we would also be very careful to consider the facts of that case when determining whether it was reasonably practicable for that person to have claimed without delay. I think primarily of victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied children, and those suffering serious physical or mental disabilities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked about statistics. I do not have them to hand, but I will try to get them.

On the guidance and training, one of the things that I looked into in great detail way back, when we talked about LGBT people in the detention estate, was how practitioners went about establishing claims made on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. It is fair to say that, back in the day, “clunking” would probably have been a charitable word to use—some of the ways people were questioned were on the verge of being inhumane. We really went to extraordinary lengths to try to change that and make it a much more humane process. It is now about establishing the reasons why someone is making a claim, not proving it, so our policies and training are now designed to support claimants in being able to explain their claim in a very sensitive and safe environment. Our approach, I can confirm, is trauma informed.

Our guidance on sexual orientation and gender identity, as I said previously, was developed to take these issues into account—UNHCR, Stonewall and Rainbow Migration contributed to its development—and we will review and update our training and guidance where necessary to support people who are LGBT+. I confirm again that this will take people’s experiences into account, including the trauma that they have suffered. I thank those organisations, particularly Stonewall, Rainbow Migration and UNHCR, that have helped to make the process far more humane so that people’s very difficult journeys and experiences are eased somewhat by our attitude and approach.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, one of the ways that the Government can differentiate under the Bill between group 1 and group 2 refugees is to apply “no recourse to public funds”. The two probing amendments in this group would remove that provision. I listened with interest to what the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, had to say, as I did to my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett in moving the amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, asked what the policy intent of NRPF is—I think she asked that twice during her contribution. Having heard the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, I will be interested to hear what the Government’s view is of the policy intent behind no recourse to public funds being applied to group 2 refugees.

We fully agree with these amendments, which are probing. A question was put to the Minister, and I simply want to support that ask of the Minister to set out in detail when the Government would consider this an appropriate differentiation to use, and in what cases. To whom within group 2 refugees do the Government expect this differentiation on no recourse to public funds to be applied, and in what circumstances? Against what criteria will that decision be made?

We are not talking about applying no recourse to public funds to persons without a valid refugee claim or economic migrants. Clause 11 applies solely to people the Government recognise as refugees with a valid right to be here and to seek safety. Bearing that in mind, it would be interesting to find out in what circumstances they think it appropriate to apply no recourse to public funds to people in the group 2 category.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords for explaining their Amendments 46 and 54. As I have said elsewhere, I hope I can reassure the Committee that the powers under Clause 11 are both broad and flexible.

To come first to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, there is no obligation to exercise the provisions and, where they are exercised, there is no requirement to do so in any particular way. We will of course produce guidance and rules in this respect in due course, but those products will reflect the flexibility in the clause by providing appropriate discretion to take into account people’s individual circumstances.

The same therefore applies to no recourse to public funds. Details will be set out in due course, but I reassure noble Lords that we will take particular care to take into account relevant factors when considering the imposition of the condition, if it is imposed at all, including the impact on families, children and other vulnerabilities that have been raised elsewhere. In addition, we are mindful of potential impacts on local authorities and wider civil society. The policies in the Bill are of course subject to an impact assessment in any event. I stress that no one will be NRPF if they would otherwise be at risk of destitution. If they are, they can apply for a change of conditions to remove the condition.

I shall pick up on a few points. The first was about the policy intent, which is to disincentivise dangerous journeys. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral is right: we have to disincentivise people from risking their lives.

My noble friend Lady Stroud talked about safe and legal routes. She was probably not in the Chamber when I laid out absolutely all of them. I refer her to the letter I sent to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, setting all of them out, including several routes for family reunion; I hope she will take a look at that. I commend her on coming up with the solution, yet again, of working with the French. I agree that we need to work not only with the French but with other countries because this is a global problem that now requires a global solution from each and every state on the globe.

I turn to push factors versus pull factors. Push factors do not explain secondary movement, there is no doubt about that. If push factors were all, people would stop in the first safe country that they reached—that is an absolute fact. We must keep all options on the table to stop illegal migration. I hope, but doubt, that I have reassured the noble Baroness that I appreciate and understand her concerns, and the requisite levels of discretion and sensitivity will be exercised with respect to—

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, but I disagree.

To answer my noble friend’s intervention about who decides, it is caseworkers.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I may have misunderstood the thrust of what the Minister has said on behalf of the Government, but it came over to me that the reason why we have no recourse to public funds is to disincentivise dangerous journeys—that is, people will know that there is no recourse to public funds, and if they know that it may make stop them making those journeys.

If that is the case, why cannot the Government tell us the circumstances in which no recourse to public funds will apply? Their response has been, in effect: “Someone will draw up guidelines later on, but we do not know at the moment what they will say or the circumstances in which there would be no recourse to public funds.” In that situation, it just is not credible to say that something where the Government do not know how it will be applied would act as a disincentive on dangerous journeys.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Yes, my noble friend is absolutely right. It is not unusual for guidelines to be drawn up after legislation has been brought in.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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It is true that it is not unusual for guidelines to be drawn up subsequently but, presumably, in including the provision in the Bill, the Government had at least some idea of the circumstances in which it would be applied. The answer I am getting now is that they cannot tell us any circumstances in which it will definitely apply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It might be helpful to the noble Lord if I outlined situations in which it might be applied, as opposed to putting them in the Bill. I am very happy to go away and look at that and write to him with some examples of where it might be applied—I get his point on that.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I would like in particular to add our support for Amendment 14 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. We hope that the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, is feeling a lot better very soon.

Labour’s shadow Minister raised this issue in the Commons and received disappointing answers. As we have heard, the amendment would put right a discrepancy in our nationality law and adoption law. Currently, an adoption order can be made where a child has reached the age of 18 but is not yet 19, but the same adoption order can confer British citizenship only where the child is under 18. In the same order, our law provides that a person is a full member of their adopted family but also that they are not, because they cannot share citizenship with them.

The answers given by the Minister in the Commons were that 18 year-olds are

“capable of making their own life choices”,

that they can

“purchase alcohol, accrue debt, join the Army, or vote in an election”,

and so they are

“fully fledged and can theoretically live independently of other family members”.—[Official Report, Commons, Nationality and Borders Bill Committee, 19/10/21; col. 190.]

On that basis, is the Government’s argument that at 18 someone is young enough to be adopted and provided for in our adoption law, but at the same time too old to really be an adopted child and be recognised in our nationality law?

The Minister in the Commons also argued that this change would be “out of step” with existing nationality law. One can only comment that this amendment is not seeking to make a general change to our law. By its nature, it is a completely limited, clearly defined provision for a small number of children who are going through our adoption system. It is difficult to see why this would be controversial rather than a common-sense change.

I also welcome the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and her questions to the Government. We await the response with interest. We welcome Clause 7 and recognise that its aim is to provide a means to correct further injustices, but our concerns are, first, to make sure that the clause is used and is not just a token power which the Secretary of State “may” choose to action. That is probed by Amendments 16 and 20. Will the Minister clarify whether it is the Government’s intention that the Secretary of State may choose not to allow for a person to be registered as a citizen in a case where they have been subject to a historical injustice?

Secondly, we wish to be sure that this clause is rightly a reactive and fleet-of-foot mechanism to respond to newly identified problems but that it is not an excuse to avoid making further changes in the law where these are necessary. Where a further injustice or any flaw in our nationality law is identified, the Government must amend the law to rectify that. No doubt, the Government could say in their response whether that is their intention.

On the question of the inclusion of British overseas citizens in the provisions of Clause 7, addressed by Amendment 24, the ministerial response in the Commons was unclear. At the same time, the Minister seemed to claim that the clause needed to be as flexible and unfettered as possible but also that it was right to put limits on it; to not include cases which may arise on British overseas citizenship. That would appear somewhat contradictory.

We support the amendments and await answers to the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I hope the Minister will also respond to my questions on this group of amendments.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for tabling these amendments to Clause 7, which will allow the Home Secretary to grant British citizenship to those who would have been, or been able to become, a British citizen, but for historical legislative unfairness, either an act or omission of a public authority or their exceptional circumstances. It also creates a similar route for governors in overseas territories to grant British Overseas Territories citizenship on the same basis.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, my name has been added to the proposal to oppose Clause 10 standing part of the Bill, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As has been said, Clause 10 is intended to disentitle stateless children in the UK from their statutory right to British citizenship. It proposes amending and restricting a vital safeguard in British nationality law that prevents and reduces childhood statelessness. Under our international obligations, we have safeguards that mean that a child who was born in the UK and has always been stateless can acquire British citizenship after five years of residing here.

Through Clause 10, the Government now propose to restrict and amend that obligation. Clause 10 requires the Secretary of State to be satisfied that a child was unable to acquire another nationality before being permitted to register as a British citizen. That creates an additional and unjustified hurdle to stateless children’s registration as British citizens, which could be difficult for a child or those acting on their behalf to prove.

Rather than helping such children attain citizenship, the Government are intent on putting up more barriers and making it more difficult for children under 18 to be registered. They seem to want to try to deny citizenship, particularly citizenship of the place where the child was born and lives—in fact, the only place they know. No doubt the Government will explain what substantial wrong they consider this clause addresses and what hard evidence there is that that wrong is actually significant, as opposed to it being claimed as such.

Clause 10 can only be highly damaging to a child’s personal development and their feelings of security and belonging, with this exclusion and potential alienation being inflicted in their formative years. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred to the serious implications that can have. There has been no assessment made by the Government of the impact this proposal will have on those children affected, which suggests that this issue does not trouble the Government. As my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett said, how can this be in the best interests of the child? This issue is addressed in Amendment 31, reflecting a JCHR recommendation.

In the Commons, we supported an amendment to Clause 10 which sought to ensure that the Government act in compliance with Article 1 of the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the Government having failed to protect the existing safeguards, which are in line with international law, in this Bill. The amendment altered Clause 10, so that British citizenship was withheld from a stateless child born in the UK only when a parent’s nationality was available to the child immediately, without any legal or administrative hurdles. That is as per Amendment 30, moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs, which also reflects a JCHR recommendation.

I am probably being overoptimistic in hoping that there will be a positive government reply to this stand part debate. At the very least, if my fears are justified and we do not get a positive reply from our point of view, I hope that we will be told what the hard evidence is that Clause 10 actually addresses a significant wrong, rather than one being claimed as such.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for tabling Amendments 30 and 31 to Clause 10, which requires the Secretary of State to be satisfied that a child aged between five and 17 cannot reasonably acquire another nationality in order to be registered under the stateless child provisions. I also note the opposition to and concerns about this clause of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, should they not be satisfied by my response. In an ideal world, we would not need to include this clause, but current trends mean that we feel we must.

That goes to the question that the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, asked about the figures. In 2017, in the case of R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, even though the applicant was eligible for the grant of British citizenship under paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 to the BNA 1981, and despite the fact that they could acquire the nationality of their parents, the judge recognised that his conclusion

“opens an obvious route to abuse”.

The figures bear that out. In 2010 there were five cases; in 2018 they peaked at 1,775. There is obvious evidence that this is happening. I rest my case there.

Clause 10 has been developed in response to concerns that a number of non-settled parents, many of whom did not have permission to be in the UK at the time of their child’s birth, have chosen not to register their child’s birth with their own authorities in order to qualify under the current child statelessness provisions. This in turn can impact on the parents’ immigration status.

Amendment 30 would add a new condition to Clause 10, so that a child is defined as being able to acquire a nationality from birth only if there were no legal or administrative barriers to them doing so. That would mean that the parents I have talked about could, in theory, benefit from the stateless child provisions by not registering their child’s birth. In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, it is very easy to register a child’s birth. The parents simply need to complete a form and provide supporting information about their identity, status and residence and the child’s birth. I do not think that is difficult.

I appreciate that the noble Lord’s use of the term “barriers” might have been intended to suggest something more significant and assure him that the clause already reflects our expectation that children who cannot reasonably acquire another nationality should not be excluded. The UNHCR’s document Guidelines on Statelessness no. 4: Ensuring Every Child’s Right to Acquire a Nationality through Articles 1-4 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness recognises that the responsibility to grant nationality to children who would otherwise be stateless is not engaged where a child could acquire the nationality of a parent through registration or a simple procedure. The genuinely stateless child will not be affected. This is about those who can reasonably acquire another nationality. It is not about the Windrush generation—they are entitled to be British.

We do not think it is fair that parents can effectively secure a quicker route to British citizenship by choosing not to register their child’s birth. In doing so, they are depriving their child of a nationality, which is not only about identity and belonging, as I heard one noble Lord say, but can allow them to acquire a passport or identity document and the ability to travel overseas to see family, for example.

They are also taking advantage of a provision intended to protect those who are genuinely stateless. We want them still to be able to benefit, but we want to change the registration provisions so that parents cannot effectively choose statelessness for their children and then benefit from the provisions. We think it is appropriate that families should take reasonable steps to acquire a nationality for their child. We will set out in guidance the sort of steps that we think are reasonable, and applications will be considered on their individual basis.

Amendment 31 would mean that we could not regard a child as being able to acquire another nationality, and so decline their British citizenship application, if it would not be in the best interests of the child to gain that nationality. Noble Lords have pointed out the value they see in a child being able to secure and acquire a nationality, and it is difficult to see why parents might argue that it is not in their child’s best interests to share their status. We have already taken into account that some countries’ nationalities may be problematic for a child to acquire. The proposed clause reflects our expectation that a parent should not need to try to acquire a nationality for their child if it is not reasonable for them to do so.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who has explained that the amendment would remove Clause 80 from the Bill. It defines “key national infrastructure” for the purposes of the Government’s proposed offence of interfering with the operation or use of key national infrastructure. Of course, I was extremely disappointed that the House voted not to add this new offence to the Bill on Report. The proposed offence would help protect the British public from the misery that certain individuals targeting our key national infrastructure have been able to cause.

The Government fully defend the right to peaceful protest, but we stand behind the British public in protecting them from the serious disruption caused by some who think their right to protest trumps the rights of the public to go about their daily lives. That said, the fact remains that as your Lordships did not support the introduction of the new offence, we are not going to play games: what is now Clause 80 of the Bill is redundant, and, consequently, the Government will not oppose this amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I had moved the amendment and wanted to put it to the vote, and I hoped that the House would be prepared to accept it. I thank the Minister for what she has said.

Enforcement of Lockdown Regulations

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 18th January 2022

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord asks a perfectly legitimate question. To that I would say that the police are operationally independent of government, but the review and the investigation will take their course.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Do the Government currently believe that there has been equality of treatment between different groups in respect of the enforcement of lockdown regulations by the police since spring 2020? If the Government do not believe that that has been the case, what action are they taking now to address that point?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As I said to noble Lords, there clearly has been a disparity, with BAME people more likely to have fixed penalty notices issued to them. As I said, the NPCC is going to analyse that in more depth, and will report in due course.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Monday 17th January 2022

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, my name is also added to the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, which he moved so eloquently and comprehensively. I really do not want to take up any more of the House’s time, but simply say that we support this amendment and what was said by him, the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. If the noble Viscount is not happy with the response he gets and decides to test the opinion of the House, we will support him in the vote.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, these amendments relate to Clauses 59 and 60, which ensure—as was originally proposed by the right honourable Harriet Harman, as chair of the JCHR, to whom we send our deepest sympathies—that vehicular access to the Parliamentary Estate is not prevented by protests or other activity; and Clause 61, which restates the common-law offence of public nuisance in statute.

I begin with Amendments 133A and 133B in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, which I was able to discuss with him and Dominic Grieve last week. They seek to avoid a perceived outcome of Clause 59 that the Greater London Authority will no longer authorise large-scale assemblies on Parliament Square, due to the risk that such assemblies could obstruct vehicles entering or exiting the controlled area around Parliament.

I am most grateful to the noble Viscount for meeting me last week to raise his concerns about Clause 59. I understand that he is concerned that this clause may have the unintended consequences that the Greater London Authority, which is responsible for Parliament Square Garden, would no longer be able to authorise assemblies in the garden if they risk blocking vehicular access to the Parliamentary Estate. I reassure him tonight, as I did the other day, that this is not the case.

The GLA’s by-laws for Parliament Square Garden require that written permission is granted for certain acts to be conducted in the garden; organising or taking part in an assembly is one of those acts. It is important to note that this by-law applies to the garden itself and does not extend to Carriage Gates, nor the road around the garden. The by-laws state that permission will not be given in respect of any matter defined as a “prohibited activity” under Section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Clause 59 amends this section to include obstructing the passage of a vehicle into or out of an entrance or exit to the Parliamentary Estate as a prohibited activity.

In practice, this means that the GLA could not permit an assembly in Parliament Square Garden if its stated and primary aim is to obstruct vehicular passage in and out of Parliament. However, nothing in Clause 59 means that permission could not still be granted for any other assembly, even if that risks some individuals in attendance obstructing vehicles entering and exiting Parliament. This is the point I was trying to impress the other day.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, as the Minister said, government Amendment 15 clarifies that violence for the purposes of Part 2, Chapter 1 includes domestic abuse and sexual offences. We very much welcome these government amendments, the object of which has been a key issue for these Benches. It is a hugely important change to the Bill and an example of what can be achieved by this House, and indeed by Parliament as a whole, through proper scrutiny.

I too pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and to Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner, for the key roles that they played on this issue. I also pay tribute to my honourable friends Sarah Jones MP and Jess Phillips MP who began a campaign for this change when the Bill arrived in the Commons in March. This has been a cross-party, cross-House effort to ensure that these extremely serious, high-harm types of violence are recognised as such and are prioritised.

It has been mentioned that, although these amendments add domestic abuse and sexual violence to the definition, they do not specifically include stalking. Stalking that involves domestic abuse and sexual offences would be covered by the terms of these government amendments, which provide for the inclusion of violence against women and girls in the definition of serious violence. Of course, that does not include all cases of stalking. I hope and expect that we will hear from the Minister at some stage during the remaining stages of this Bill what the Government are doing to change the way we respond to stalking across the board.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Bertin for her comments. I share entirely my noble friend’s commitment to ensuring that best practice in this area is properly communicated to duty holders. That is what will make it effective. I look forward to working with the domestic abuse commissioner’s office and wider stakeholders to develop the statutory guidance which will be subject to public consultation following Royal Assent. We intend to develop options and include detail on monitoring progress in our statutory guidance. In addition, specified authorities will be requested to keep their strategy under review. PCCs will also have a discretionary power to monitor performance, and routine inspection programmes undertaken by individual inspectorates in future may also consider the organisational response to local serious violence issues.

As my noble friend and others will know, the statutory guidance under Clause 18 already includes references to sexual offences, domestic abuse and gender-based violence. In updating the guidance ahead of the consultation, we will explore whether we should revise it to make it clear to specified authorities that they should consider violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse and sexual offences, in determining what amounts to serious violence in their areas.

In terms of stalking, we are very clear that the reference to domestic abuse to be added by the government amendments will encompass stalking in so far as it takes place in a domestic abuse context. Noble Lords will know that while many stalking offences take place in a domestic abuse context or involve violent behaviour, it is not the case in all instances. We have not expressly set these out in the Bill because we are seeking to avoid an exhaustive list of crime types, partly to allow local areas to take account of new and emerging forms of serious violence as they develop and are identified, and partly to recognise the geographical difference in the prevalence of these types of serious violent crimes.

As I have said, the draft statutory guidance for the duty sets out that there is flexibility for local areas to take account of their evidence-based strategic needs assessment and include in their strategy actions which focus on other related types of serious violence, including gender-based violence, which includes all forms of stalking as well as many other forms of violence against women and girls. We can look to make that clearer in the next iteration of the guidance, which we will be consulting on, as I have said. This is a view shared by the domestic abuse commissioner, and I put on record—following my noble friend’s thanks—my thanks to her for her continued engagement in this area.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will endeavour to be brief. This group of amendments includes government concessions to include extra protections on doctor-patient confidentiality and healthcare data. They provide that the powers under the serious violence reduction duty do not authorise the disclosure of patient or personal information by a health or social care authority. We support the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, which, among other things, leave out the uncertain language in brackets in the Bill.

To be a bit clearer about it—although the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, explained it extremely well, as one would expect—the serious violence reduction duty requires data sharing between bodies, and the Bill currently provides that data cannot be shared if it would breach data protection laws. It qualifies that with:

“(but in determining whether a disclosure would do so, any power conferred by the regulations is to be taken into account)”.

An amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and others would delete the provision in brackets, so data protection law would apply as normal, as it does to medical professionals. A number of noble Lords have referred to other people or organisations who have contact and involvement with that same degree of confidentiality, and professional judgments on disclosure should apply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, referred to a meeting she had with the Minister and a letter she only very recently received. I assume that is the one dated 7 December. I appreciate the letter and thank the Minister for it but, reading the paragraph that relates to the bit in brackets that the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, seeks to delete, I struggle to understand the argument for having the part in brackets. Why is it necessary?

Why can we not simply leave it, with statements in other parts of the letter that make it clear that data can be shared, where it is lawful to do so, only under the data protection legislation? One would have thought that is surely all we needed to say—not to have something in brackets which I do not fully understand the need for, despite the letter from the Minister. I sense from what the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, is saying that she too struggles to understand why we need the bit in brackets at all. I have no doubt that the Minister will comment on that in her response.

Having said that, we welcome the concessions made by the Government on medical data and doctor-patient confidentiality. They show that the Government have accepted, up to a point, that the data-sharing powers in this chapter needed qualification. Data sharing, properly and intelligently done, with safeguards, can be absolutely key to tackling serious violence, to prevent silo working and some of the failures we have witnessed too many times. We have some concerns over the proposal to require all data shared under the duty to be anonymised, as there may be rare but crucial cases where information needs to be more specific to protect the vulnerable and pursue the criminal.

I come back to this point: in welcoming the concessions that have been made, we support what the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, is seeking to achieve, but we find the language in brackets—to which reference has been made—which appears to qualify the application of data protection law, to be unclear, and we really do not see why those words need to be there at all.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to this group of amendments, which concern the data-sharing provisions in Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for the time she has given me today and the discussion we have managed to have. I actually think we sneakily agree with each other—but not for the same reasons. Before responding to her amendments and those of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I will deal with the government amendments in this group, which, if I may take the mood of the House this evening, appear to have attracted broad support.

Information sharing between relevant agencies is essential to the effectiveness of the serious violence duty. It is very important to note that it can be shared only in compliance with data protection legislation. Nothing in this Bill either waters down that legislation or breaches it. The duty will permit authorities to share data, intelligence and knowledge to generate an evidence-based analysis of the problems in their local areas. In combining relevant datasets, specified authorities, local policing bodies and educational, prison and youth custody authorities within an area will be able to create a shared evidence base on which they can develop an effective and targeted strategic response with bespoke local solutions. We can see this in other areas where local bodies work together.

Each of the authorities specified in the legislation has a crucial role to play, and it is vital that authorities are able to share their data to determine what is causing serious violence in the local areas. For example, information sharing can contribute to local efforts by allowing authorities to identify patterns and trends, geographical hotspots and the most vulnerable victims, much in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, outlined.

Financial Fraud: Vulnerable People

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 2nd December 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks 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, I add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, for securing this very important debate and for all the very valuable points he has raised. I of course agree that we should protect people from fraud, particularly vulnerable people who are often targeted by callous and ruthless criminals. As he said, fraud is now the most common crime type in the country, accounting for some 40% of offences in the year ending June 2021, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. It is estimated there were 3.9 million victims of fraud in the same period.

As the noble Lords, Lord Vaux and Lord Davies of Brixton, said, we are all vulnerable to it. I almost became a victim of it a couple of weeks ago. It was not obvious that I was being scammed at first glance, but it nearly happened to me. Of course, the impact extends beyond financial losses. As the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Sharkey, said, the emotional and long-lasting harm that people can suffer is horrendous. Fraudsters can be very sophisticated and will exploit any means they can to trick innocent people out of their hard-earned money.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is absolutely right to point out the vulnerabilities during Covid, with so many people at home online, as opposed to out and about. For those who are very vulnerable, those impacts can be felt all the more, so we are focused on stopping unscrupulous fraudsters in their tracks and supporting victims so they can recover and protect themselves in future.

We are aiming to step up the whole-system response to fraud, which is the right way. While it is vital that we crack down on criminals behind scams, fixing the law enforcement response is just one part of the solution, as noble Lords have pointed out during today’s debate. To disrupt organised criminals and safeguard the most vulnerable, we need to prevent it from happening in the first place, as noble Lords have said. But we cannot, as government, do it alone. That is why the Home Office is working across government, law enforcement and the private sector—the private sector is really important in this—to better protect the public, reduce the impact on victims and ensure fraudsters are brought to justice.

To improve our collective response, we are leading work on the development of a comprehensive fraud action plan, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, knew I would mention, and we will it publish early next year. This will commit key partners in the public and private sectors to do more to tackle fraud. The plan will focus on public engagement to ensure that everyone, including those most at risk, understands the threat and therefore how best to protect themselves.

We know that those most vulnerable to fraud can become repeat victims—that is the horror of this. Despicably, they are placed on what is called a “suckers list” that is then sold on by ruthless fraudsters. It is essential that we improve victim support and make sure that everyone gets the information and help they need to protect themselves.

That is why we as the Home Office are working with the City of London Police to deliver a nationwide rollout of the National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit. It provides an important additional layer of support for people who report a fraud or cybercrime to Action Fraud—on which, more later—where their cases are not investigated by local police, and helps prevent repeat victimisation. The unit is currently supporting 20 forces, with a further rollout planned. As of October this year, it has helped support more than 160,000 victims, and since the start of this year has assisted in recovering almost £1.5 million that people had lost.

It is also very important that we bolster the local support available to vulnerable victims. To do that, the Home Office is supporting National Trading Standards in the rollout of fraud multiagency safeguarding hubs in England and Wales. These local hubs will improve the quality of care for fraud victims by bringing together multiple agencies that can work together to support them, making it easier for victims to navigate their way to getting the help they need. The national rollout follows a successful pilot in Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire during which more than £8 million was saved for individuals and society.

We continue to work extensively with the private sector effectively to “design out” fraud and stop vulnerable people being targeted in the first place. In October, we published three voluntary charters with the retail banking, telecommunications and accountancy sectors. These are partnership agreements to find innovative solutions that will drive down the level of fraud. New initiatives include: a pilot dynamic direct debit system that would introduce a banking authorisation step in applications for new telecommunications contracts, including mobile phone contracts, that have been applied for fraudulently or used for fraudulent purposes; a cross-sector plan to protect customers who have been subject to a data breach from becoming victims of fraud; and leveraging new technology to tackle the fraudulent practice of sending fake company text messages, known as “smishing”.

The progress of these charters will be closely monitored by the Joint Fraud Taskforce, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, which is chaired by the Security Minister and brings together senior partners from across the public and private sectors. We also intend to develop a suite of charters with other sectors that have a role to play in protecting vulnerable people from fraud, including tech and social media firms.

The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and others talked about the harms of the online world. The online safety Bill will provide further protection against fraud. Companies in scope will be required to take action to tackle fraud where it is facilitated through user-generated content. We expect this to have a particular impact on frauds such as romance scams, which cause significant psychological harm to victims.

The noble Lord, Lord Vaux, might stop shaking his head when I say to him and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, that we are also considering whether to impose tougher regulation on online advertising, because that may well be the gap that he talked about. We have heard the strength of feeling in the House and in the public domain. The Joint Committee on the Bill will report shortly, and we will examine its recommendations on this issue extremely carefully. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport—the DCMS—will also consult shortly on a range of proposals to tackle harms associated with advertising. It may have been the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, or the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, who commented on Google versus Facebook/Meta. I commend Google for what it has achieved. As for discussions with Facebook, I have lost count of the number of discussions that I have had. One thing that we said way back in the day was, “Look, if you don’t sort some of these problems out, we’re going to legislate to sort them out”—and this is where we are now.

On scam calls, as part of our response to fraud the Government are working with the telecommunications industry to tackle telephone-enabled fraud and break the business model of the criminals behind it. Through our joint telecommunications sector charter, providers have agreed a nine-point action plan to tackle fraud through scam calls. This includes commitments to identify and implement techniques to block scam calls and smishing texts. To protect those most vulnerable to telephone scams, DCMS provided £1 million over three years to National Trading Standards to fund the rollout of call-blocking devices to people across the UK. These help those most in need and provide 99% protection from nuisance and scam calls.

On phishing and smishing, we have been working to reduce the threat of phishing emails that can reach the most vulnerable. Last year the National Cyber Security Centre launched its suspicious email reporting service, which of course I encourage the public to use via report@phishing.gov.uk.

The noble Lords, Lord Sharkey and Lord Vaux, both mentioned APP scams, authorised push-payment fraud, where victims are tricked into handing over their money. This targets the most vulnerable with increasingly sophisticated scams that can have such a devastating impact on their lives. The Government are clear that the public should not be left out of pocket through no fault of their own. We have been working with the financial services industry to help tackle APP fraud, including through the implementation of initiatives such as Confirmation of Payee and the creation of the contingent reimbursement model code. Most high-street banks have now signed up to this voluntary code, which was designed to offer increased protection to the most vulnerable. Victims who use these banks will be entitled to reimbursement when they have taken the required steps to protect themselves, or if it is not reasonable to expect them to do so.

We really welcome the work that the industry has undertaken to date, including through this code, but it has clear limitations, including disparity in how different banks are interpreting their obligations and the fact that it does not cover all providers. As such, the Government are now engaging with the Payment Systems Regulator, the PSR, and industry on what more can be done to better protect customers. We welcome the PSR’s recent consultation on APP scams, which set out potential measures to reduce their impact, including mandatory reimbursement of victims. We now intend to legislate to address any barriers to mandatory reimbursement when parliamentary time allows.

Faster Payments, the UK’s real-time low-value interbank payments system, has been a great UK success story. In 2008 the UK was one of the first countries to launch a 24/7 real-time payments system, which now processes more than 3 billion payments a year. However, despite the speed and resilience it offers, banks already intervene in a variety of ways when they suspect fraud, including delaying the processing of payments and contacting customers. At this point I must give a shout-out to my bank, Lloyds, which has done that to me before.

On law enforcement and action fraud, we continue to work closely with law enforcement in line with recommendations from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. This includes working with City of London Police on a refresh and upgrade of the current action fraud service to improve victim experience and the law enforcement response.

To the question from the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on the contract, as I said, we are working on plans to refresh and upgrade the current action fraud service, and the competition to find a new commercial partner to deliver that service was launched in July this year. We expect the service to be improved in both usability and effectiveness, which noble Lords have pointed to. Also since last year, City of London Police have increased the number of staff in their call centre, and recent performance data has been quite encouraging, suggesting that between 94% and 98% of victims were satisfied with their service.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, made a point about the FCA. HM Treasury continues to work closely with the FCA to ensure that its duties and powers are sufficient to meet the threats in the financial sector. When I thought about this debate and saw the noble Baroness’s name, I thought, “She’s going to ask about whistleblowing—but in what capacity?” This year, the FCA launched its In Confidence, With Confidence campaign to encourage individuals working in financial services to report potential wrongdoing to the FCA, reminding them of the confidentiality that is in place. I totally agree with her on her point about non-disclosure agreements; that is one that we have discussed before.

Finally, on pension fraud, it is totally unacceptable and devastating that anyone should be cheated out of their savings and their plans for retirement. The Government are absolutely committed to protecting people from pension scams and pursuing those who perpetuate them. In the last two years, we have introduced a ban on pensions cold-calling and changes to the pension scheme registration process to stop fraudsters exploiting pensioners. The inclusion on fraud in the scope of the online safety Bill will also have a strong impact on preventing investment frauds.

I think that I have responded to all the points; if I have not, I shall write to noble Lords. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, once more for securing this important debate, and thank the not too many noble Lords who have taken part, because I think that has made it an effective discussion.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Minister said that she would respond to any questions that she had not replied to. Will that include my question: do the Government really think that they did enough to protect vulnerable people during the pandemic, bearing in mind the substantial increase in the number of fraud cases?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I most certainly will get back to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on those statistics, and any facts and figures I have for him for during that period, because it must have been a very vulnerable time for an awful lot of people.

Operation Warm Welcome

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

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Baroness gets to the heart of what an ideal system looks like, which is integration into communities. There is of course a community sponsorship scheme; I pay tribute to the Church of England, and the Catholic Church in my own area, for the work they have done on that. On what we are doing to incentivise, we are giving £20,500 to local authorities over three years to support each person’s integration. As I say, we are most grateful to those 323 local authorities which have pledged their support.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I believe the Minister said that there were 12,000 in hotels. How many have been resettled into permanent homes? I do not think she gave that figure but, as she said, there is no shortage of local authorities ready to provide support. There are of course issues with shortages in housing, for reasons that we all know. Is the scheme backed by full costs for a year going from central government to local councils?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We brought 15,000 people here and 12,000 are in bridging hotels. There is slightly more complexity to it than there being no shortage of offers, because some of the families are quite big. Sourcing accommodation suitable for large families is therefore perhaps more of a challenge than it might be. But we are working at pace and across government to try to get people permanent accommodation.

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2021

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

(8 months, 3 weeks 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, the Government are committed to protecting the people of this country, and tackling terrorism in all its forms is a critical part of that mission. As the House will be aware, following the tragic death of Sir David Amess last month and the explosion outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital earlier this month, the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre raised the threat level in the UK from “substantial” to “severe” on 15 November. A severe threat level means that an attack is highly likely. Terrorism poses a persistent and enduring risk to our way of life. Public protection is our number one priority, and we continue to work extremely closely with counterterrorism policing and intelligence and security agencies in this vital endeavour.

The Government’s position towards Hamas is well documented. Not only do we have a no-contact policy with the entirety of the group and currently proscribe the military wing; we also uphold the EU sanctions against Hamas in our new domestic regime in their entirety. The Government condemn Hamas’s indiscriminate and abhorrent rocket attacks and remain resolute in our commitment to Israel’s security. We continue to call upon Hamas permanently to end its incitement and rocket fire against Israel.

The threat posed by terrorist organisations varies depending on the group’s ideology, membership and ability to train members. Groups like Hamas focus on training their members in terrorism as well as preparing and committing terrible acts of violence against innocent members of the public. We have a duty to our allies as well as our own people to tackle groups that inspire and co-ordinate terror on the international stage. While we can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, we will always do all we can to minimise the danger it poses and keep the public safe.

Some 78 terrorist organisations are currently proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. Thanks to the dedication, courage and skill of counterterrorism policing and our security and intelligence services, most of these groups have never carried out a successful attack on UK soil. Proscription is a powerful tool for degrading terrorist organisations, and I will explain the impact that it can have shortly.

We propose to amend the existing listing of Hamas-Izz, al-Din, al-Qassem brigades—I am sure that I pronounced those completely wrongly—or Hamas IDQ, in Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 to cover Hamas in its entirety. Under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if she believes it is currently concerned in terrorism.

If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary may then exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. The Home Secretary considers a number of factors in considering whether to do so. The relevant discretionary factors for Hamas are the nature and scale of the organisation’s activities, the specific threat posed to British nationals overseas and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.

The effect of proscription is to outlaw a listed organisation and ensure that it is unable to operate in the United Kingdom. Proscription is designed to degrade a group’s ability to operate through various means, including enabling prosecution for the various proscription offences; underpinning immigration-related disruptions, including excluding members of groups based overseas from the UK; making it possible to seize cash associated with the organisation; and sending a strong signal globally that a group is concerned in terrorism and has no legitimacy.

It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, support or arrange a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation. It is also a criminal offence to wear clothing or carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation. The penalties for proscription offences are a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Given its wide-ranging impact, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after thoroughly reviewing the available evidence on an organisation. This includes open-source material, intelligence material and advice that reflects consultation across government, including with intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The cross-government proscription review group supports the Home Secretary in her decision-making process. The Home Secretary’s decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration of the particular case; it is appropriate that it must be approved in both Houses.

Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that Hamas in its entirety is concerned in terrorism and that the discretionary factors support proscription. Although I cannot comment on specific intelligence, I can provide the House with a summary of the group’s activities. Hamas is a militant Islamist movement established in 1987, following the first Palestinian intifada. Its ideology is related to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, combined with Palestinian nationalism. Its main aims are to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation, the establishment of an Islamic state under sharia law and the destruction of Israel. Although Hamas no longer demands the destruction of Israel in its covenant, the group operates in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Hamas formally established Hamas IDQ in 1992; the IDQ was proscribed by the UK in March 2001.

At the time, it was determined that there was a distinction between the political and military wings of Hamas and that the only part of the organisation which was concerned in terrorism and should be proscribed was the military wing. Over the last 20 years, Hamas’s so-called military and political wings have grown closer, with any distinction between them now considered artificial. The Government’s assessment is that Hamas is a complex but single organisation made up of constituent parts, one of which includes Hamas IDQ. It is clear that these constituent parts are not wholly independent of Hamas’s so-called political wing; they take strategic direction from it. There is also movement of key individuals across the organisation and a shared ideology. It is clear that the current proscription listing of Hamas does not reflect its true structure. That is why this order has been laid.

The Home Secretary has a reasonable belief that Hamas in its entirety is concerned in terrorism. It is our assessment that the group prepares for, commits and participates in acts of terrorism. There is also evidence that the group promotes and encourages terrorism. Indiscriminate rocket or mortar attacks against Israeli targets are key examples of Hamas committing terrorism. During the May 2021 conflict, over 4,000 rockets were fired indiscriminately into Israel. Civilians, including two Israeli children, were killed as a result. The rocket attacks also targeted airports and maritime interests.

We also know that Hamas frequently uses incendiary balloons to launch attacks from Gaza into southern Israel. There was a spate of such attacks during June and July of this year, causing fires and resulting in serious damage to property. These attacks were likely carried out by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is already proscribed.

Only last summer, Hamas launched camps in Gaza which focused on training groups, including minors, to fight. In a press statement, Hamas described the aim of these camps as to “ignite the embers of jihad in the liberation generation, cultivate Islamic values, and prepare the expected victory army to liberate Palestine”. This vile indoctrination of young people into the organisation’s violent ideology shows how diametrically opposed it is to our country’s core values.

This is not a commentary on the ongoing tension in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, nor is the action that we are taking a departure from the Government’s long-standing position on the Middle East peace process—I want to be very clear about that. We continue to support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. This decision is based on the Government’s assessment that Hamas, in its entirety, is concerned in terrorism and that proscription is a proportionate action to take, and nothing more. Having concluded that the distinction maintained in the list of proscribed organisations is artificial, it is right that we address it. Hamas, in its entirety, is a terrorist organisation. We must be clear on this to avoid conferring legitimacy on any element of the organisation.

It goes without saying that this Government do not provide any assistance to Hamas or the government structure in Gaza, which is made up of Hamas members. However, the proscription will not prevent aid reaching civilians in need. In Gaza, we have strong controls in place to monitor spending and ensure that aid sent into the region reaches its intended beneficiaries. I also want to stress that this action is aimed squarely at a terrorist group based abroad and does not target any part of the Palestinian diaspora or Muslim communities who contribute so much to our country. The Home Secretary and I are very clear that we will not tolerate hatred being directed towards any community. Hate crimes against any group or individual are utterly unacceptable, which is why the police and Crown Prosecution Service have robust powers to take action against perpetrators.

The enduring and wide-ranging nature of the threat from terrorism demands an agile approach and a comprehensive strategy. This includes confronting groups that participate in and prepare for acts of terrorism and that unlawfully glorify horrific terrorist acts. We must use every tool at our disposal to prevent them from stirring up hatred and division in our communities. We will never be cowed by those who hate the values that we hold dear. The safety and security of our public is our No. 1 priority. I therefore commend the order to the House.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The draft order amends Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 by changing the existing listing for—I will say—Hamas IDQ to cover Hamas in its entirety. I thank the Minister for her letter to me of 22 November on this proscription order. We agree with the proscription Motion and support the decision to proscribe Hamas in its entirety. The decision brings us into line with the European Union, the United States and Canada.

The Labour Government proscribed Hamas’s military wing in 2001 and made the assessment that there was at that time a meaningful distinction between the military and political wings. Having taken advice from the cross-government proscription review group, it is the Home Secretary’s assessment that this distinction is no longer meaningful. She has concluded that there is interconnectivity and co-operation between Hamas’s constituent parts and that Hamas’s constituent parts are not wholly independent of the so-called political wing of the organisation and take strategic direction from it. Hamas, the Government have said, is a complex but single terrorist organisation. As the Minister has said, the Government assess that Hamas commits and participates in terrorism, and the Minister has set out evidence for that conclusion.

The proscription also affects the ability to raise money and means significant restrictions on any activity here in the UK, but we need to remember that proscription is only one of the many measures available to us to tackle terrorism. In that regard, we express our thanks to our security services and emergency services for all the invaluable and effective work that they do in protecting us all.

Windrush Compensation Scheme

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

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Well, I think I associated myself with pretty much every point that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, made. As my noble friend said, the Windrush scandal is an injustice, and for decades no one did anything about it. We will do what we can as quickly as we can to ensure that people get the compensation that they deserve as soon as possible.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I come back to the point made by my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett about the delay and the four-year period. I do not think that my noble friend received any satisfactory explanation as to why it has taken so long. The Home Affairs Committee has called for the scheme to be transferred from the Home Office to an independent organisation, and a National Audit Office report into the compensation scheme found that the scheme was

“not meeting its objective of compensating claimants quickly”.

As I am sure that the Minister will be aware, on 21 June—some five months ago—the shadow Home Secretary called on the Government to give control of the Windrush compensation scheme to a new independent body following systematic mismanagement—that mismanagement being the delay and how few people have so far been compensated. I do not think we have heard any convincing answer as to why responsibility for the scheme should not be handed over to a new independent body.

Clearly the Home Office has failed; it has been criticised by the National Audit Office for that failure. We have had four years of delay. The Minister, on behalf of the Home Office, has not been able to tell us how many more years it will take the Home Office to complete this process. Can I urge her to go back to the Home Office and suggest that the management of the scheme is now transferred to a new independent body, as we called for five months ago, as the Home Affairs Committee has now also called for, and in the light of the National Audit Office report that said that people were not being compensated quickly?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thought that I had pointed out both the improvements to the compensation paid since we made changes in December and the difficulties in suddenly moving a scheme out of the Home Office to an independent body. It would not necessarily result in faster and higher payments. As I have said, neither the amount of the payment nor the length of time in which people can apply for compensation are capped.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Report will not be treated like a Committee stage, but I have no intention of moving amendments that this Committee intends to vote against, so I shall withdraw them.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Can I confirm, though, that we will be going on until such time as we conclude the Committee stage—that is, as far as today and the early hours of the morning are concerned? So if it takes until 2 am to get through this list, we will be here until 2 am, and if it takes till 4 am, we will be here till 4 am. What the Minister said was a statement of hope that we would finish tonight; it is not an undertaking from the Government that we will not go on beyond midnight, even. Can I be clear on that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We will finish Committee today—and, yes, a statement of hope is certainly what it is.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I will be very brief as the case for this amendment has been so eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and other noble Lords who have spoken. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, who unfortunately cannot be in her place tonight, and to the other noble Lords who are signatories to the amendment, for their tireless work on this issue. In that context, I also pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, who cannot be in the Committee today, for her dedication and years of leadership on this issue.

I know the Minister is also passionate about this issue, but for years the House has found itself returning to this debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, and each time the answer from the Government is largely that the current system is adequate although improvements are needed in how it is delivered. Yet each time we come back to it, more women have been killed and more lives devastated. This amendment has our wholehearted support, and I hope we can now look forward to a clear and encouraging response from the Government.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, for setting out this amendment calling for a strategy on stalking. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, pointed out, this can have a devastating impact on the victims that are pursued. I actually have much higher figures than those that noble Lords talked about today: an estimated 1.5 million people were victims of stalking in the last year. I assure noble Lords that this Government are utterly committed to protecting and supporting victims of stalking, as some of our work in the last few years demonstrates. We will do everything that we can to ensure that perpetrators are stopped at the earliest opportunity.

Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion

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

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The group led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, joined by the Catholic Church and the College of Policing, will determine what such a framework looks like. It was a surprise to me that this had not come up before, and therefore it needs some thinking about, including on whether changes are required to the guidance issued to police faced with such situations.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Our thoughts too are very much with the family and friends of Sir David Amess, particularly today. As has been said, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner have agreed to create a group reviewing last rites access for priests at crime scenes. Presumably, there is a need to ensure that a crime scene remains protected and not disturbed, and that the person seeking access is who they say they are. First, has this matter of access or lack of it for ministers of religion been a concern before and, if so, with representatives of which faiths? Secondly, is the question of such access presently covered by College of Policing or other guidelines?

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

Terrorist Incident at Liverpool Women’s Hospital

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

(9 months ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I express our gratitude to the emergency services, which had to deal and are still dealing with this awful incident and its aftermath, whether that incident be terrorism-related or not. I also pay tribute to the bravery and actions of David Perry, the driver of the taxi, and express the hope that his recovery proves to be full and complete. We have to be ever vigilant and proactive in combating and thwarting abhorrent acts of this kind.

I have just two questions. First, the Government have had a report on dealing with so-called lone actors. What are the Government doing with that report? We have called for a judge-led review. Secondly, in the Commons yesterday, Conor McGinn MP referred to a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee

“that included recommendations on the use of and construction of such devices—namely, regulation around the ingredients or chemicals used to make them.”

He asked:

“Why have none of those recommendations been implemented after four years?”—[Official Report, Commons, 16/11/21; col. 459.]


There was no answer from the Government yesterday. Twenty-four hours later, can the Government now give an answer to that question?

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.

Sarah Everard: Home Office Inquiry

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 9th November 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely right that there is inevitable overlap here. HMICFRS is already inspecting the Metropolitan Police Service in relation to vetting and countercorruption, at the Home Secretary’s request, and findings from this will feed into the broader inspection that she has asked HMICFRS to undertake across all forces. There is work ongoing in the Metropolitan Police Service and in the Home Office to respond to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel recommendations, and the Home Secretary has already committed to provide an update in due course. Of course, any relevant evidence from this work can then be considered by part 2 of the independent inquiry, which will look more broadly at standards in policing.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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We have made it clear that there must be a full statutory inquiry. The Government say that a statutory inquiry is too slow, yet the Home Office review of the Daniel Morgan case, which has already been referred to, took years, precisely because its work was made more difficult by the fact that the panel was not established under the Inquiries Act 2005, with its powers of compulsion. The evidence also indicates that the public spotlight of a statutory inquiry, and what it reveals during the hearings, promotes action while the inquiry is in progress and makes it harder for the final recommendations to be ignored or watered down, which is at least as important as any issue over the length of time the inquiry takes. Why do the Government continue to resist a full statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, in which the public can have full trust and confidence?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as I have said, given the need to provide assurance as swiftly as possible, this will be established as a non-statutory inquiry because we want to get to the stage where conclusions are reached and changes are recommended quickly. This cannot be an inquiry that takes years to get to that stage. A non-statutory inquiry allows for greater flexibility, can be tailored to the issues and is likely to be faster, but we are able to turn it into a statutory inquiry if need be.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be relatively brief. We had a lengthy debate on the previous day in Committee about Part 4 on unauthorised encampments, and expressed our strong concerns about what is proposed in Part 4. I will just reiterate a couple of points. Certainly, our understanding is that the police seem to think the existing law adequate; indeed, so do local government officers who have direct involvement with the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, put forward Amendment 150 on the basis that it is putting right a wrong. The obvious concern is that, in so doing, it creates new wrongs or new unfairness, not least in relation to the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, probably quite rightly said that much of the debate might suggest that this amendment was aimed at others, perhaps those involved in protests over GM crops or HS2. Certainly, it involves a change as far as the onus of proof of the accused is concerned. The noble and learned Lord said that he is not going to press the amendment to a vote in Committee. I hope I am not misrepresenting what he said, but I think he said he would wait for the Minister’s response before deciding how and if to progress the matter further. We have our concerns about Amendment 150 and what exactly it might mean, but at this stage we stand in the same position as him: we will wait to hear what the Minister says on behalf of the Government in response to Amendment 150. At the moment we have fairly strong reservations about its implications, but we will listen to what the Government have to say.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for her apologies, which in fact I got the other night. It was very courteous of her to give them.

Before I turn to whether Clause 63 should stand part of the Bill, let me deal with Amendment 150 in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, which relates to the offence of aggravated trespass, as he outlined. The effect of this amendment would be to introduce a statutory defence to the offence at Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as he explained. It would require the defendant to show that they were not trespassing, or that the activity which they intended by their trespass to obstruct or disrupt or cause intimidation in respect of was unlawful.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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This issue was also raised by my colleague, Ben Bradshaw MP, in the Commons. As has been said, exceptional hardship is the plea a person can use when charged with road traffic offences to avoid losing their licence if not being able to drive would cause them exceptional hardship. Obviously, as we have heard, the concerns about the system are that exceptional hardship is being agreed to too frequently for repeat offenders and in spurious cases.

What has quite clearly been asked of the Government —that is, what is being sought—is a tightening-up of the definition of exceptional hardship. I ask the Government to say in their response, first, whether, in their view, there is an issue with exceptional hardship being agreed to rather too frequently. Do the figures show that the number of times exceptional hardship is being agreed to is going up year by year? As I understand it, between 2011 and 2020, there were more than 83,500 cases where drivers did not receive a driving ban by pleading exceptional hardship. Do the Government have a feel for whether it is the case that instances of exceptional hardship being agreed to are increasing? Are they aware of any areas, perhaps in relation to courts, where there is what they regard as best practice, where the system is working well?

I remember once being told that “exceptional hardship” was something that people suffered, for example, at times of war. When it comes to the loss of a licence, perhaps we are talking more about a form of inconvenience than necessarily about hardship. Even in the more extreme case where somebody was able to persuade you that they would lose their job, presumably it is relevant to ask, “Well, that may be the case, but if it is for a short period of time, will the employer be prepared to live with it and give out other duties that do not involve driving?” Perhaps, if they are going to lose their job, it would suggest that the employer is not necessarily highly enamoured of their performance. But, even in a case where you might lose your job, it must surely be assessed against “exceptional hardship”: what would the individual’s prospects be at that time of getting another, completely different job that did not involve driving, if a ban would cause them to lose their job that involved driving?

I know that there are other instances where people come out with examples of it being almost impossible to get to work but where it turns out that, if they were prepared to get up an hour and a half earlier in the morning, they might be able to get there by public transport—but somehow it is regarded as an “exceptional hardship” to have to get up so much earlier to get there by public transport and it taking longer to get home. So I am aware of the way these arguments get used and put forward, and we need to be careful to draw a clear distinction between what is “exceptional hardship”, with a proper definition of “hardship”, and what may be closer to “exceptional inconvenience”.

I simply repeat what I asked earlier: do the Government have a feel for this one? Do they have any information on the extent to which “exceptional hardship” is being used and accepted more as an argument? Do they have any examples of where the wording is being applied in perhaps a more realistic manner, and are they looking to take action in this area? What is being asked for in this amendment is that we should tighten up the definition of what constitutes exceptional hardship. I await the Government’s response with interest.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her explanation of this amendment, which seeks to define the term “exceptional hardship” that applies in the context of a court’s decision on whether to impose a driving ban.

I reassure the Committee that the Government take road safety extremely seriously. Drivers who reach 12 points should automatically be disqualified from driving, to protect themselves and others. However, sentencing, including the imposition and length of a driving disqualification, is properly a matter for our independent courts, based on the facts of each case—we have heard of a number of interesting and diverse cases this evening. Courts have the discretion not to disqualify, or to impose a reduced disqualification, if they are satisfied that there are mitigating circumstances justifying a claim of “exceptional hardship”.

This amendment to introduce a definition of “exceptional hardship” is unnecessary, detrimental to judicial discretion and of questionable utility in assisting a court in applying the “exceptional hardship” test. It would introduce a narrow definition that would not be able to account for all circumstances that were presented to the courts and would remove the courts’ freedom to use their experience to reach decisions accordingly.

It might assist the Committee if I read out the sentencing guidance that is already in practice—from my mobile phone. It says:

“When considering whether there are grounds to reduce or avoid a totting up disqualification the court should have regard to the following … It is for the offender to prove to the civil standard of proof that such grounds exist. Other than very exceptionally, this will require evidence from the offender, and where such evidence is given, it must be sworn … Where it is asserted that hardship would be caused, the court must be satisfied that it is not merely inconvenience, or hardship, but exceptional hardship for which the court must have evidence … Almost every disqualification entails hardship for the person disqualified and their immediate family. This is part of the deterrent objective of the provisions combined with the preventative effect of the order not to drive … If a motorist continues to offend after becoming aware of the risk to their licence of further penalty points, the court can take this circumstance into account … Courts should be cautious before accepting assertions of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives (including alternative means of transport) for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable.”


It concludes by saying:

“Loss of employment will be an inevitable consequence of a driving ban for many people. Evidence that loss of employment would follow from disqualification is not in itself sufficient to demonstrate exceptional hardship; whether or not it does will depend on the circumstances of the offender and the consequences of that loss of employment on the offender and/or others.”


I hope the Committee found that guidance helpful.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that. The “gold-plate” quotation has been mentioned twice tonight, and I must confess that it was novel to me. I suspect that the answer is that, within anything such as the Equality Act or the Human Rights Act, there is interpretation—you could abide by every single aspect of it, or not. But I will write to the noble Baroness, because I think the Committee requires clarification on just what it means. It is too late to guess at this time of the night, so I will write to her.

Amendments 137 to 142, again in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would remove the “likely to cause” condition of the offence. We think this is an important element of the offence because provision that the offence can be caused if significant damage, disruption or distress is likely to be caused enables the police to intervene where people are suspected of repeatedly causing significant harms. This is particularly relevant in cases where those who cause damage move a short distance away, only to enter other land and cause more damage. It is only right that the police can intervene quickly in these cases of suspected serial criminal behaviour.

I point out that an offence based on likelihood of harm occurring or similar is not unique to these provisions, nor is it a novel requirement in criminal law. As for other offences, the factual circumstances and evidence of each case will determine whether a “significant” level of damage, disruption or distress has been caused or is likely to be caused, and this will be for the police—and ultimately, of course, the courts—to determine.

Amendments 143 and 144, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, would limit the maximum penalty for the offence to a fine of up to £2,500. We think that, given the nature of the conduct covered by this offence, it should be open to the courts to impose a custodial sentence of up to three months. Of course, it will be for the courts to decide the appropriate penalty in each individual case.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, tabled Amendment 145, which would seek to remove “insulting words or behaviour” from the definition of offensive conduct. As we indicated in our response to the JCHR, we believe that landowners should be protected from being insulted on their land, and the provision in Clause 62 mirrors that in the 1994 Act. It is only right that there is consistency within the law.

I turn now to Amendment 147, which would remove the vehicle seizure power from the offence. Seizure powers are already conferred on the police in relation to a person’s failure to comply with a police direction to leave land under the trespass provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It is right that police should have an equivalent power in the context of the new criminal offence where the level of harm is significant for the offence to be committed before police would consider using, and are able to use, seizure powers. If people do not commit significant harms, or leave when asked, they will not be caught by the offence and will not risk having their vehicle seized. Without the power to seize vehicles, enforcement action is likely to be hindered, and the harms can continue while people and vehicles remain on the land.

Police decisions to seize vehicles should continue to be taken in consultation with the local authority, where appropriate. As is the case for existing provisions, the local authority would need, where possible, to offer assurance that they have relevant measures in place to meet any welfare and safeguarding needs of those affected by the loss of their accommodation, particularly the vulnerable, before police take enforcement action.

We expect police will continue to undertake any enforcement action in compliance with their equality and human rights obligations and will continue to consider harm to local amenities, the local environment and the rights of nearby residents.

Where a decision is made not to charge the person, the police must return the property as soon as is practicable. If at any time a person other than the suspect satisfies the police that property that is retained belongs to the person at that time, and belonged to them at the time of the suspected offence, then the police must return the property to the person.

Amendment 149 seeks to reintroduce a statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. The Government’s aim is to increase the provision of Traveller sites in appropriate locations and to maintain an appropriate level of supply. The planning system, taken as a whole, is capable of meeting the needs of the Traveller community. It places sufficient requirements on local authorities for what they must do to provide sites.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser said, a duty to provide sites was introduced in 1968. As more sites were needed, the basis on which the duty was introduced changed. Like the rest of the population, most Travellers aspired to own their own home and to live on a private, rather than a public, site. In recognition of this, planning policy seeks to promote more private site provision, while recognising that not all Travellers can afford their own site. Local authorities and social housing providers are able to bid through the £11.5 billion affordable homes programme 2021-26 for the funding of new sites.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked when the GRT strategy was due. I understand that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities—now affectionately known as DLUHC—is working closely with other government departments to progress the strategy, which will be published in due course. I know the noble Baroness is going to roll her eyes at that because she does not like that term “in due course”. We remain firmly committed to its delivery.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, brought up the numbers. The Traveller caravan count is a count of caravans, rather than sites. None the less, it should be recognised that, in January 2020, there were 6,506 Traveller caravans on sites provided by local authorities and private registered providers in England. This was an increase of 10% on the 1994 Traveller caravan count. As of January 2020, the number of authorised transit pitches had increased by more than 40% since January 2010.

Finally, Amendment 151 seeks to provide that the guidance to be introduced under Clause 64 should be subject to the negative procedure, as recommended by the Delegated Powers Committee. We are carefully considering all the Delegated Powers Committee’s recommendations. We will respond to its report ahead of the next stage. In coming to a final view on its recommendation in relation to Clause 64, we want to take into account the Government’s broad approach to parliamentary scrutiny of statutory guidance such as this. In a letter to the DPRRC in October 2018, my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal said:

“There is a vast range of statutory guidance issued each year and it is important that guidance can be updated rapidly to keep pace with events. There is nothing to prevent Parliament from scrutinising guidance at any time. I certain exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate for guidance to be laid before Parliament or be subject to the negative procedure.”


It is our firm belief that the new offence provided for in Clause 62 is appropriately framed. It targets significant harms, not simply the act of residing in a vehicle on land without permission. As I have said, the new offence delivers on a clear manifesto commitment to strengthen the protection to communities from unauthorised encampments. I apologise to noble Lords for that quite lengthy explanation. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, will withdraw her amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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From the Minister’s reply on behalf of the Government, I rather inferred that the Government were confirming that the police can seize a vehicle, even if it is a family home and leaves people homeless. I should like the Minister to confirm that this can happen under the terms of this Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am just looking for my wording now. I think that what I said to the noble Lord in reply is that the police should take into account welfare considerations where possible and should liaise with local authorities regarding suitable accommodation, just as they currently do. They should give full consideration to their responsibilities under the public sector equality duty, as well as to the potential impact that issuing a direction to leave, or utilising powers of arrest and seizure, may have on the families involved before reaching a decision on taking enforcement action. If I could just complete my last sentence, obviously each case should be considered on its own merits.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I hope the Minister will forgive me for saying this but that is a lot of words. I read into it that, under the terms of the Bill, despite all those words, the police can seize a vehicle even if it is a family home and results in homelessness, because nowhere did the Minister say that they cannot do so.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct, but the police would have to take into account the various factors that I set out. Obviously, each case is different.

Refugees: Status

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 2nd November 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a very pertinent point about the effects of migration during the last few years. Different climate events in different countries are accelerating this process and the conflicts to which it might lead. Since 2015, we have resettled more than 25,000 men, women and children who have sought refuge from persecution across the world. Some 36,000 visas have been issued under the refugee family reunion rules. We aim to resettle 5,000 people a year under the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme and a further 5,000 a year under the global resettlement scheme. We have been extremely generous. All of us must play our part.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we support the view of my noble friend Lord Dubs on this issue. However, if it is the Government’s view that asylum seekers must apply for refugee status in the first safe country they reach, is it therefore also their view that asylum seekers reaching—or trying to reach—this country via France, cannot be sent back there without French agreement, if it was not the first safe country they had reached or through which they had travelled?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we are making the point that France is a safe country.

Police: Recruits

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 28th October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, the police uplift programme—I gave the figures in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett—will enable the police to tackle crime in their areas. I understand the noble Lord’s concern over the report, but I am sure an action plan for improvement will be in place, and the numbers of new recruits should certainly help across the country in reducing crime and keeping the public safe.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I come back to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Blunkett. Am I to infer from the answer given that, despite recent abhorrent events and disclosures, no actual changes have yet been made in the vetting and monitoring process for new recruits to the police service? If I am wrong in saying that, could the Minister spell out what changes have already been made to this process?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I outlined the scope of the inquiry and the two parts that the Home Secretary has announced. Part one will look at the vetting procedures to see if they are inadequate in light of what happened to Sarah Everard and how her killer managed to do what he did. The inquiry will look at precisely that.

Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 28th October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Government had 18 months to prepare for withdrawal but clearly did not. It is over two months since the Afghan citizens settlement scheme was announced but it has still not been opened, yet the lives of those left behind in Afghanistan are at stake.

The Government’s Statement says that some of the people already evacuated will form the first part of the 5,000 people being resettled under the resettlement scheme. How many of the 5,000 places in the first year have in reality already been filled by people already in this country? What is the exact financial package that councils housing those evacuated will definitely receive, and when?

Finally, the Commons Minister said that approximately 11,000 people were still in bridging hotels and agreed that actions to target them by far-right extremists were unlawful and illegal. How many arrests have been made of those targeting Afghan refugees in bridging hotels?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, it is fair to say that the Government worked at pace. In particular, there were officials in the Home Office who worked almost day and night to facilitate the largest and most complex evacuation in living memory. They were assisting the Ministry of Defence and the FCDO to help more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan to safety in the UK.

Currently, a huge programme of work is under way across government to ensure that Afghans brought to the United Kingdom receive a warm welcome and the vital support that they need to build brighter futures in our country. That work spans across government, charities, other organisations, local authorities—as the noble Lord pointed out—and communities. The aim is to give Afghans arriving here the best possible start to life in the UK while making sure, as the noble Lord said, that local services can work effectively to support people.

On the local authority effort, we have had over 200 pledges from local authorities and have housed over 1,700 individuals. I can clarify that that is under ARAP.

On local authority funding, councils that support people through the ACRS, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, or the Afghan relocations and assistance policy, or ARAP, will receive £20,520 per person over three years for resettlement and integration costs. Local councils and health partners that resettle families will also receive up to £4,500 per child for education, £850 to cover English language provision for adults requiring this support, and £2,600 to cover healthcare. A further £20 million-worth of flexible funding will be made available to support local authorities that have higher cost bases with any additional costs in the provision of services. In addition, the previously announced Afghan housing costs fund will increase from £5 million to £17 million and will run for two extra years to help local authorities to provide housing and to give certainty that funding will be available in future.

The funding and support will be modelled on the VPRS, or vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, which resettled over 20,000 refugees who fled conflict in Syria over a seven-year period from 2014 to this year.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The hour is late. Because these things are so important, I will reiterate them in a letter to the noble Lord.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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First, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I also thank the Minister for her detailed response. I do not think she need apologise in any way for the length of it, since I am sure noble Lords would rather have a full response to the points that have been made than a shortened response. Like other noble Lords, I will read carefully in Hansard everything she had to say in reply to my amendments, as I am sure other noble Lords will in relation to their amendments. This part of the Bill has certainly been improved by the government amendments, which we welcome. But, equally, it can and should be further strengthened and improved.

There are a number of outstanding issues of concern, which I and other noble Lords have raised this evening and which I know Minister is aware of. I hope that she will agree to further discussions between now and Report on those issues of concern that have been raised in this debate. I know that the Minister is usually very open to holding such discussions—I see she is nodding—and will agree to that, as I say, between now and Report.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for raising the issue of medical confidentiality. She said the amendments provide that in exercising the serious violence duty, an authority or individual could not share or be required to share any information that would breach doctor-patient confidentiality as set out in the General Medical Council ethical guidance on confidentiality. One of the amendments would also remove clinical commissioning groups and local health boards from the list of authorities that are subject to the serious violence duty under Part 2 on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime.

As has been said, Clause 9 gives the Secretary of State the power to authorise by regulations the disclosure of information by or to a prescribed person, a specified authority or local policing body, an education authority, a prison authority and a youth custody authority. While the Bill states in Clause 9 that such regulations

“must provide that they do not authorise a disclosure of information that … would contravene the data protection legislation”,

that does not relate to a breach of any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure in respect of which the requirement is only that the regulations “may” provide that such a disclosure does not result in a breach.

Clause 15 on the disclosure of information provides for the disclosure of information but states:

“A disclosure of information authorised by this section does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure”.


Yet, as has been said on more than one occasion today, it is the common-law duty of confidentiality that helps to uphold the trust of patients in health services, which can be extremely hard to gain and extremely easy to lose.

Clause 16, on the supply of information to local policing bodies, states:

“A local policing body may … request any person listed … to supply it with such information as may be specified in the request”,


but

“a person who is requested to supply information … must comply with the request”

and:

“A disclosure of information … does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure”.


That sounds more like a demand than a request. The only caveat is that compliance with the request for information does not require a disclosure of information that would contravene the data protection legislation, although even then

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, the duty imposed by that subsection is to be taken into account”.

The subsection in question is the one that the person so requested to supply information must comply with the request.

Could the Minister give a couple of examples of what that means in practical terms? What do the words

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, the duty imposed by that subsection is to be taken into account”

actually mean in hard, practical terms?

Maybe I am wrong, but Clause 16 appears to legally require clinical commissioning groups and local health boards to provide confidential health information to the police, and Clauses 9 and 15 would grant CCGs and LHPs permission to share confidential health information with a wider list of recipients such as councils and educational authorities, as well as the police. Perhaps the Minister will put our minds at rest on this, but on the face of it this appears to introduce a mandatory blanket obligation for clinical commissioning groups and local health boards to share confidential health information with the police, replacing, as has been said, the existing system, which allows healthcare professionals to disclose confidential information on public interest grounds on a case-by-case basis if it is necessary for the prevention, detection or prosecution of serious crime or where there is an imminent risk of serious harm to an individual.

I hope the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, can address in her response the concerns that have been raised, and say what safeguards would prevent confidential medical information being inappropriately made available under the Bill, beyond the existing criteria, guidance and procedures for such disclosure in relation to public interest grounds. If the Government are saying—I am not entirely clear whether they are or not—that the present arrangements are not properly working or are no longer appropriate in today’s world, perhaps there is a need for further discussions by the Government on this aspect of the Bill to make sure that we get any change in the law right and maintain what has been referred to in today’s debate as “the right balance”.

We need to know far more about the real reasons for the change the Government are proposing, what its implications are and how it will be interpreted and applied under the terms of the Bill. I, too, hope the Minister will agree to further discussions on this issue in view of the concerns that have been raised and which are certainly worthy of a full and detailed response with examples.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate; it has been incredibly informative. On the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about further discussions, and as requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I am very happy to convene a meeting. On that note, officials have met the GMC to discuss the data-sharing clauses. They have agreed to support the drafting of the statutory guidance and officials have also offered to meet the BMA, but a date has not been fixed. I would like to schedule the meeting that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness request, and it would be great if they would join it.

On the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about a police-led approach, in the serious violence duty draft guidance it is writ really quite large that this is not led by one agency or another but is a shared endeavour towards a public health approach. There are two pages on that, and I think the noble Lord might find that really helpful. At this point, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for both giving the benefit of his experience and bringing balance to the debate; “balance” seems to be a word quite often used in this debate.

Information sharing between relevant agencies is absolutely essential to the discharge of the serious violence duty. The issue before us is how such information sharing, particularly when it relates to personal data of identifiable persons, is properly regulated, and the scope of any restrictions on data sharing. I recognise that there are concerns, particularly in respect of patient information, and that we need to examine them carefully, but I am also concerned that at least some of these amendments seek to significantly weaken the provisions in Chapter 1 of Part 2. Amendment 54 is a case in point. It would have the effect of removing specified health authorities—clinical commissioning groups or CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales—from Schedule 1 and consequently remove the requirement for such authorities to participate in the preparation and development of local serious violence strategies.

I know that noble Lords would agree that the health sector has a very important contribution to make to local partnership working to prevent and reduce serious violence. The provision of local health data will be necessary to take a comprehensive view of the levels of violence being brought to the attention of services in a local area. Local health services may also be involved in the implementation of local strategies, for example where health-related support services are to be commissioned for those at risk of or involved in serious violence. I therefore do not think that it is appropriate to remove specified health authorities from this part of the Bill.

On the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, I would like to be clear that the information-sharing provisions under the serious violence duty do not place any mandatory requirements directly on GPs, doctors or other practitioners to disclose information that they hold. The power to disclose information in Clause 15 applies to information held by CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales, as they are specified authorities. Local policing bodies can request information under Clause 16 from CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales only when it relates to them, their functions, or functions they have contracted out, and only where that information is for the purposes of enabling or assisting the local policing body to exercise its functions under Clause 13 of the Bill. I think that was the point that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, referred to, unless I am wrong.

Confidential patient information can already be lawfully disclosed in the public interest where that information can be used to prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime. However, such decisions about whether disclosures of confidential patient data are justified must always be made on a case-by-case basis, in line with data protection legislation, which is also the case for the serious violence duty provisions.

On the common-law duty of confidentiality, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about balance was really pertinently made. So many crimes that we can all think of, particularly against children—he mentioned a case that involved children—could have been avoided had practitioners shared relevant information. Existing statutory guidance on the Care Act 2014 already signals specific circumstances where the common-law duty of confidentiality and data protection legislation would not be contravened by the sharing of personal data—for example, where there is an overriding public interest.

Confidentiality can be overridden if there is a necessity—namely, abuse or neglect. Ordinarily, consent should be obtained but, where this is not possible, practitioners must consider whether there is an overriding public interest that would justify information sharing—namely, risk of serious harm. Again, that point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. Confidential patient information can already be lawfully disclosed in the public interest where that information can be used to prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime. However, such decisions about whether disclosures of confidential patient data are justified must always be made on that case-by-case basis.

I hope that I have provided some reassurance on this matter. As I indicated at the start, I know that there are particular sensitivities about sharing patient information, but, having heard the concerns, I will reflect carefully on this debate and convene the meeting that noble Lords requested ahead of Report. I hope that, with that, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be relatively brief, for two reasons. The first is the time. The second is that many of these issues were raised in our earlier debate on medical confidentiality.

The amendments in my name in this group would remove provisions in a number of clauses in this chapter of the Bill, allowing for obligations of confidence and restrictions on the disclosure of data to be breached. They target the same provisions that have already been raised by noble Lords in this debate. At this stage, the intention of my amendments is to probe the intended effect of these powers.

As we have heard, the Bill provides:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations authorise the disclosure of information”


between authorities involved in the serious violence duty. Clause 9(4) provides that those regulations

“may provide that a disclosure under the regulations does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure, or … any other restriction on the disclosure of information”.

Subsection (5) goes on to qualify this somewhat, stating that the regulations must

“not authorise a disclosure of information that … would contravene the data protection legislation”.

However, it then provides that,

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, any power conferred by the regulations is to be taken into account”.

What restrictions do the Government envisage being breached under the provision for “any other restriction” in Clause 9? What restrictions do they mean? Do these provisions differ from what is in place for existing duties that require joined-up working? The Bill states that the one restriction the regulations are not intended to breach is data protection legislation but, as I have said, it then seems to suggest that this will be qualified by the powers under the Bill. Can the Government expand on that in their response? In what way should

“any power conferred by the regulations”

be taken into account? Can the Minister give some examples?

The sharing of information and the prevention of silo working are, as has been said, vital for tackling crime and for safeguarding purposes. We have heard in previous groups, not least from my noble friend Lady Blake of Leeds on housing provision, what can happen when services are not able to work together to put necessary or urgent support in place. However, the wording in the Bill has given rise to considerable concern in organisations working on these issues, as has been said already. I will not repeat the points already raised but will touch briefly on a few issues before I conclude.

First, one of the key concerns that has been raised by organisations, and which was raised again during the debate this evening, is the erosion of trust that is risked if people feel that private information about them may be passed on in unexpected ways. In particular, there is a risk of young people feeling they cannot build the relationships of trust with social workers, teachers or service providers which are absolutely irreplaceable for preventing violence and keeping those young people safe. Do the Government recognise that risk that breaches of trust risk make it harder to achieve the aim of reducing violence? Who makes the decision about when it is or is not in a young person’s best interest that information is shared, an issue which my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti raised in an earlier debate?

Secondly, later in the Bill, we will spend time debating provisions to protect the privacy of victims of crime. This section explicitly defines

“becoming involved in serious violence”

as including victims of crime. How will these data-sharing provisions impact the victim of crime?

Finally, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Information Commissioner’s Office have both reported significant problems with the Met’s gangs violence matrix, an existing tool to identify and risk assess individuals involved with gangs. The key issues included the disproportionate inclusion of young black males on the matrix, and data protection, including serious data breaches. What proactive learning has been undertaken from the experience of the gangs violence matrix to prevent the same problems arising again under the provisions of this Bill?

I said I would be brief; I hope I have achieved that. Like other noble Lords, I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his brevity and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords for setting out the case for these amendments. The noble Baroness put forward Amendments 34 and 60 which seek to avoid possible conflicts with competing duties. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, the arguments put forward in this debate are very similar to those discussed in relation to earlier amendments.

To engender an effective multiagency approach to preventing and reducing serious violence, we need all the relevant parts of the system taking equal responsibility and playing their part. The specified authorities for the serious violence duty, being the police, local authorities, probation, youth offending teams and fire and rescue authorities, clinical commissioning groups in England and local health boards in Wales, have been intentionally chosen because of the direct link between the work they already do and the need to prevent and reduce serious violence. Therefore, I do not feel it is necessary or correct to provide such authorities with the opportunity to be exempted from the serious violence duty, as we expect that it would complement the existing duties of such authorities rather than conflict with them.

I understand that there are wider concerns that this duty may breach other duties of the specified authorities, such as duties of confidence, the point most frequently mentioned, and I will come to address those shortly. However, I think that Amendment 34 would unhelpfully weaken the impact of the serious violence duty.

Similarly, in relation to Amendment 60 to Clause 14, we have intentionally required the initial collaboration between specified authorities and education, prison and youth custody authorities as part of the preparation of the local strategy in order to ascertain whether any such institution ought to be involved in the implementation of the strategy or, indeed, need not be involved, as the case may be. This is a crucial step in ensuring that the institutions which are affected by serious violence will be drawn into the work of the local partnership without placing unnecessary burdens on those which may not. Therefore, I do not think that such authorities should be able to opt out of this consultation, given that it would ultimately be in their interests to engage with the specified authorities at this stage in order to ascertain whether their future engagement in the strategy’s implementation will be required.

I understand Amendment 35 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to be a probing amendment about the relationship between the serious violence duty and the work of crime and disorder partnerships. I agree that crime and disorder reduction partnerships can and do play a vital role in ensuring community safety and reducing violent crime locally, but I do not think that they are or should be the only partnership model responsible for doing so. Again, the draft guidance makes it very clear in that context. The geographical reach of such partnerships might mean that they are not the optimum partnership model in all areas, which is why we have intentionally built in flexibility to allow local areas to choose the most appropriate multiagency structure to deliver this duty. However, I recognise that they have a key contribution to make to local efforts. That is why, in addition to creating a new duty, we will be amending the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to include a requirement for crime and disorder reduction partnerships to have in place a strategy for preventing and reducing serious violence. Such a strategy would in any case meet the requirements of the serious violence duty if all relevant partners specified in the Bill are involved in its development and implementation.

The other amendments in this group bring us back to information-sharing. It might assist the Committee if I recap why we have included provision for the disclosures of information. The serious violence duty proposes to permit authorities to share data, intelligence and knowledge in order to generate an evidence-based analysis of the problem in their local areas. In combining relevant data sets, the specified authorities, local policing bodies and educational, prison and youth custody authorities within an area will be able to create a shared evidence base, upon which they can develop an effective and targeted strategic response with bespoke local solutions. Each of the authorities specified in the legislation has a crucial role to play, and it is vital that authorities are able to share their data to determine what is causing serious violence in their local areas. For example, information-sharing can contribute to local efforts by allowing authorities to identify patterns and trends, geographical hotspots and the most vulnerable victims. This data should be regularly reviewed by authorities to determine the effectiveness of the interventions they put in place at a local level.

I shall explain what we mean by information-sharing in this context. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked a pertinent question. Clause 15 will create a new information-sharing gateway for specified authorities, local policing bodies and education, prison and youth custody authorities to disclose information to each other for the purposes of reducing and preventing serious violence. I must be clear that this clause will permit, but not mandate, authorities to disclose information to each other. It simply ensures that there is a legislative basis in place to enable information to be shared between all authorities exercising functions under Chapter 1 of Part 2. However, the clause ensures that any disclosures must be made in compliance with data protection legislation and cannot be made if certain prohibitions on disclosure set out in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 apply.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked for examples of data types that may be shared by partners. To be fair, he asked me that under a previous group as well and I completely forgot to answer him, so I hope to combine the two answers in one at this point. Examples include hospital data on knife injuries, the number of exclusions and truancies in local schools, police recorded crime, local crime data, emergency call data, anonymised prison data, areas of high social services interventions, and intelligence on threats such as county lines, including the activity of serious organised crime gangs in drugs markets. I hope the noble Lord finds that information helpful.

Metal Theft

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 14th October 2021

(10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The British Transport Police has plans whereby SmartWater would cover any shortfall in the funding required to stamp out this theft. There are a number of different innovations that are helping, and clearly the overall driving-down of theft is very helpful.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The newly launched National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership is looking to pick up where the National Metal Theft Taskforce left off when it was prematurely disbanded in 2014, following what the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, told this House on 26 June 2019 was the “successful implementation” of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2014. In light of the figures that my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester gave, which I do not intend to repeat, do the Government stand by their view that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act is being successfully implemented?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We at the Home Office carried out a review of the Act in 2017 and found that it had been effective in addressing metal theft and should be retained, but now on top of this we have the NICRP, and I hope that the combination of the two will help drive down what is in many cases the very dangerous activity of metal theft, given the types of metal that they target.

Black Dog Crisis Management Company

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Monday 11th October 2021

(10 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, these issues are often dealt with internally. This incident was one of some complexity and was quite novel in its aspect. That was why the STA was sought.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Is that the only occasion on which this company has been used by the Home Office? What changes were made as a result of the investigative work that it carried out? How many other departments apart from the Home Office find it necessary to use Black Dog Crisis Management to get them out of a mess?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It is my understanding that this company has been engaged previously by the Home Office. I can get the noble Lord some stats on other government departments if he wishes.

EU Borders: Refugees from Afghanistan

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 9th September 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Let me clarify: no, that is not the case at all. If anyone has been accepted through the ARAP scheme or Operation Pitting, they can go to a VAC or be processed in any country in the world, so I am absolutely not saying that. What I am saying is that if someone is not coming through a legal route, they should claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I think that the answers to the last few questions show the difficulties since the Government have not yet outlined the full details of the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme, confirmed when it will begin or confirmed how many people are expected to join it. We are seeing some of the difficulties arising from that. The Government’s responsibility to Afghan citizens who have worked closely with our troops over the past 20 years extends beyond giving them the basic right to settle in the UK. The Home Office and other departments must surely support their integration into British life by beginning to help them to find permanent accommodation. In their Statement on Afghanistan this week, the Government said:

“Years before this episode, we began to fulfil our obligation to those Afghans who had helped us”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/9/21; col. 21.]


Can the Minister say how many evacuated Afghans are currently being housed in hotels and other temporary accommodation, and how many are now in permanent accommodation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord raises the issue that many of the people who have now arrived here are still in quarantine; many of the people whom we have flown here will be in quarantine until tomorrow, I think. He is absolutely right that it must be a prime consideration that those people can eventually be found permanent accommodation.

EU Bilateral Agreements for Asylum Seekers

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Monday 6th September 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I absolutely dispute that. We have granted protection or other forms of leave to 2,742 children alone, and to more than 47,000 since 2010. As I previously said, in 2020, the UK received the second highest number out of all European countries—nearly 3,000—of asylum applications from unaccompanied children.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, there appear to have been agreements involving money reached with the French authorities in connection with what the Government regard as irregular migrants who are trafficked across the channel in small boats. First, how much has been paid to the French authorities over the past five years and how much is still due to be paid? Secondly, since record numbers of people fleeing desperate situations have already crossed the channel this year, against what specific criteria do and will the Government assess whether that money paid has or has not delivered on whatever it is the Government expect from the French in return?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I fear that I do not have details of payments made to the French, but I can say that, so far this year, up to 25 August, our co-operation with French law enforcement has helped to prevent more than 10,000 migrant attempts. That compares to just over 4,000 for the previous period, in 2020. Clearly, how we are working together is having some effect.

Zimbabwe: Human Rights

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I can confirm to the noble Lord that it is government policy to deport foreign national offenders who have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more. We are not trying to distract from human rights issues. Regarding the flight that departed last night, 50 were due to be on it; 14 were returned and 44 submitted last-minute claims.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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The Home Office has a poor record in relation to Covid-19 safety, having already been warned by the High Court about its approach to the asylum system in this regard. Following what happened at Napier barracks, what is the position at the Brook House immigration removal centre? Is it that there has been at least one confirmed positive Covid-19 case? Were any of those on the scheduled deportation flight to Zimbabwe, whom the Government said were all foreign national offenders, people who were awaiting a Covid-19 test result; had tested positive themselves; or should have been, or were, self-isolating for 10 days because they had come into contact with somebody with Covid-19?

Police and Crime Commissioner By-election

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 15th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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My noble friend is right; they are incredibly stringent. They were set out in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and would, of course, require primary legislation to be amended. That is not within the scope of the Cabinet Office Elections Bill. My noble friend outlines that there certainly appear to be gaps in the process, and the Cabinet Office is looking at that.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Previous convictions do not necessarily preclude anyone from appointment as a police officer, as account can be taken of the nature and circumstances of the offence, age at the time the offence was committed and the number of years since the offence was committed. Neither do previous convictions for an imprisonable offence preclude a person becoming Home Secretary, and thus accountable to Parliament for the police and having regular direct contact with chief constables and commissioners, as happened following the pulling down of the Colston statue in Bristol and repeatedly during the Sarah Everard vigil in London. In view of this, do the Government really have no plans to review the strict rules on convictions for an imprisonable offence that preclude people from standing for and taking up the position of police and crime commissioner?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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I remind the noble Lord that the high standard was set with cross-party agreement and with the support of senior officers, because PCCs hold police forces, whose duty is to uphold the law, to account.

Domestic Abuse: Older People

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 14th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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My Lords, that is a very valid question in light of the legislation we have just passed. I do not know the overall figures for non-fatal strangulation but certainly we saw it as sufficiently worrying that we passed legislation to ensure that it was outlawed. In terms of people over 65, the House will know that over-75s are now being included in ONS statistics. I think that is a very good move.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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During the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, tabled amendments on ensuring that local authorities recognised and reported abuse of older people and ensuring entry powers for social workers in situations where abuse is suspected. The Government argued that neither amendment was necessary as the necessary training and powers already exist. However, training to recognise older victims of abuse can be piecemeal across different public bodies and agencies. What is being done, and by whom, to ensure that people in public-facing roles are properly trained to recognise and report such abuse?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord raises a really valid point: underlying all of this is the need for sufficient training to enable agencies and local authorities to refer onwards. Indeed, because tier 1 local authorities now have a duty placed upon them, that need is emphasised even further.

E-scooters

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Monday 12th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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I thank my noble friend for his question, which he asked me a few weeks ago when we had the previous Question. I can inform him that DfT Ministers have held four round tables with groups representing vulnerable people. He is absolutely right that e-scooters can be extremely hazardous to people who are hard of sight or not swift on their feet. The last round table we had on this matter was last month. Clearly those groups have raised concerns about the trials and, when the trials finish, we will be able to evaluate the framework for the use of these scooters.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Police numbers are still considerably lower today than they were in 2010, and on top of this, the population is higher than it was just over a decade ago. Do the Government agree that, if police numbers were still at 2010 levels, the police would have more resources to stop people using e-scooters illegally, which would also be a greater deterrent to the illegal use of e-scooters?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord will know that the Government remain on track—in fact, ahead of track—to deliver the number of 20,000 more police, because we have recognised that the demands on the police are changing and therefore that more police to tackle various types of crime are needed on our streets.

Independent Office for Police Conduct

Debate between Baroness Williams of Trafford and Lord Rosser
Thursday 8th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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In terms of capacity, the IOPC budget for 2021-22 is £69.6 million and it employs approximately 1,000 staff. To that extent, I think it is well-resourced.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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What is the Home Secretary expecting to get from bringing forward her review of the Independent Office for Police Conduct? Does she expect advice on whether its powers and resources should be strengthened and increased, since only 80% of conduct investigation cases are resolved within 12 months? Or does the Home Secretary have doubts about whether the IOPC—a body that this Government created—should now continue in existence at all, as she regards it as neither effective nor efficient? After all, a Home Secretary does not bring forward a periodic review of a body without having some view about the future of that body.