23 Lord Bishop of Manchester debates involving the Home Office

Mon 4th Mar 2024
Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage: Minutes of Proceedings
Wed 12th Jul 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 28th Mar 2023
Public Order Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 7th Feb 2023
Mon 30th Jan 2023
Public Order Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 1
Mon 30th Jan 2023
Public Order Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 2
Tue 22nd Nov 2022

Police Recruitment: Reform

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Tuesday 5th March 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government, following the first report of the Angiolini Inquiry published on 29 February, what assessment they have made of the case for reforming police recruitment.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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In begging leave to ask the Question in my name on the Order Paper, I declare my interest as co-chair of the national police ethics committee.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, the horrific crimes committed by a then serving police officer shocked the nation and undermined public confidence in the police. My thoughts are with the family and friends of Sarah Everard; I cannot imagine how painful this must be for them. In the years since, the Home Office has worked closely with policing partners to strengthen the way that police officers are recruited, vetted, scrutinised and disciplined. The Government will continue to work with policing partners to consider the findings and recommendations of this report at pace, and will respond fully in due course.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. The Angiolini report makes one thing very clear: the appalling long-term toleration of the killer’s abusive and criminal behaviour was made possible by two related factors. The first is a misogynistic culture, and the second is the persistence of employment practices that discourage women from joining, remaining and progressing to senior roles within police forces. Do His Majesty’s Government accept that the culture of UK policing needs an overhaul? What specific steps will they undertake to reform recruitment and retention to ensure that female officers and staff can thrive in policing, and thrive in the numbers necessary to ensure that women in Britain need no longer fear the dangers that led to the death of Sarah Everard?

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, what needs to be said about the risk of torture and inhumane treatment has already been set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I simply emphasise the credibility of the reports of ongoing torture of even mild political dissenters, which continues to this day in Rwanda. Nor do freedom of expression and association exist there, however narrowly the terms are defined. However, the genocide ideology law is broadly defined and now carries criminal sanctions. The criminal code has recently been expanded to include

“creating a hostile … opinion of Rwanda”

by criticising the Government. These irrefutable reports indicate that Rwanda does not comply with the international obligations under various UN conventions, including the convention against torture. This can only add to the evidence that, at present, Rwanda cannot be regarded as a safe country.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, for sponsoring Amendments 9 and 12, to which I have added my name. They take up matters that I and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, raised in Committee. This evening, Rwanda might be the safest country in Africa for all I know, but over the last few years we have seen a number of military coups and takeovers across African countries. To enshrine in legislation the notion that Rwanda will remain safe whatever seems to beggar belief. Who knows in what state that country might be in six to 12 months’ time? Who knows how safe it will be then? The courts need the ability to take new facts into consideration, to recognise that Rwanda may not be the same in a certain number of weeks, months or years as it was on this evening at the beginning of March 2024. We must have that flexibility. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, will press these amendments to a Division. I will support him in the Lobby if he does.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, as a member of the JCHR delegation, I had the benefit of visiting the very hospital in Kigali that will provide mental health support to relocated individuals. It was an impressive experience. That hospital has very capable psychiatric and psychological care. This is perhaps unsurprising given the context in which Rwanda finds itself. This is a country that, 30 years ago, was caused mass trauma as a consequence of the genocide against the Tutsi, which cost 800,000 lives in Rwanda. You can imagine the impact that has on relatives and those who knew those 800,000 people. Mental health is a widely understood and widely acknowledged issue in Rwanda. The community schemes to work on mental health are abundant. This is a country that understands mental health. The points raised against Rwanda on the basis of mental health are, in my view, unfounded. I do not accept the contentions advanced by the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady D’Souza.

Illegal Migration Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, briefly, we on these Benches support all the Motions to amend the government Motions. The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has well made the point that even if one could have argued that the original Amendment 1 was a backdoor incorporation—an argument I always found unpersuasive—that objection certainly cannot be made of the new text of Motion A1, which is clearly nothing of the sort. The Prime Minister has been at the NATO summit in Vilnius upholding international law against breaches through Russian aggression. Indeed, the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 cited the rule of law at one of the core principles. The Prime Minister was also recently at the Council of Europe summit. Again, the core values in the declaration were the threats to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, talked about how this amendment

“is firmly in the Conservative tradition of strengthening, not undermining, the international rule of law”.—[Official Report, 28/6/23; col. 704.]

She reminded noble Lords that

“Conservative Governments were instrumental in creating the first four conventions listed in the amendment”.

Finally, on Amendment 93, we still have concerns, as do doctors, about the proposals in the Bill for as yet unproven medical age assessments. Amendment 93 provides the most basic safety net for those undergoing age assessment: the right to appeal a judgment. Removing that right will not deter any smugglers, or child refugees in need of appropriate safety and protection. We urge support for the amendment Motions.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I support Motion A1 but will speak more particularly to Motion U1 in my name, to which the noble Baroness just referred. It proposes that if an age-assessment judicial review is in progress, removal should be delayed until its completion. I welcome comments from Ministers that those subject to an age dispute will be accommodated in an age-appropriate setting here in the UK, but can the Minister confirm that will be the case in a third country? Will Rwanda, for example, be informed that a young person is subject to an age dispute, and will the Rwandan Government then be required by the UK to keep that person separate from other adult residents and to supervise them properly as a child until the courts have made a judgment?

The Secretary of State has a legal duty to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Can the Minister therefore say how the welfare of a child will be protected by not allowing judicial review to act as a temporary delay to their removal? The Government appear to be arguing that when a child legally challenges an age assessment, it is simply a spurious attempt to use legal methods to postpone removal. However, as we know, the majority of children are found to be children after local authority assessments, so it is more likely that what is happening is an attempt to protect their proper right to be treated as a child. Can the Minister therefore take the opportunity at least to confirm that when an individual’s age is disputed, they will not be subject to removal before having met with a social worker and a child protection team for a more comprehensive age-assessment process?

The determination that an individual may be a child and therefore could deserve all the rights a child is due should and must be reason enough to prevent their removal. When the implications for children are so grave and lifelong, it seems that to not delay a child’s removal from the UK until those questions are resolved is immoral. I plead with the Government to recognise this as a failure of safeguarding, which we are all trying to treat at the highest possible standard. However, in view of the lateness of the hour when we are likely to reach a vote on this matter, and the many other matters your Lordships’ House has to deal with tonight, I am not minded at present to press this Motion to a Division.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I do not know whether I should declare an interest as a pseudo-lawyer, or perhaps as Mickey Mouse. I am not entirely convinced that framing the debate in that way is appropriate.

I have a number of things to say. First, the fact that Motion A1, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has been rephrased as it has been, shows that those of us who argued that the previous version was substantive, and not interpretative, were right. However, the Motion as redrafted is also improper because it does two things—here I again respectfully part company with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. He read the Motion but omitted words in its second line. Let us have a look at what it actually says:

“In interpreting this Act, regard shall be given to the intention that its provisions”—


that refers to the provisions in the Bill—

“and any act and omissions made as a result, are intended to comply”.

Even now, it is not properly an interpretative provision, because it does not just apply to interpreting the words; it is also said to apply to any acts and omissions made under the Act, as it will become. That still has substantive consequences, and the effect is still—this time in an evening rather than in an afternoon—that we are effectively incorporating these treaties into our domestic law.

That is why the words

“and any acts and omissions made as a result”

are still objectionable, but the rest of it, while maybe not objectionable, is unnecessary. As I mentioned on Report, the law of this country has always been that, in the absence of express words to the contrary, all statutes are presumed to be in accordance with our international obligations. That was most recently set out by Lord Dyson, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Assange case, when he said that

“there is no doubt that there is a ‘strong presumption’ in favour of interpreting an English statute in a way which does not place the United Kingdom in breach of its international obligations”.

The fact that we now have to go through the contortions of trying to fit this reformulated amendment into interpretation when it still has substantive consequences shows that this is a road down which we should not be going at all. In so far as the intention is that legislation should be interpreted in line with our international commitments, that is already part of the law. In so far as it says that

“any acts and omissions made as a result”

of this Bill are to be so interpreted, that has substantive consequences.

I respectfully suggest that those points are not those of a pseudo-lawyer, nor are they Mickey Mouse points. If I may finish where I began, it is somewhat unfortunate that that is how they are being described.

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, as ever, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was ahead of me, and clearly I should address the amendments in this group. I have already moved Motion E, which is:

“That this House do not insist on its Amendment 8.”


With the leave of the House, I shall speak also to Motions J, K, L, M and N.

The Government have considered carefully the concerns raised in your Lordships’ House about the detention of unaccompanied children and pregnant women. We recognise the sensitivities around the detention of these cohorts and, accordingly, the Government have brought forward amendments in lieu, to which the Commons has agreed.

Regarding the detention of pregnant women, Amendments 38A to 38E are wholly in line with those tabled on Report by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and my noble friend Lady Sugg. These amendments preserve the existing 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women. As now, this 72-hour time limit would be extendable to an absolute maximum of one week, provided there is ministerial authorisation in place for the extension. It is important to note that, as per the existing Section 60 provision, this time limit will apply only where an immigration officer or the Secretary of State, as the case may be, is satisfied that the woman is pregnant. I trust that these amendments will be welcomed on all sides of the House.

On the detention of unaccompanied children, the challenge we received in the House of Commons was that in enabling a person to apply for First-tier Tribunal immigration bail after 28 days of detention, the Bill did not differentiate between adults and unaccompanied children, and there needed to be judicial oversight of the detention of unaccompanied children much earlier in the process. Amendments 36A and 36B, agreed by the Commons, do just that. They enable the First-tier Tribunal to review the detention of an unaccompanied child after eight days, where the detention is for the purposes of removal. The eight-day period aligns with the existing framework governing immigration bail for those detained at ports and the eight-day period for making a suspensive claim under the Bill.

I again assure my noble friend Lady Mobarik and other noble Lords that any period of detention for unaccompanied children will be the shortest possible. Where there is doubt that a person is indeed aged under 18, as they claim to be, they will be treated as a child while an age assessment is undertaken. Such a person will be detained in age-appropriate accommodation, as the law already provides. This is provided for by the Detention Centre Rules 2001, made under Section 153 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Rule 11 provides:

“Detained persons aged under 18 and families will be provided with accommodation suitable to their needs”.


If no such accommodation is available, an unaccompanied child will not be detained and will be transferred to a local authority instead as soon as possible. I hope this provides the assurances that my noble friend has been seeking.

The Commons has proposed no change to the Bill in response to my noble friend’s Amendment 33, which relates to the detention of families. We believe this amendment would put children at risk, as well as significantly weakening our ability to remove people from the UK, in accordance with the duty provided for in Clause 2. Such a change would incentivise unscrupulous individuals to co-opt unaccompanied children into a bogus family unit to escape detention. This presents very real safeguarding risks for those children. I hope my noble friend, having secured an important change to the Bill in respect of the detention of unaccompanied children, will be content not to pursue her Amendment 33 any further.

I turn to Motion M and the amendments originally tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, which sought to reinstate the existing Hardial Singh principles. Here again the Commons has agreed with the Government that the changes should be made to the existing legislation and that Clause 11 should stand. The Hardial Singh principles provide, among other things, that a person may be detained only for a period that is reasonable in all the circumstances and that if, before the expiry of the reasonable period, it becomes apparent that the Home Secretary will not be able to examine, effect removal or grant leave within a reasonable period, that person’s detention should not continue. The Government continue to take the view that it is for the Home Secretary, not the courts, to decide such matters as she will be in full possession of the relevant facts and best placed to decide whether continued detention is reasonable in all the circumstances. As I say, the Commons has endorsed this approach, and I hope that the noble Lord, having achieved some significant changes to other aspects of the Bill, will be content to agree Motion M.

Motion N relates to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham’s Amendment 50 to Clause 16. This relates to the Secretary of State’s power to direct a local authority in England to cease accommodating an unaccompanied child and to transfer the child into Home Office-provided accommodation. The amendment would limit the power such that it can be exercised only where the transfer would be in the best interests of the child.

We all accept that the best interests of the child is a very important consideration. That is why the Secretary of State is already required, under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when exercising her immigration functions. In exercising the power in Clause 16, the Home Office will continue to comply with the Section 55 duty. I should also emphasise again that we expect to exercise the power in Clause 16 in only limited circumstances —for example, in advance of returning an unaccompanied child to a parent in their home country.

Finally, I can deal briefly with Motion E, given that this covers similar ground to Motion F, which we have already debated. As I said, it remains the Government’s contention that declaring such claims to be inadmissible is a core part of the scheme provided for in the Bill. The Motion from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, would incentivise the people smugglers to prioritise young people, putting more lives at risk and splitting families. I am sure that the noble Lord would not wish to see this.

The Government have listened to the concerns raised by noble Lords about the Bill’s provisions relating to detention and the Commons has agreed significant changes. I hope, on this basis, that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, my noble friend Lady Mobarik and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester would be content to agree Motions J, K and L. Where the Commons has disagreed with your Lordships’ amendments to Clauses 4, 11 and 16, I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Carlile, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester will be minded to accept that verdict and agree Motions E, M and N.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for his support for my Motion K1, even though I suspect we would both prefer his stronger Motion. I also welcome the government amendments that would allow an unaccompanied child to seek bail after eight days if they have been detained for removal.

I struggle to see why similar rules should not apply to all children. Hence, Motion K1 seeks to rectify the unreasoned omission of children who are with their families. It proposes a 24-hour extension to the current statutory 72-hour time limit for detention of children with families. Hence, the detention of these children would not be indefinite but be for no more than 96 hours or, if a Minister personally approved it, for no more than seven days. This seems a fair and reasonable change and I urge the Government to seriously reflect on it. I really cannot see that it is morally justified not to have equal provisions for children with families and those who are alone; one child is not different from another.

It remains the fact that the institutional nature of detention affects both the physical and mental development of the child and leads to their significant emotional and psychological regression. These impacts, which were witnessed often in children prior to 2010, were not limited to unaccompanied children. All children suffered under a regime which this Government are now proposing to reintroduce without limit for unaccompanied children. I cannot accept that it is right to be prepared to lock up these children for an indefinite period, simply because they happen to arrive with families, when we know the grave consequences. The evidence has not changed. How can it now suddenly be tolerable?

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Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I have already spoken to Motion K. I beg to move.

Motion K1 (as an amendment to Motion K)

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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Moved by

At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 33B to the words so restored to the Bill—

33B: Clause 10, page 15, line 29, leave out “for any period” and insert “for a period of not more than 96 hours, or for a period of not more than seven days in cases where the longer period of detention is authorised personally by a Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975)””

Public Order Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, what a pity the noble Lord does not care about what the Government are doing to the country, because I say that what they are doing is a lot more illegal than what these protesters are doing. The noble Lord has to understand that disruption is part of protest and that, as we have heard throughout the debate, the police have enough powers to arrest people who do anything that is not peaceful. Disruption on the roads and within our cities does not necessarily stop people going to hospitals or schools; it is the Government who are stopping people going to hospital because they are underfunding the NHS and stripping out our doctors and nurses by not paying them properly. They are responsible for a lot more damage to our society than these protesters are. Thank goodness the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has brought this back so that we can say to the Government that they do not know what they are talking about.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of the national police ethics committee, but obviously I am not speaking on behalf of it today. I had hoped not to have to speak at all this afternoon but after the contributions of other noble Lords I feel I must say a few words.

I want to get us back to the focus of this amendment. Although I have much sympathy for what I have heard around the Chamber of late, this is an amendment around how police use suspicionless stop and search powers. I wish we had had the Casey report and the report we have just received on the strip-searching of children earlier in the consideration of the Bill. They would have informed our deliberations very helpfully at that stage. However, we have them now. I feel that we need to put something in the Bill that recognises that we have heard what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, and in the other report that came out in these last few weeks. We need something to say that we are putting down a marker—a signal, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said a few moments ago—that, whatever we have done in other legislation, now we are in a different world.

I am passionate about the confidence that we have as the citizens of this land in our police force, about good and effective policing, and about the country having respect for its police. However, I worry that, if passed unamended, this legislation will further damage that relationship. It will not lead to public order but to further public disorder. Therefore, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker.

Public Order Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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This being not Committee but Report, the simplest and speediest answer that I can give to the noble Lord’s question is that Clause 11 is about suspicionless stop and search. He has picked out a particular subsection in the scheme, which would have been interesting in Committee. But the crucial thing is that Clause 11 is on stop and search without suspicion, not in the context even of terrorism, where it can come with greater justification—for example, when everybody is stopped and searched on their way into the Peers’ Entrance if they are not a Peer, or at the airport, where everybody is treated the same. But, by definition, that will not be the case in this scheme. This broad power will be used against young people all over London on the day of a protest. It will cause such strife and will poison relationships between the police service and the people it serves. For that reason, I urge all noble Lords to reject in particular this power to stop and search without suspicion even of the protest offences to which I object in the Bill.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I too speak in support of the amendments to remove Clauses 10 and 11, to which I have added my name. I declare my registered interests as the co-chair of the national police ethics committee and the chair of the Greater Manchester Police ethics advisory committee.

Stop and search can be an extremely useful tool in the police kit box, but, like many tools, it works far less well if it is overused or used for the wrong task. Eventually, it loses its efficacy entirely. I have several broken screwdrivers at home that bear witness to my own excesses in that regard, as well as to my very limited DIY skills. That is the danger we run when we extend stop and search powers in what, at times, feels like a knee-jerk reaction. They are simply the most obvious tool at the top of the box, whether they are appropriate or not. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, indicated, stop and search becomes, as it has in the past, so discredited that it reaches a point where, like my screwdrivers, it is counterproductive to use it, even in circumstances where it would be right and appropriate to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, reminded us, with some chilling figures, of its disproportionate use against certain sectors of society—young black men in particular —which damages confidence in policing not just with regard to stop and search but more generally. It is because I am passionate to support our police that I have such worries about anything that tends to diminish that public confidence. I have the greatest concerns where stop and search is undertaken without suspicion; such powers are even more at risk of simply being used against people who look wrong or are in the wrong place. They become especially prone to the unconscious bias that we might try to shake off but all to some extent carry within us. Should these amendments be pressed to a Division, they will have my full support and I hope that of your Lordships’ House.

I conclude by offering a modest proposal that goes beyond these clauses and the Bill. Could the Minister seek to gain a commitment from His Majesty’s Government to refrain from any extension of stop and search powers until such time as it is clear that the existing powers are being used properly and proportionately? Such a self-denying ordinance might lead to us have an intelligent conversation about how better to focus the use of stop and search. We could then look at whether there are circumstances in which those powers should be radically extended—but not before then.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I have a question. I am imagining the circumstances with which the police are faced. In what circumstances would they proceed to stop and search if they had no suspicion? This seems a rather curious concept: to stop and search without suspicion means that you do not like the look of somebody—but, even then, you might have a suspicion. I just cannot conceive of the circumstances in which it would be proper to stop and search without suspicion.

I am also particularly concerned about the effect of this as far as the police are concerned. If people can be stopped and searched without suspicion, they themselves will probably not have a suspicion that they should be stopped and searched. Given the present circumstances, in which the police will have to work very hard to recover confidence, a woman stopped and searched without suspicion, and who has no suspicion of why she should be stopped and searched, will have a very considerable concern.

Hillsborough Families Report: National Police Response

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Thursday 2nd February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As part of the February 2020 integrity reforms, the Government introduced a statutory duty of co-operation for police officers, which provided clarity on the responsibility to participate openly and professionally as a witness in various circumstances, including in the misconduct of others. The noble Baroness is quite right to bring up the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report, which obviously considers this matter fully, and the Government will take its recommendations into account.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I echo tributes to my friend, the former Bishop of Liverpool. As a young priest 34 years ago, I was summoned to Hillsborough to support bereaved families in the immediate aftermath. That the Hillsborough families were not fully consulted in October last year when the Home Office announced an independent review is, I fear, deeply regrettable. Will the Minister now commit to ensuring that the Hillsborough families remain consulted, engaged and at the heart of the Government’s response from this point on?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I think the right reverend Prelate is referring to the pathology review. It was announced in October 2022; the terms of reference were published then, in response to a point of learning from the former Bishop of Liverpool’s findings on the experiences at Hillsborough. The review is led by Mr Glenn Taylor, an independent forensic scientist and an expert with extensive experience in death certification. It has been paused while the families are consulted; they felt—and it was felt—that they deserved more input into this.

Metropolitan Police: Criminality

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Wednesday 1st February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am afraid I do not have the answer to that question and will have to find out and come back to the noble Lord. I would say that the IOPC is capable of investigating these allegations without having been notified by the officer’s force.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, this is more than a series of bad apples; I am sure that there is something rotten in the culture and structures in policing that comprehensively and immediately needs to be addressed. We have the nine turnaround priorities that the new police commissioner has set out. Can the Minister set out how the Government will assist with and ensure those priorities are realised as a matter of urgency?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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In my original Answer, I referred to part 2 of the Angiolini inquiry. I met Lady Angiolini last week and she made it clear that police culture will form a critical part of her investigations in part 2. The formal consultation on the terms of reference for part 2 opened earlier this month and will conclude, I think, on 24 February. Noble Lords are welcome to contribute to that consultation process. I am sorry for the long answer, but I shall go on a little. The inquiry will consider whether vetting and recruitment processes do enough to identify those in policing who are not fit to serve. It will investigate the extent to which misogynistic and predatory behaviour exists in police culture and look at whether current measures do enough to keep women safe, particularly in public spaces.

Public Order Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I have Amendments 19 and 31 in this group. As I explained in Committee, the offence of causing serious disruption by being present in a tunnel, as drafted in the Bill, could criminalise those in London Underground tunnels, for example. Amendment 19 is designed to restrict the offence to tunnels constructed in contravention of Clause 3: that is, a tunnel created to cause, or that is capable of causing, serious disruption. I am pleased to say that the Government agree, albeit that their alternative, Amendment 29, restricts the tunnels an offence can be committed in to

“a tunnel that was created for the purposes of, or in connection with, a protest”,

whether the tunnel was created in contravention of Clause 3 or not. They are not adopting my amendment, which covers any tunnel built in contravention of Clause 3.

I know one should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but can the Minister explain how being present in a tunnel that does not cause, and is not capable of causing, serious disruption—that is, a tunnel that was not created in contravention of Clause 3—can result in serious disruption being caused by a person being present in it? Why is it necessary to extend the definition of a relevant tunnel beyond tunnels created in contravention of Clause 3? Why should the House agree to government Amendments 21, 29 and 30 rather than my Amendment 19? I am sure the Minister will have been prepared to respond to that question. Maybe not, looking at him at the moment.

My Amendment 31 concerns the offence of being equipped for tunnelling in Clause 5. We believe that the offence of having an object

“with the intention that it may be used in the course of or in connection with the commission”

of an offence of tunnelling is unnecessarily complicated. Can the Minister explain why the proposed alternative wording—having an object

“for use in the course or in connection with”

the offence—is not sufficient? For example, Section 25 of the Theft Act 1968 states:

“A person shall be guilty of an offence if, when not at his place of abode, he has with him any article for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary, theft or cheat.”


What does

“with the intention that it may be used”

mean? Either the person intends to use the object or they do not, even if they may end up not using it—for example, because it might prove to be unnecessary. “I’ve got this pickaxe in case the protest tunnel we’re building encounters rocks, but if there are no rocks I may not have to use it,” is still having the pickaxe for use in the course of or in connection with tunnelling.

The other amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, seek to leave out Clauses 1 and 2. Locking on has been used for centuries as a form of protest, most notably by the suffragettes. This new offence is widely and vaguely drawn—for example, to include people attaching themselves to other people without defining what “attach” means. Not only is there a right to protest, there is also a long-standing acceptance that people should be able to protest in the way they see fit. The creation of a locking-on offence is not even supported by the majority of rank and file police officers, according to His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services:

“Most interviewees did not wish to criminalise protest actions through the creation of a specific offence concerning locking on.”


As with the whole of the Bill, there is sufficient existing legislation to cover locking-on activity, whether it is highway obstruction, for which the penalty now includes a term of imprisonment, or public nuisance, where the maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 10 years. Can the Minister explain the circumstances in which locking-on activity would not be covered by any existing legislation?

As for Clause 2 and the offence of being equipped for locking on, as currently drafted, the offence of having something

“with the intention that it may be used in the course of or in connection with the commission”

of a locking-on offence by any person, not just the person in possession of the object, could cover a whole range of everyday objects that someone is innocently in possession of. While the offence presumably requires the prosecution to prove

“the intention that it may be used in the course of or in connection with”

an offence of locking on, the power of the police to arrest is merely based on a reasonable cause to suspect that an offence may have been committed—a very low bar. As I said in the debate on a similar clause in what was then the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, you could buy a tube of superglue to repair a broken chair at home, get caught up in a protest and be accused of going equipped for locking on.

From my own extensive knowledge of policing, I say that if you have a tube of superglue in your pocket while innocently trying to negotiate your way around a protest and are stopped and searched by the police, as this Bill will allow, and if you then believe you can convince a police officer that they do not have sufficient cause to suspect you are going equipped to lock on and, as a result, that you should not be arrested, that would represent a triumph of hope over experience. We support Amendments 9 and 10.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I shall speak very briefly in support of the amendment to remove Clauses 1 and 2 that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Bristol signed. She regrets that she cannot be in her place today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, establishing new offences of locking on and being equipped for locking on have very significant consequences for the right to protest. A few days ago I got an email from a retired vicar in my diocese. He wrote to tell me he is awaiting sentencing: he has just been convicted of obstruction by gluing himself to a road during a protest by an environmental group. The judge has warned him and his co-defendants that they may go to prison. I cite his case not to approve of his actions—which I fear may serve to reduce public support for his cause rather than increase it—but because it clearly indicates to me that the police already have sufficient powers to intervene against those who are taking an active part in such protests. Anything extra, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has just so eloquently illustrated, is superfluous.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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I would like to add to my noble friend’s very precise definition of the drawbacks of this clause. In more general terms, its provisions will lead to situations in which people do not know they are breaking the law and are then accused by the police of doing so. I should have said they do not know they might be breaking the law because of its broad terms. That is a very unhelpful situation should it arise; in my submission, it will arise quite frequently. The sorts of things that are covered by this provision are everyday household items—as my noble friend pointed out—such as glue or a padlock. I referred in earlier debates to the practice of young people of placing a padlock on a bridge—as a sign that they are eternally joined with each other—and throwing the key into the river so that it cannot be taken off again. Imagine the conversation you would have with a police officer when you are trying to explain those circumstances, and he thinks you are on your way to a protest.

Public Order Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Finally, what are the proponents of Amendment 45 afraid of? Our laws should be based not on anecdote, as with the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, but on proper, robust, empirical evidence. I hope we will be able to test the will of the House on this issue tonight.
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, in Committee I shared my concerns about Clause 9 as it then stood. I am grateful for conversations that have taken place since. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Sugg and Lady Barker. The latter has listened patiently and sympathetically to me and my friends on these Benches at some length.

My concerns regarding Clause 9 had nothing to do with the moral merits or otherwise of abortion; they lie in my passion to see upheld the rights of citizens of this land, both to receive healthcare and to protest. Women must be able to access lawful medical interventions without facing distressing confrontations, directed at them personally, when they are identifiable by their proximity to the clinic or hospital. At the same time, anyone who wishes to protest in general about abortion law must be able to do so lawfully, with the least restriction on where and when they may do so.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Morrissey, for the proposals she sets out in Amendments 41 to 43, which build on the Australian example. Were they the only amendments put forward, they would have my support. However, what we now have in Amendment 45 is, I believe, something that strikes a more exact balance. It meets human rights requirements and contains sensible limits. It has widespread support and is, I believe, more likely to survive scrutiny in the other place. If it is moved, I intend to support it.

I accept the remarks of the Supreme Court regarding the necessity of proposed new paragraph (a) on influencing, but I have two brief questions on that matter on which I seek clarification. Much has been made in religious circles about whether silent prayer would be criminalised by this clause. We have heard it again tonight. As noble Lords might expect, I believe in the power of prayer, so I want to clarify on the record that the act of praying is not in itself deemed an attempt at influence, given that when I pray, I am trying to ask God perhaps to change the heart of a third party.

My second and rather less metaphysical question is intended to clarify that influence works both ways. Would a coercive and controlling partner, or ex-partner, determined that a reluctant woman should go ahead with an abortion and accompanying her against her wishes, be as guilty of the same offence as an anti-abortion campaigner?

Finally, I cannot support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer. It would remove safe zones from this Bill without providing any obvious parliamentary process for us to re-engage with the issue in a timely manner.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I very much welcome the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Beith. I am so glad to hear that he has considered this matter and come to the conclusion he has. Of course, I also welcome those of the right reverend Prelate.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Morrissey, that this is a good try, but her proposals might well have benefited from testing had she been involved in Committee. She might have changed her mind about how we in this House need best to reflect the clear will of the elected House on this matter. Not only has the elected House had a clear view on this matter, so has this House. Our job today is to make sure we provide at this point in the Bill an amendment that does that job. Amendment 45 does that because it complies with the EHRC, recognises differences and proposes a framework that reflects the issues as they pertain to abortion provision in England and Wales.

However, Amendment 44 would in many ways do what we saw the last time we discussed this matter: kick it into the long grass. Indeed, I remind the House that last time, it was defeated by 138 votes to 39. It would bring about a delay, meaning that thousands of women, nurses and midwives going about their lawful business would be harassed and intimidated. This seems to me to be really very straightforward.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, I speak to my Amendments 85, 88 and 90 to this clause. I make it clear that, although I have regularly voted to secure more protection for the unborn child under abortion law, I am opposed to the kind of protest outside clinics and hospitals to which Clause 9 is directed. I am deeply troubled by the extent to which this clause restricts free speech, indeed abolishes it within 150 metres of a clinic or hospital. I cannot vote to write into English law a clause which, as presently worded, makes it a criminal offence to seek to influence, persuade or even to express an opinion. I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, has an amendment which deals with the complaint I made at Second Reading in respect of the last of those words but not the others.

This clause as it stands is clearly inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and imports into our law the dangerous concept that to express an opinion can constitute interfering. Once that concept has found its way into our law, such language would be welcomed by the anti-free speech brigade and we would find it sought after in other areas of legislative restriction. Those who advance the so-called right not to be offended in student union politics would latch on to such wording with enthusiasm.

I turn first to Amendment 85, which has the support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. It seeks to protect the normal activities of a church, chapel, mosque or temple that finds that it is within the 150-metre zone of a clinic providing abortion services. I will come on later to how wide a range of areas that could be. In such a church, mosque or temple, what if a debate is organised on the arguments for and against abortion in the light of the religious convictions of those who worship there? What if a poster is put up outside the church to state that such a debate is to take place on a particular date with a brief indication of the points of view of the different speakers? What if a campaign meeting designed to enable the church to play a greater part in the public debate on this issue takes place there? These are normal activities of churches.

Let us remember that these churches and mosques have been sitting in these places for many years and, all of a sudden, the area they are in is determined to be one in which they cannot do what they did previously. They cannot have the kind of discussions and conversations which are normal to them. That is a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, also sought to cover in her Amendment 95 and I appreciate that.

I turn to my Amendments 88 and 90, which take out some of the words in this clause, to which I have referred, but they do not affect the provisions covering intimidation and harassment, which none of us favours at all. Amendment 88 takes out the ban on a person who “seeks to influence” within the 150-metre zone, while Amendment 90 removes the words

“advises or persuades, attempts to advise or persuade, or otherwise expresses opinion”.

I am astonished that that wording could ever have got into the draft of the clause. That there could be any part of the United Kingdom in which it is a criminal offence to express an opinion is, to me, quite extraordinary. This cannot be made consistent with the ECHR or historic rights of free speech. I hope that by Report the Government will be able to bring forward a significant redraft of this clause.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, made some helpful suggestions but they are not enough. Amendment 95 relates to “persons accompanying”. I am glad that she has included that amendment, because it deals with a situation in which somebody is accompanying someone to an abortion clinic, and they are having a discussion about whether she should or should not go through with it—the pros and cons. That would be a criminal offence under the legislation, unless her amendment is accepted. It illustrates what dangerous territory we are in and how close we are to the cliff edge of losing our free speech.

I shall look at some other instances. What if a member of staff, perhaps a whistleblower, questioned some aspect of the policy or practice of the clinic and sought to get it changed, potentially affecting and limiting the provision of abortion services? What if that discussion was taking place, and the person thought that they could rely on a conscience clause, because in a certain case they thought that the wrong decision had been taken or a practice was dangerous? Is that person going to be guilty of a criminal offence for doing so? I find that extremely worrying. What about a picket in an industrial dispute, such as a nurses’ strike, which interrupted abortion services or access to some extent? That would appear to be covered by these provisions.

Amendment 84 from the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, and Amendment 93A from my noble friend Lady Hamwee, also worry me, because they would extend the term “clinic” to any

“place where advice or counselling relating to abortions is provided”.

That is every doctor’s surgery in the land—a huge extension of the potential scope of this legislation. The free speech restrictions that it imports would seem inexplicable to somebody simply walking along the street in the vicinity of a doctor’s surgery, having a conversation about the rights and wrongs of abortion, who is overheard by somebody who reports them. Before long, a police officer is pursuing the case.

As to the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, I am very sympathetic to Amendment 98, which seeks to make the review the basis for action, which seems quite logical, but I am afraid I am not sympathetic to his Amendment 99. As he conceded, the amendment passes over to statutory instruments and delegated legislation the whole substance of this legislation. As the noble Viscount indicated in an intervention, that would deny the possibility of amendment of whatever was put forward. Those are very serious issues. I think on all sides we can agree that what the scope of the criminal law should be in this area is fundamental. It should be decided by primary legislation and, although I appreciate the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, has felt obliged to use this mechanism, it is not the right one for such fundamental issues.

I hope that colleagues on all sides of the Committee, whatever their views on abortion, will address this issue so as to ensure that the criminal law is not so extended that historic rights of free speech are damaged and legitimate action by innocent people is neither prevented nor made the subject of criminal offences and prosecutions. I hope Ministers will look very carefully at my amendments and others and produce some workable and practicable redraft on Report, which we will also want to look at with the greatest of care.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I rise to address Amendments 85 to 88, 90 and 92, to which my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans has added his name. He regrets that he is unable to be in his place today. I also have sympathy with a number of other amendments in this group.

It is a heated and emotive debate on this clause, and it was heated and emotive when it was added in the other place. The danger is that we get dragged into debates about whether abortion is morally right or wrong. Indeed, I have had plenty of emails over the past few days, as I am sure other noble Lords have, tending in that direction. As it happens, I take the view that the present law on abortion strikes a reasonable balance; in particular, it respects the consciences of women faced, sometimes with very little support, with making deeply difficult decisions.

Moreover, history teaches us that the alternative to legal abortion is not no abortion but illegal abortion, with all the evils that brings in its train. Others, including people of my own and other faiths, may disagree with me on either side but that is not the focus of your Lordships’ deliberations this afternoon. Rather, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, reminded us, we are seeking to weigh the rights of women to access legal health services alongside the rights of others to seek peacefully to engage, persuade or simply pray.

However much we may disagree with the causes and tactics of those protesting, we need to remember that in a democracy not everything that is unpleasant should in consequence be made illegal. Harassment and abuse of the kinds to which the noble Baronesses, Lady Fox and Lady Sugg, and others have alluded must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The use of legislation, including on harassment, to confront inappropriate behaviour is absolutely legitimate, but it already exists. If such behaviour is becoming more widespread, let us see the police and local authorities use those current powers more extensively so that they can create a safe and respectful atmosphere for vulnerable women.

I understand that no one has ever demonstrated that widespread abuse is prevalent or that new powers are necessary. At the least, we need clear research, as the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, proposes, to underpin such extensive new measures. In line with other provisions of this Bill, many of which we have already discussed, there is a need for the Government and police to take proportionate action while maintaining the strongest possible safeguards for freedom of speech, expression and assembly. Those are at the core of our nationhood. I do not think that Clause 9, as drafted, takes that proportionate approach.

I respect the views of those noble Lords who take a harder line against abortion and the many who reject the position from a more liberal standpoint. However, I cannot accept that it is desirable to legislate against expression of opinion on the matter or providing advice and guidance, even if one is in one’s own home or a place of worship. I cannot believe or accept that seeking to provide information could be met with a six-month prison sentence. I believe Amendments 88, 89 and 90 would help set a better balance on these provisions around freedom of speech. They would leave those things that are genuinely egregious in the clause and extract those things that are not.

Amendment 85 clarifies that Clause 9 cannot apply within an area

“wholly occupied by a building which is in regular use as a place of worship”.

Again, I do not expect or demand that religious positions on abortion are respected any more than others, but I worry that a minister of a religion holding views that are mainstream within his or her faith tradition—and are demonstrably legal to hold—could be barred under this legislation from expressing that view within their own place of worship.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I have some difficulty in understanding the thinking behind this amendment. If a sermon was being preached in a church or mosque, which is what we are being asked to contemplate, that sermon would not in any way impact on the person visiting the abortion clinic some distance away.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I thank the noble Viscount for his intervention. As the noble Lord, Lord Beith, said a few minutes ago, you might have a poster outside the church, mosque or temple saying that you are having a particular event on a particular day. It appears that would be caught by this legislation, but let us have the matter clarified by Ministers.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and others for their principled note that good powers must protect those who hold views with which you disagree or even find deplorable. Abortion is contested and emotive. I do not dispute that, as a result, there may on occasion be actions and levels of disruption that fail the test of Christian or any other charity. I deplore it when that happens.

However, there is a point of principle here going far beyond matters of abortion. Clause 9 is so broad and non-discriminate in its approach that it sets unfortunate precedents. I have real concerns that if we pass this clause into law in anything like its present wide form, we will see demands arise for exclusion zones, buffer zones or whatever they may be called in all manner of other locations and for all manner of purposes. I will listen with care to the rest of this debate, but I urge further concern in the approach to this part of the Bill. I hope Ministers will reflect on this and bring back some revised wording at a later stage.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to support many of the people who have spoken today but in particular the amendments, which I have co-signed, in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sugg and Lady Barker. However, having listened to the debate very thoroughly, and being a believer in free speech, I have become increasingly of the opinion that we need to find a good resolution as a result of this debate, rather than a fast and rapid one.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I do not know if I am breaking the rules of the House in saying this, but I feel that some of the speakers in the last debate were slightly self-indulgent. I am appalled that we are still only on group 2. Would the Minister and the Whip take that back to the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House and suggest that people show a little more restraint in their agonising over certain bits of the Bill while somehow not agonising over the rest of it, which is plainly very similar to what they were arguing against?

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has summed up extremely well. He often says things that I wish I had said. He was absolutely right to raise both the inherent potential racism in these measures and the prison population. We are already one of the most imprisoned nations in the world, even with Iran having corralled 15,000 or 16,000 protesters against its repressive regime. Adding to the prison population will be a complete folly.

I also oppose Clauses 10 and 11. I am very worried about Clauses 10 to 14, because they give the police extensive new powers to stop and search anyone in the vicinity of a protest and confiscate items from them. Under Clause 11, a police inspector can designate a whole area in which the police can stop and search anyone without suspicion. That means people taking part in a protest, people walking past, journalists—anyone in the area. That is ludicrous and repressive. It beggars belief that the Government think this is okay to include. It also includes stopping vehicles and searching them, again without suspicion.

My Amendment 101 exposes some of the risks. With this offence of locking on, any cyclist who has a bike lock in the vicinity of a protest could have it confiscated. This could even include a random person cycling past. Anyone cycling past is likely to have a bike lock on them, because if they are not cycling then the bike lock is likely to be on their bike. This exposes endless innocent cyclists to being stopped, searched and having their bike locks confiscated. There are similar risks for anyone who has glue, Sellotape or presumably anything that police do not like the look of—jam sandwiches or anything.

Like the other protest clauses in this Bill, this one is far too broadly drafted. The Government are so obsessed with fighting climate activists that they will expose anyone to being stopped and searched and having things confiscated. The Government are seeking in this Bill to make protest a crime instead of a right. That simply is not just.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, first, I declare my interest as co-chair of the National Police Ethics Committee for England and Wales, though I am speaking on my own behalf. I want to focus my remarks on the amendment opposing the question that Clause 12 stand part of the Bill, to which I am a signatory, but also on those opposing the questions that Clauses 10, 11, 13 and 14 stand part of the Bill. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for the way they have introduced this debate.

It is deeply concerning that the Bill seeks to extend suspicion-less stop and search powers to the context of protest. If brought forward, such measures would open a Pandora’s box for the further misuse of such powers that have in many contexts caused trauma, both physically and mentally, particularly to those in marginalised communities. The proposers of these clauses may have in mind the current environmental protesters, who appear, somewhat unusually, to include a large proportion of those from white, middle-class backgrounds, notably one of my own clergy. But history tells us that such powers, after a short time, are almost invariably and disproportionately used against minorities, especially ethnic minorities.

I would not be involved with the police in the way that I am if I was not passionate that our forces should gain and hold the confidence and respect of all sections of our society. But I know all too well how fragile that respect and confidence are. Police powers that are not grounded in suspicion create suspicion, and they create suspicion in those parts of society, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has so eloquently indicated, where we can least afford it.

We must note when considering the Bill’s creation of a new stop and search power in relation to specified lists of protest offences that there is—as has been referred to—no agreed position among police forces that such a power is either necessary or wanted. When you add to this the fact that the definition of “prohibited objects” is so broad—the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has referred to bike locks, but it could be posters, placards, fliers or banners—I am not sure about jam sandwiches, but I suspect it fits in somewhere; all could become suspect. How would the police ascertain that such objects were in fact for use at a protest? There are lots of legitimate reasons why you have household objects with you. The Joint Committee on Human Rights states:

“A suspicion of such an offence, even a reasonable one, in the course of a protest represents an unjustifiably low threshold for a power to require a person to submit to a search.”


There are serious risks here for people’s ability and willingness to exercise rights that are fundamental in a democratic society.

The Bill attempts to address what it refers to as “public nuisance”. But its scope is too broad—arguably, any form of protest risks “public nuisance”. Indeed, in these very halls of Parliament, four suffragettes chained themselves to statues to bring attention to their demands for votes for women; we must ask ourselves whether our contemporary context allows space for similarly important issues to be protested on. As things stand, these clauses risk a disproportionate interference with people’s Article 8, 10 and 11 rights as set out in the Human Rights Act.

This country has long prided itself on being a democracy, this Parliament is at the heart of that, and one of our duties is to ensure that the rights and freedoms necessary to such a system of governance are not undermined. Those rights and freedoms include the right to peaceful protest. Therefore, should these provisions remain at a future stage, I will vote to oppose the questions that Clauses 10 to 14 stand part of the Bill.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to the clause stand part amendments in my name. In doing so, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester for their supportive remarks and the views that they have expressed, which I very much support.

Stop and search can be a frightening experience; it can be intrusive and intimidating. There are real concerns, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, outlined, about disproportionality, and a point that nobody has yet made is that it can be used against children, worries which matter so much in any democracy.

I am going to spend a few minutes going through this. The Chamber is not packed, but a lot of noble Lords will read our deliberations in Hansard, and this is one of the most important parts of the debate in Committee that we are going to have, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester outlined.

Despite these concerns, Parliament has given police the power to stop and search with suspicion for items such as offensive weapons, illegal drugs and stolen property. In its recent report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights accepted that stop and search with reasonable suspicion was appropriate in certain circumstances. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, are arguing through their Clause 10 stand part notice, is it right that these stop and search powers should be extended to peaceful protest? For example, new paragraph (g) inserted by Clause 10—I urge noble Lords to reread that clause—extends stop and search powers to an offence of

“intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”,

when we know how wide the scope of “causing public nuisance” can be. Can the Minister explain what, in the Government’s view,

“intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance”

actually means? We would be passing this in new paragraph (g).

By creating a risk of causing serious inconvenience or serious annoyance through your actions in the course of a protest, or preparation for or travel to a protest, you would have to submit to a search under the Bill. How would an officer know my intention? Extending the stop and search powers to cover searches for articles connected with protest-related offences risks encounters between the public and the police where there is little or no justification. Does the Minister agree with that? People on their way to protests, marches, rallies or demonstrations are at risk of being searched in case they are equipped to commit one of those offences—or so the police believe.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has just articulated with reference to her Amendments 100 and 101—this is the purpose of a Committee—what on earth do the Government mean by “prohibited” items? It is incumbent upon us to give some indication of what we consider prohibited items to be. It is easy to scoff when the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asks if that includes a bicycle lock—but does it? I think it is quite right to ask that question.

This takes us to Clauses 11, 12, 13 and 14. Even if one thinks that stop and search with reasonable suspicion may be appropriate, to stop and search for prohibited items without suspicion, looking for articles with respect to peaceful protest, is not where this country should be going or what this Parliament should be legislating to allow the police to do. The application of suspicionless stop and search powers was previously reserved for use in the most serious circumstances, such as the prevention of serious violence, gun and knife crime, or indeed terrorism. Is this where we want our democracy to go—to use stop and search powers that we have previously said should be used only in relation to the prevention of terrorism or serious violence? We are now saying that they are appropriate to be used to search people going to a peaceful demonstration for prohibited items.

The Minister needs to explain—this is the purpose of my clause stand part notices, even though we are in Committee—why the Government think that is appropriate, whether the Minister agrees that it is appropriate, and why the Government believe it is necessary to give terrorist-related powers to the police to deal with peaceful protest. That is the purpose of my clause stand part notices for Clauses 11, 12, 13 and 14 on the creation of the suspicionless stop and search power in relation to a list of specified protest offences. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Anderson—who is not in his place—the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I know there are others; the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has just said that she supports it. My reason for opposing these clauses is to ask the Government to justify such an extension of power to the police in the context of peaceful protest.