Lord Haskel debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 3rd Jul 2023
Mon 15th Mar 2021
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage & Lords Hansard
Mon 1st Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, before the House resumes consideration of the Illegal Migration Bill on Report, we come to two Divisions that the House agreed to defer after the failure of the pass reader Division system on 28 June, beginning with the deferred Division on Amendment 15.

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Baroness Mobarik Portrait Baroness Mobarik (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 51 in my name seeks to retain existing statutory time limits for the detention of unaccompanied children put in place by a Conservative Government. I am grateful for the significant support from these Benches and across the House during last Wednesday’s debate. Although we have received some verbal reassurances throughout the passage of the Bill, the Government have yet to put in place the necessary safeguards in time limits to protect children from the harms of detention under the Bill. Therefore, I have no alternative but to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, if Amendment 51 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments 52 to 54 because of pre-emption.

UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Monday 25th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It is a memorandum of understanding, as opposed to a treaty, which has been the subject of debate today.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I start by thanking several noble Baronesses who, for many years, have been trying to persuade Her Majesty’s Government to address stalking and understand it rather better than we have done hitherto. In no particular order, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall, Lady Brinton—who we will be hearing from in a minute—and Lady Newlove, and pay tribute to them for their persistence.

This is a simple and brief amendment, designed to ensure that the many agencies and individuals that encounter different forms of stalking know better what it is they are dealing with. There are two key messages that we need to take on board. The first is that stalking is carried out in England and Wales on an industrial scale. There were 1.5 million victims of stalking in 2019-20 in England and Wales. Only 0.1% of those instances resulted in a conviction. Around 77% of that 1.5 million experienced an average of over 100 stalking incidents before they actually plucked up the courage to report it to the police. For those noble Lords of a mathematical bent, 77% of 1.5 million is not a million miles away from 1 million, and if you multiply that by 100, you start to get some sense of the scale of what we are talking about. It is staggering.

The second point that it would be helpful to take on board is the complexity of stalking. Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists have developed the “stalking risk profile”, the authoritative tool used to understand and codify the different types of stalking. It outlines five different stalker types, and I shall briefly take noble Lords through them and explain why as I do it.

The five types are broken down by the prevalence of each in a clinical setting. What is relevant for today’s amendment is not the first and predominant stalker type, known as the rejected stalker, which has the highest prevalence of violence and will pursue the victim, often a former partner, for either reconciliation or revenge. The rejected stalker type is responsible for 54% of stalking incidents—by a strange coincidence, almost exactly the estimated amount of stalking incidents that are domestic-abuse related.

How about the other 46%? Before I go on to that, I pay tribute to the Government, the NPCC and College of Policing for the new national framework for delivery for policing violence against women and girls announced by Maggie Blyth last month. It is genuinely a very positive leap forward for dealing with stalking, primarily domestic stalking. However, even domestic abuse stalking is complex. Alongside the framework, as you can see on the College of Policing website, is a document called the “framework toolkit”, which breaks down by type of incident all the different types of stalking and harassment that are likely to take place; it then subdivides them into the myriad different laws and types of guidance that the police should consider when trying to work out what type of stalking incident this is. I am a lay man and I know a certain amount about it, but my observation would be that, in many cases, one would require a PhD in criminology to follow the decision tree of all the ways in which one might respond to an incident, and how best to deal with it.

What about the other four stalker types? We have the resentful stalker, which is about 15% of that 1.5 million. They often have a deliberate intent to cause fear or distress to a victim in response to perceived mistreatment. Legal sanctions often exacerbate their behaviour, and they frequently require psychiatric treatment. I would venture to guess that the resentful stalker is in many cases responsible for the shameful incidents that we hear about, whereby leading politicians, particularly female politicians in this country, from the other end of the Palace of Westminster, receive frequently hateful and disturbing threats to themselves and their safety, as well as that of their families and staff. Some 15% of stalkers are doing that.

The next category is the intimacy-seeking stalker. This is somebody who is quite frequently mentally unstable and wants to have an intimate relationship with the person they are stalking. You may recall one or two quite well-known women, usually, in the public eye, perhaps well-known journalists—in one instance, somebody who not infrequently appears on “Newsnight”, who has had the experience of being stalked by somebody in this category since they met briefly many years ago at university. I suspect that that individual has received not just 100 instances of stalking by this individual— I imagine it probably goes into the thousands.

The next category is the wonderfully named incompetent stalker, which represents about 11% of the 1.5 million. This individual tries to forge a relationship with the victim in socially inappropriate ways. Again, frequently, psychiatric help is required to try to make them understand what it is that they are doing.

In the fifth and last category is the predatory stalker. They stalk victims for sexual gratification, often in preparation for an assault, and sex offender treatment may be required. I suspect that in that category goes a certain rather infamous gentleman who until recently was in the police force but is now a guest at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a very long time indeed.

So how can the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office help those charged with protecting these 1.5 million victims, particularly the substantial number—46%—who are not being targeted by the rejected, domestic abuse-type stalker? The new framework makes a good start, but it does not make use of some of the very effective initiatives that are out there, such as MASIP, which I discussed briefly with the Minister this morning, or Lifeline, a specialist training course for individuals who have to look at stalking developed by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. It is extraordinarily effective, and dovetails very effectively into Domestic Abuse Matters, which is the predominant domestic abuse training that police and other agencies are receiving.

I do not expect the Minister to stand up at the end of this and say, “Lord Russell and all the rest of you, you’re completely right, we’ve totally taken it on board and we’re going to do exactly what you ask”. I would be rather alarmed if she did. But what I would ask her and her colleagues and advisers to do is to carefully consider this problem—the scale and the sheer complexity of stalking, particularly non-domestic abuse stalking—because it not going to go away.

The reaction of the Government and statutory agencies to the incidence of violence against women and girls over the last three or four years strongly reminds me of the fable about the frog who was burned alive sitting in water that was gradually heating up, as incident after incident, story after story, heats up in this case the political temperature, until the politician in the bath suddenly finds that they are soon going to be in need of medical help, because they have allowed this situation to develop. Stalking has similar characteristics; it is not going to go away.

Many people in public life, especially the lady politicians we were referring to earlier, know exactly what it feels like to be stalked. Based on the law of averages, I would be astonished if some of the Ministers dealing with this, their advisers and extended teams, have not themselves personally experienced stalking in some form or another. Stalking is not selective when it chooses its victims.

This amendment is designed to strongly suggest to Her Majesty’s Government that, in order to avoid the equivalent of a dreadful Sarah Everard moment that is very specifically related to stalking, they should voluntarily choose to act proactively and put in place an effective and comprehensive approach to enable the sheer complexity and scale of stalking to be understood better—and they should do that now. I beg to move.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, is taking part remotely. I invite the noble Baroness to speak.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his comprehensive introduction to this amendment and his explanation of the different types of stalking.

When Gracie Spinks was stalked and then murdered in June by a non-partner, her case was made infinitely worse by the behaviour of the police both before and after she died. In February, she had reported the worrying behaviour of Michael Sellers to her local police. Despite his behaviour escalating, she had no support from them. There are also issues about the behaviour of officers after her murder, and five have now been issued with IOPC disciplinary notices.

Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Not only do I empathise with what really matters to some people at the point of death—it made me think that, if I was in such a situation, I would want a priest there—but I am very glad that Cardinal Nichols is meeting with the NPCC. That group will consider a more nuanced approach that can be reflected in police guidance about facing such a situation.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. That concludes Oral Questions for today.

Napier Barracks Asylum Accommodation

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Monday 14th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The judgment found explicitly that the conditions of the barracks were not inhumane or degrading, as has been reported, but I concur with my noble friend that anyone who has no right to be here, whether through criminality or a failed asylum judgment, should be removed from this country. The Government are looking at various ways in which that can be effected.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cash Searches: Code of Practice) Order 2021

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Monday 17th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these instruments, which stem from the Criminal Finances Act. The Minister will no doubt recall that I spent a fair bit of time trying to encourage more and faster steps during the passage of that Act. However, today’s instruments relate to the codes of practice for enforcement, and I wish to speak around that more generally rather than on the particular extension to Northern Ireland.

The codes are important because they give guidance on how officers exercise their functions, and are of interest to persons who may be the subject of the powers. While I have little sympathy for wrongdoers, functions must be exercised lawfully and proportionately. There may also be parties inadvertently dragged into scope. I therefore have no quarrel with the content of these instruments as such, but there are surrounding matters of interest and I am taking the opportunity of the time available for this debate to see whether the Minister can provide some more information.

My first point is that the code of practice will be of use only if it is backed up with a proper and robust training package by the NCA’s Proceeds of Crime Centre. The Home Office’s Asset Recovery Action Plan of July 2019 stated that the Government would conduct an independent review of the Proceeds of Crime Centre by March 2020. Earlier this month, the Government released a statement of progress on the economic crime plan, which states that this review has been completed and its recommendations are being implemented. The fact of that follow-up is good, one supposes, but the review has not actually been published and requests for its release under the Freedom of Information Act have been rejected. Therefore, it is not possible to know what the recommendations from the review that are being implemented are, what the background to those recommendations is or how effective they will be, because the information is not published. Given the centrality of the Proceeds of Crime Centre to ensuring effective training on the code of practice, will the Government make public that review and put a copy in the House of Lords Library? If that is not being done, can the Minister explain why not and what other information is available to Parliament?

My second point relates to the first: these powers will also be effective only if the UK has properly resourced financial investigators and law enforcement to investigate and prosecute for proceeds of crime. Again, there is an unpublished review, in Sir Craig Mackey’s independent review into law enforcement capabilities for tackling serious and organised crime and the cost of implementing the 2018 serious and organised crime strategy. The Government published the executive summary of Sir Craig’s review in March 2021, but that summary does not cover one of the key areas of the review’s terms of reference: the funding for law enforcement to tackle serious and organised crime. That is despite the fact that the review was specifically commissioned in 2019 in the context of the comprehensive spending review. Again, requests for the report or a summary of its recommendations on those matters to be released under the Freedom of Information Act have been rejected.

The Government have committed in their economic crime plan to develop a sustainable long-term resourcing model for economic crime reform. As part of that they have announced that they will introduce an economic crime levy, which they expect to bring in £100 million per year. The consultation closed in October last year and we are still waiting for its results. They have also made a one-year £63 million settlement with the Home Office to tackle economic crime, but the director-general of the NCA said in 2019 that the UK needed a £2.7 billion investment over three years in tackling serious and organised crime, which was estimated to cost the UK at least £37 billion a year. Without serious funding, these codes of practice will surely be used a lot less than they might be.

Will the full review be published? If not, why not? What further information will be given to Parliament? Without publication of the reviews, one is left to postulate that the content is embarrassing, but right now the embarrassment is in the extent of organised crime, and that ultimately it falls as a cost on society and the individual, yet the numbers indicate it should be possible to recover far more.

Finally, the code of practice lays out how law enforcement can use unexplained wealth orders, among other investigative tools. However, recent case law, the Baker judgment, has exposed significant gaps in the legislation for implementing unexplained wealth orders and exposed how, without greater protection against costs, law enforcers are unlikely to use these tools against wealthy, litigious kleptocrats, if at all. It has been suggested that there might be additional reforms, such as allowing production orders to be used before an account freezing order needs to be made. Is that reform something that the Government intend to pursue?

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Dodds.

Forensic Science and the Criminal Justice System (S&T Committee Report)

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Monday 26th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to move today’s debate on the Science and Technology Committee report, Forensic Science and the Criminal Justice System: A Blueprint for Change. The committee is indebted to all those who provided written and oral evidence. We held 21 oral evidence sessions, with 50 witnesses, and received 103 written submissions; I thank all who participated. I also thank the committee members, our committee clerk Donna Davidson—who, I am delighted to see, is the Table Clerk for today’s debate, and to whom goes the credit for a well-written report—our policy analyst Dr Daniel Rathbone, and our committee clerk Cerise Burnett-Stuart, who is, as always, an efficient organiser. We were also fortunate to have as our specialist adviser Professor Ruth Morgan, director of the UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences, and professor of crime and forensic science. She is an internationally recognised expert in forensic science and its application in criminal justice systems. Her advice and knowledge contributed much to the report, and I thank her most sincerely. I am indebted to all those people.

I am also grateful, knowing her very busy schedule of legislation, to the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, for taking the debate today. She was kind enough to meet me and others to discuss the report following its publication. I shall say more about that later, and I thank her for listening.

Over the last 10 years there have been nine reports on forensic science and the criminal justice system, all intended to improve the service—yet adverse reports on virtually all aspects of the system continue to be made. Our report, based on the evidence we received, addresses the whole subject in a holistic way. A key aspect of it was the importance of addressing the whole forensic science system to identify the root causes of failures in the current system and to find best steps forward.

The delivery of justice depends on the integrity and accuracy of forensic science evidence and the trust that society has in it. The quality and delivery of forensic science in England and Wales is inadequate. We heard this repeatedly in our inquiry. In her 2019 annual report, the Forensic Science Regulator urged that the Government’s focus should be on

“the protection of justice rather than the protection of historic or current policies.”

One of the recurrent criticisms we heard was the lack of high-level leadership and oversight of forensic science from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. The strong evidence led us to recommend establishing a forensic science board, to deliver a new forensic science strategy and to take responsibility for it in England and Wales.

Budget cuts, reorganisations and exponential growth in the need for new services, such as digital evidence, have put forensic science providers under extreme pressures. The result is a forensic science market that is dysfunctional, and one which, if not properly regulated, will soon result in major forensic science providers going out of business, putting justice in jeopardy. The Government have an opportunity, following the recent much-welcomed legislation establishing the Office of the Forensic Science Regulator on a statutory basis, and with the pending appointment of a new regulator, to give the regulator resources and the function of regulating the market. I hope the Minister feels able to agree to this, but if she does not, can she say who should be responsible for regulating the market?

Structural and regulatory muddle continue to exacerbate the malaise, even now. There is no consistency in the way that the 43 police forces commission forensic services, with some doing so in-house and others contracting it out to unregulated private providers with no quality controls. Police forces also differ in which specialisms they outsource and which they keep in-house. This calls into question equitable access to evidence for defendants, and raises issues over the quality of the analysis undertaken and the evidence presented. It is urgent that the Forensic Science Regulator is given a number of statutory powers to bolster trust in the quality of forensic science provision. Will the Government use the opportunity provided by the appointment of a new regulator to give her or him these powers?

Fair access to justice for defendants is further hampered by cuts to legal aid. The defence needs to have an opportunity to commission its own forensic testing where the evidence is disputed. Further, the rapid growth of digital forensic evidence presents challenges to the criminal justice system. We were not presented with any evidence of any future strategy to deal with this. The Government have recently increased funding, but it still falls short of who will be responsible for developing a longer-term strategy.

Lack of resource and poor co-ordination of research and development in forensic science has resulted in concerns about the scientific validity of some of the forensic science evidence, particularly regarding its interpretation. It is vital that the failings identified by our report are recognised, otherwise public trust in forensic science will continue to be lost, threatening confidence in the justice system. Crimes may go unsolved, and it runs the risk of increasing the number of miscarriages of justice.

Our report was published on 1 May 2019 and the Government responded to it in July 2019. The Government’s response addressed only one part of the forensic science ecosystem, not the other key issues identified in the report. The proposals set out in the response are insufficient to address the systemic issues, and fall way short of addressing the core challenges or providing a path forward that will lead to reform across the whole of forensic science and enable the science to effectively assist the justice system.

Some things have changed since then, although not much for the better, and opportunities exist even now to address some of the failings identified in our report. Let me briefly say what has changed. One of the key pieces of good news, of course, is the establishment of the Office of the Forensic Science Regulator on a statutory basis. I thank the Minister for that. What the regulator lacks is the regulatory powers needed to drive the changes required to make the provision of forensic science in England and Wales world-class, as it once was.

There is also a need to address the level of resources required for the regulator to do his or her job. I hope the Minister can comment on that. Instead of the forensic science board recommended by the committee, the Criminal Justice Board has formed a forensic sub-group to address a forensic science reform programme to strengthen forensic science provision and address key risks and challenges. However, it is not clear how far it has progressed, what role the Government play in it and what responsibility they have for it. Despite further incidents such as a cyberattack on one of the providers of forensic services, the issue of fragility of the market is not being addressed.

The Government have put more money into the Transforming Forensics programme and launched its delivery arm, the Forensics Capability Network, but several police forces remain sceptical of its effectiveness, as evidenced by a request by the National Police Chiefs’ Council for a review. Accreditation, meeting quality standards and training still remain issues, as does inequality in the availability of forensic services to defendants, as opposed to the prosecution. As I said, cuts to legal aid threaten the financial viability of those who provide legal aid to the defence. To date, there have been some positive conversations on funding for forensic science research and development, but very little progress is being made.

Before I conclude, I have three further questions for the Minster. Where in the Government does accountability lie for provision of quality forensic services to assist the justice system? Who will be responsible for regulating the market in forensic services? How will the Government ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of research and development and forensic science methodologies, including digital forensics, foundation research and, importantly, the interpretation of forensic materials?

I end with a quotation from one of our witnesses, Professor Claude Roux, director of the Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Technology, Sydney, and president of the International Association of Forensic Scientists. Referring to all aspects of forensic services in England and Wales, he said:

“England and Wales held, essentially, the international benchmark. It was the ‘Mecca’ for forensic science … 30 years later”,


due to “an ongoing national crisis”, it

“is more of an example not to follow.”

That was not pleasant for the committee to hear. I beg to move and look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, I remind the Committee that some Members are here in person, others are participating remotely but all Members will be treated equally. I ask Members in the Room to respect social distancing. If the capacity of the Committee Room is exceeded or other safety requirements are breached, I will immediately adjourn the Committee. If there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for five minutes.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Amendments 68 and 69 not moved.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 70. Anyone wishing to press this or any other amendment in the group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 70

Moved by

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Amendment 3 not moved.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 4. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in the group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Clause 2: Definition of “personally connected”

Amendment 4

Moved by
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Amendments 5 and 6 agreed.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 7. Anyone wishing to press this or any other amendment in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Clause 3: Children as victims of domestic abuse

Amendment 7

Moved by
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, for leading on this important aspect of domestic abuse, clearly laying out the high incidence of abuse when a woman is pregnant and the many harms associated with it. I declare that I chair the Commission on Alcohol Harm. Some 25% to 50% of domestic abuse offences are fuelled by alcohol. The Good Childhood Report in 2017 found that 39% of children living with a parent or carer with problematic alcohol use were also living in households where there had been domestic violence in the past five years. That is almost three times the comparable rate in the rest of the sample.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder—FASD—describes the permanent impact on the brains and bodies of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. This can result in physical, emotional, behavioural and neurological characteristics that are all related to prenatal—interuterine—exposure to alcohol. At least 7,000 babies are born every year in the UK with FASD, although recent research suggests that the true incidence may be sixfold to 17-fold higher. Misdiagnosis as attachment disorders or autism is frequent.

Alcohol is a teratogen which can cause any type of physical malformation and learning and behavioural challenges. These children often need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, emotional regulation and social skills as well as the management of any congenital abnormalities. More than 70% of children with FASD are known to care services, often raised by foster or adoptive parents or kinship carers. The true cost of abuse is paid by the child lifelong and by society, not by the abuser.

This condition is preventable only when there is no prenatal alcohol exposure. That is why, in 2016, the Chief Medical Officer recommended that no alcohol be consumed in pregnancy and when planning one. After birth, the abuse of alcohol is associated with parental neglect and ongoing abuse in the home. When I was a GP, I worked with Strathclyde on the medical screening of children at the time of admission to care. Many of these children had been damaged before their lives had started and were further damaged from day one.

We know that, during the pandemic, domestic abuse has increased and domestic alcohol consumption has increased. Are we sitting on another epidemic that is about to emerge—that of FASD in a generation who are soon to be born? We cannot protect from FASD those who have already been born, but we can lessen the chance of further damage and protect those who come after them. That is the aim of these amendments.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord McColl.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 7, 8, 9, 78 and 90, which I support. Naming babies and the unborn in the Bill should lead parents to get the help that they need at a crucial time; otherwise they are in danger of remaining invisible when it comes to public policy. In the lockdown, as has been said, the hidden harms experienced by those under two years were sadly extensive. It should be stated that the definition of children does not recognise the unborn as victims. The amendment to Clause 3 is necessary to have in the Bill that a victim of domestic abuse includes a child who experiences the effects of the abuse, including in utero exposure, as there is good evidence for this latter harm, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, mentioned. The amendment to Clause 7 is important to stipulate comprehensively the duties of the commissioner to avoid any doubt whatever. The new clause after Clause 72 is required to ensure provision for all expectant parents and parents of children under two years where those children are victims of domestic abuse.

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Baroness Newlove Portrait Baroness Newlove (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I speak to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Stroud, because I fully support the essence of what she is trying to do.

This is supposed to be a landmark Bill and hopefully by the end of all the proceedings we will have one. But there are still some gaps within it, which a lot of noble Lords have already spoken about; I do not want to duplicate what they have said in the interest of time.

Many people I have seen, including domestic abuse survivors and their families, have talked about pregnancy and what happens when they are in a domestic abuse environment. It seems shameful, in a sense, to be talking about the unborn child in a way that has to justify a life that is going to be born, which we all wish was going to be in a healthy, happy environment.

For any relationship, having children is a very pressurised situation—it is the unknown. To be in a relationship and to be pregnant where there is more and more domestic abuse must be even more horrendous for a mother, taking each blow and each verbal insult. The unborn baby does hear what is going on in its surroundings. As my noble friend Lady Meyer has already mentioned, playing music to an unborn baby has an impact when the baby is born, so we have to understand what that child is listening to before it is born.

I am very grateful for the For Baby’s Sake briefing, The First 1001 Days, to which a number of noble Lords have referred. I hope that the Minister will reflect again. The noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, suggested looking at the guidance. As a former Victims’ Commissioner, I struggle with guidance, because it impacts on the delivery of a good service to protect the unborn child and its future life.

Exposure to domestic abuse in the first 1,001 days of life is associated with adverse outcomes, including poor mental and physical health, lower academic achievement and impaired social development. Although we know that this is a significant risk to the safeguarding of a child, we seem to wait and address the root cause only when they go into criminality. If these amendments are agreed or if we can have functional guidance, that young person will have a better, more protective and healthier environment, and at a lower cost to the state.

Domestic abuse can affect a parent’s ability to provide consistent, sensitive caregiving. It is particularly relevant for parents who themselves did not receive this level of caregiving. In fact, I am concerned that we are not seeing enough health visitors visiting families who so desperately need help and support once the baby is born. What is happening before that baby is born?

I will pose a scenario that was in one of the reports. There is a baby blind spot in what we are trying to do for the unborn child and, previously, to help the parents. Being a baby or a toddler was a lockdown risk factor in its own terms. Those who were exposed to other risk factors in addition could be considered as being subject to double jeopardy.

I am not sure there has been any thinking about the baby’s needs. As the report highlighted, we hear a lot about school age children—thankfully, today marks the first day of them going back to some kind of pattern—and parents working from home. But it is so sad that little has been said about babies’ needs. That is a quote from a practitioner. Families will be going out today, hoping to function and to create a safe environment.

So will the Minister please reflect and look at this to ensure that we have rigorous guidance, that we close the gaps and that we listen to the Children’s Commissioner and the domestic abuse commissioner? Let us make this a landmark Bill to protect both adults and the unborn child, so that we can create a healthy environment in which they can go on to lead healthier lives.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins.

Baroness Hollins Portrait Baroness Hollins (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, has summarised some of the extensive research which associates abuse—including emotional abuse—of mothers during pregnancy with resulting poor outcomes for the child. What happens to children in utero may affect them for the rest of their lives and cause longer-term developmental delays and both mental and physical health problems, and may even lead to criminality.

My noble friend Lady Finlay has also pointed, quite rightly, to the role of alcohol. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, suggested, opposition to Amendments 7, 8, 9 and 90 may be because the unborn child is not afforded the same rights as a newborn child. Indeed, an unborn child is bestowed with few rights, so it does not seem to make sense to include them in this Bill. Or, if the mother is the victim of domestic abuse, she will be in scope of the provisions of the Bill in any case, therefore the amendments would have little effect because the child affected by domestic abuse during pregnancy is not perceived as a victim.

It is important that we recognise the effects of domestic abuse on children, in order that we can intervene at a young age and act to mitigate some of the harms that will flow from domestic abuse. The Government’s amendments recognising this are welcome. However, in the same spirit and in the spirit of consistency, the scope of this Bill should include children in utero, because the rationale is much the same as for other children and it would be a significant blind spot to exclude them.

I turn now to Amendment 78 and the duty to provide therapy for new parents. I consulted my daughter, who is a psychiatrist specialising in parent/infant mental health. We know a great deal about the importance of early caregiver relationships on a child’s developmental trajectory, attachments and physical health. This amendment is about targeted early intervention and the mitigation of domestic abuse-associated future harms. All children need sensitive and responsive parents who are emotionally available and can help them feel safe and understood.

The priority for treatment is to treat, reduce and prevent parental conflict with accessible therapeutic interventions and practical support for families. Therapies and couple interventions to consider include video interaction guidance, child/parent psychotherapy, Hold Me Tight and OnePlusOne and, in complex situations, the NSPCC’s UK programmes, LIFT and GIFT. Family-based therapy with children should always be considered, when possible, although it is no replacement for other kinds of general parenting support. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, mentioned the importance of health visiting. This seems to be much less available today than it was when I had my children many years ago.

I strongly support all the amendments in this group and hope that they will bring new opportunities to really respect the Conception to Age 2 manifesto and work, and all the other initiatives concerned with the health and well-being of babies in utero and infants.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 1st February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-IV(Rev) Revised fourth marshalled list for Committee - (1 Feb 2021)
Clause 21 agreed.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 61. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this, or anything else in this group, to a Division, must make that clear in debate.

Clause 22: Matters to be considered before giving a notice

Amendment 61

Moved by
--- Later in debate ---
Amendment 63 not moved.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 64. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 64

Moved by
--- Later in debate ---
Clauses 29 to 31 agreed.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 71. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Clause 32: Making of orders without notice

Amendment 71

Moved by