11 Lord Moylan debates involving the Leader of the House

Wed 22nd Mar 2023
Tue 21st Mar 2023
Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 20th Mar 2023
Tue 28th Jun 2022
Wed 16th Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard _ Part 1 & Report stage: _ Part 1
Mon 7th Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Fri 4th Feb 2022
The Government said they are committed to ensuring that England has high-quality tourist accommodation. Amendments 445 and 445A, together with Amendment 447 which provides definitions, would help achieve this. I believe that these amendments on data collection and sharing, and on safety requirements, are useful additions to the Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, for his introductory remarks. He made some important points. The points I am going to make are slightly different.

I will speak to the four amendments in my name in this group: Amendments 441, 443, 444 and 446. I do so with the cross-party support of other members of the Built Environment Select Committee, as is seen from the names subscribed to the amendments. I am glad to see various noble Lords here who are, or who have been, members of that committee and who may wish to speak in this short debate, which is principally focused on the Government’s proposals in the Bill to empower themselves to introduce a national registration scheme for short-term let properties.

These amendments arise from a short inquiry conducted by the Built Environment Select Committee last year in which we looked at the effects of Airbnb and similar type properties on various localities. It was chaired not by me at that time but by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. As committees tend to, we reached some conclusions we agreed on and had various questions that we wanted to ask the Government about the national registration scheme, which by then we were aware they were bringing forward and proposing. The Government clearly see it as central to their approach to dealing with the problems that have been identified.

One of the things we were able to agree on—here I part company slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, as was mentioned in Committee only two days ago—was that, while there was a problem, the evidence showed us that it was quite localised. It is a problem which exists in particular types of localities, including densely populated urban areas such as central London and in holiday areas. We did not see the case for a compulsory national registration scheme. We did see a case for local authorities in areas that are adversely affected to be empowered to have a registration scheme that they could apply locally.

Beyond that, we had a number of questions. We put our views and questions in a letter to the Government, as one does, and we addressed it—thinking we were doing the right thing—to the Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Our first surprise was being told, after a little while, that the reply would in fact come from a different department—the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. So I first ask my noble friend to explain clearly why a scheme so closely identified with the Secretary of State at DLUHC should in fact be handled, in policy and implementation terms, by a totally different department. It is of course entirely up to the Government to decide how to manage these things, but I think noble Lords will want to know who is in charge, so to speak, and where they should turn if they have views on the matter.

As I said, we received a reply from a Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that was slightly odd in some ways. First, he appeared to think that the Bill in this Committee had already been enacted.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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It had of course passed the Commons at that stage, and that may have been the cause of his confusion, but I know that noble Lords here would want him to be aware that the Bill is far from enacted. In fact, it is further from being enacted at this stage in Committee than it possibly was on the first day on which we sat to consider it. The Bill that emerges may yet not be quite the Bill that the Minister thinks is in force, but I am sure that all of this will be sorted out for him by his officials.

In his reply, he referred to the call for evidence that the Government issued last year—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, for bringing this up. He referred to it, saying that the Government had gone out and called for evidence, but he gave no explanation of why, months later, we still have not seen the evidence submitted as a result of that call. I am sure it would be immensely helpful to your Lordships, in considering this particular aspect of the Bill, to know what evidence the Government received. So my second question to my noble friend is: can she tell us when we will see the evidence that was submitted to the Government last year, with any conclusions that they might have drawn from it at this stage? In particular, will noble Lords have an opportunity to see it before we arrive at Report, or—this would be very helpful—while we are still in Committee? The essential thrust of what I will say in the remainder of my speech—I think noble Lords might be grasping it—is that we are being asked to empower the Government to introduce a national registration scheme without being given any information on what it might contain.

This brings me to the remaining part of the letter that the committee received in reply to its polite inquiries. We asked some questions about how this would operate, but we were told by the Minister that none of these questions could be answered at this stage because they would all be the subject of public consultation. Public consultation is a very good and necessary thing, and we have no criticism of the Government for committing to undertake public consultation on the scheme, but you have to consult on something: you have to put some proposals to the public in order to elicit their opinion. My question, as a result of reading the letter from the Minister, is: do the Government have any idea at all of what they will put to the public? If they do—I very much hope they do—can my noble friend say what they are?

The content of these four amendments follows from this. I will run through them briefly, because all of them are probing amendments, seeking an answer from the Government to questions raised in our letter. It seemed very good to be able to give the Government this opportunity, in Committee, to answer questions that they were not able to answer a few weeks ago.

Amendment 441 raises the question of whether the Government have it in mind that this should be a national and compulsory scheme or one which has the local discretion which the committee favoured—we would like to know.

Amendment 443 raises the question of what the Government mean by a “short-term” let. It is put down as “90 days” in the amendment, but that is for probing purposes. Do they mean 90 days? What exactly will count as a short-term let for this purpose? If they do not have an exact figure—90 days, 80 days, 100 days—could they give us a range of what they think constitutes a short-term let before they go out to public consultation?

Amendment 444 raises a question about something on which the committee agreed—I should have said that earlier—that any national registration scheme should not apply to rooms being let out in one’s own home. In fact, the Government encourage people to let out rooms in their own home by giving them a tax break on the rental income received, so that appears to be one government policy. Is it the Government’s intention to include rooms let out in one’s principal home in a national registration scheme, and, if so, how does that mesh with the tax credits and the signals given by the tax system to those who do so?

The final question we wanted to know the answer to was: how will this be paid for? Whether it is a national or local scheme, I would have thought that it will almost certainly be implemented by local authorities, or that they will have a major role in its implementation, so how will they be remunerated for this? Fees will no doubt be charged, so how high will the fees be? Will the local authority be able to set its own fees in local circumstances, or will it be limited to charging only on a cost-recovery basis? Amendment 446 proposes cost recovery, but it is not a proposal; it is a probing amendment. This is a chance for the Government to say what they are thinking about fees and remuneration for local authorities.

Those are the four questions to which we did not feel we had received proper answers. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will be able to give us some assurance and answers on those matters, and on the other matters I raised earlier, when she responds to the group. I add that, apart from this very short debate, I think that noble Lords will have no other opportunity, other than on Report, to have a say on the scheme before it comes to be proposed and no doubt incorporated in a statutory instrument or some other measure. So this is an important juncture—one in which noble Lords, I think, will want to hear some answers from my noble friend, as I do.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, in an earlier debate on these topics on Monday, we heard the noble Lord, Lord Foster, discussing Southwold, where I spent many happy hours on holiday as a child and which now has, if I remember my figures from Monday rightly, only 500 permanent homes out of 1,400 homes. In that same debate the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred, as he did again today, to the fact that have not just a numbers problem but a distribution problem around the country because of the lack of available data.

We are all aware of the considerable issues presented in parts of our country related to second homes and short-term lets. That situation was clearly articulated by my noble friend Lady Hayman in our debate on Monday, when she articulated that communities are hollowed out because of the second homes left empty for large parts of the year, which means that all the community facilities that permanent residents need struggle to be viable. In addition, we see local house prices forced out of affordability for local people as second homes and holiday lets contribute to the housing pressures.

An amendment creating new use classes for second homes or holiday lets was rejected in the other place. Although amendments on the same subject were withdrawn on Monday, I hope that we come back to this, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Best, because it is critical that we tackle this issue. In the House of Commons, the Government claimed that these were not necessary as neighbourhood plans could create principal residence policies. However, I wonder whether the full extent of this issue and its impact, particularly on rural and coastal communities, has been properly assessed and understood. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, would enable the collection of data relating to this problem which might help to develop the picture further. However, we should encourage the Government, through the Minister, to consider this matter as urgent; it may already be too late for some of the communities worst affected. Surely we will not abandon these communities to the opportunities they offer for a small number of people to make a fast buck.

On the amendments tabled to Clause 210, which were clearly articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, we too are interested to hear the Government’s thoughts on the registration of short-term rental properties. It was interesting to hear about the work of the Built Environment Select Committee in that respect.

In the Commons, Ministers referred previously to the ongoing consultation on this matter—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, referred to it again this afternoon. What is the outcome of that consultation—it has not been published yet—and what conclusions will the Government draw from it? I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Young, referred to this in an earlier debate on this topic.

I was very interested in the comments on the work of the Built Environment Select Committee, and it is fascinating to hear that this issue sits with the DCMS rather than DLUHC. I hope the Minister will respond to that. It is disappointing to hear that a Minister thinks that the whole Bill has already been enacted. In view of the fact that none of these issues has been dealt with, I think we are glad that it has not been so far, and I am sure that noble Lords here will improve the Bill as we go along.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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May I just briefly say, as a matter of courtesy, that the reply to the letter that I referred to came from a Minister in the other place? I just thought, in all fairness, that I should make that very clear.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for that clarification.

The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, set out the four questions asked by his amendments, and they are all very important questions on which I hope we will hear further from the Minister, particularly Amendment 446, which addresses how this is going to be paid for. That is one of a number of questions on fees and costs that appear about many other clauses of the Bill, so I hope we will have responses to those questions.

The amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, largely relate to ensuring that the safety of short-term let properties is not left to chance. It is particularly important that properties left empty for periods of the year are subject to detailed regulation on safety matters. This would also encourage absentee landlords to ensure that their responsibilities are met. Recently, we have seen increasing pressure on social landlords to address safety provision—in fact, there are very stringent new requirements on them—so it is clearly an issue that the Secretary of State takes seriously. We should not have what would amount to an exemption for the owners of short-term let properties in this respect. I hope that may be addressed.

The noble Lord, Lord Foster, also referred to the difficulty of enforcing licensing restrictions without data from booking platforms. Although I agree with him that booking platforms may be unwilling to release that data, it is really important and, without it, enforcement is difficult to address. Local authorities would struggle without effective data collection methods to enforce some of the matters raised in this debate.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred to the perverse incentives that exist between council tax and business rates. This is really important to data gathering: there is no incentive for councils, because if they collect business rates, they have to send it all off to our good friends at the Treasury, whereas if they collect council tax, they keep it to deliver services to their communities, so there is not much incentive for them to get matters straight here.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley referred to the importance of being reassured of the safety of the building, regardless of the length of time of the let. If you stay somewhere, even if just overnight, you want to be assured that the building is subject to the same safety regulations as would apply anywhere else you stayed.

Turning to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, I am very sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, is not in her place today and I hope he will send her our very best wishes for a speedy recovery. He spoke about evidence to the Built Environment Select Committee from south Devon. I heard a great deal on this from my former colleague on the District Councils Network, Judy Pearce, who is the leader of South Hams Council and has been a powerful advocate of a great deal more action on second homes. The suggestion of pilot schemes—or taking advice from Wales, as I am sure my noble friend Lady Wilcox would say—is always a very good idea.

On 21 March, it was reported that changes aimed at restricting the way that homes can be turned into Airbnbs were being introduced, as the Secretary of State for DLUHC was going to bring them in. He acknowledged a problem with holiday lets preventing young people accessing jobs and homes. Can the Minister give us further information on whether that will come into the Bill as government amendments and when we will see government amendments to this effect?

Those are our comments on the amendments submitted. We support the amendments on registration and we certainly support the amendments on safety.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I am conscious that, as a Conservative Back-Bencher loyally supporting the Government in season and out, I am probably a Member of this House worthy of least consideration when it comes to discussing the contents of this Bill. Despite my having taken part at every stage in its progress so far, I think I am forgiven for being somewhat confused.

We started out with a proposal for a statutory tort, which I am going to call “hard tort”. I turned out to support it, not only out of loyalty but because I strongly believe in it. On Report, recognising that there were some concerns about it, I had the privilege to table an amendment that had previously been tabled in Committee by my noble friend Lord Sandhurst, which would have retained the tort but allowed a judge to stay proceedings and instruct mediation to take place. I thought that a good compromise that could have been accepted, and I am going to call that “middle tort”.

However, my noble friend the Minister pre-empted me to some extent by coming forward with a proposal which allowed the tort to be accessed only after every possible complaints procedure had been exhausted; we might call that “soft tort”. Your Lordships’ House voted for “sort tort”, and then went with the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, and voted to remove the clause all together in addition, which we can call “no tort”.

Today I have turned out loyally, because I am encouraged to do so, in order to vote for “hard tort”. Here I am, and with only half an hour to go I see that the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, has now moved to the “soft tort” position and I am expected to give my support to it. So this is not simply a question of “how do you manage your team?”—that is a minor consideration and purely a whipping matter—but of what it is we are actually saying to the world with these goings on.

The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said that the important thing here is that the Bill sends a signal to universities. It does in my view send a signal to universities: that this Parliament and this Government are not as concerned about how universities conduct themselves to maintain freedom of speech, as a principle and as an activity, as the Government originally said they should be. That is clearly the signal it sends, and as I have said before in Committee, strong emphasis is being placed on the role of the regulator because regulators are subject, wherever they appear, to capture by those being regulated. That is very much why those who support this, and the university leaders, are very comfortable with it.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, I note that in the various choices between “hard tort”, “mid tort”, “soft tort” and “no tort”, at the end of this debate we will still have no idea. My noble friend has said that when it returns to the Commons, as it must, there will be scope for further compromise. Who knows what is going to come back—“hard”, “mid”, “soft”, nothing? Anything could come back to us from the Commons because clearly, the Government do not know what they want to do about this.

I strongly suggest to noble Lords that not only have we misconducted ourselves, as far as the management of this is concerned, but we are sending a very poor signal. It is most regrettable that we will agree to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Willetts today. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, I very much hope that, when the Bill comes back from the Commons, someone will have found their backbone and the tort will have been restored.

Baroness Lawlor Portrait Baroness Lawlor (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise that I did not speak in the earlier debates on this matter because, as I recall, I had not made my maiden speech. I simply add my voice to those who regret my noble friend Lord Willetts’s Motion A1, which I do not support because, as other noble Lords pointed out, it waters down the small protection that existed with the original Clause 4 for academics in many institutions.

An institution has great power: it has powers of office, of man and woman power, of employment and of funds. The original Clause 4 gave a simple and cheaper way for an individual academic who was suffering because his or her freedom of speech was under threat. I assure noble Lords that it is under threat in many universities, and especially the one I know best: my own university, Cambridge. Hardly a day goes by without threat after threat reaching the newspapers of academic freedom being impinged on. I draw noble Lords’ attention to Arif Ahmed’s publications and submissions to an earlier Committee on the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. The problem has not stopped.

For those reasons, I am worried about Motion A1 going through. It will make life much more expensive for individual academics, who often plough a lonely furrow against top-heavy and powerful institutions. I would like to restore the original Clause 4, which gives a straightforward and cheaper alternative to someone taking action against an institution. I do not believe that there will be vexatious causes that involve universities or institutions in long and litigious claims that cost money and time, because existing law covers these matters in many respects. Cheaper claims can be dealt with under protocols before action or by agreement.

So Clause 4 is necessary not only for free speech but for free thought. It is not just about student union bodies, although they should observe this; it is about how academics pursue their subjects and whether their reading lists and courses are in line with official thinking—universities have a powerful officialdom. For those reasons, I remind my noble friend Lord Willetts of his having to be smuggled into the University of Cambridge not many years ago. I do not believe that my noble friend’s amendment would prevent that happening again. I thank noble Lords for their attention.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
Earl of Lytton Portrait The Earl of Lytton (CB)
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I thank the noble Lord for his intervention, because that is exactly the point I am making about having a degree of hypothecation. In other words, it should not just go into the general purposes fund. I hope the Minister will comment on that, because there is a question of trust and transparency in this. If these things are to be robust, they will need that.

From my observations, I know that what the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, said about the instances and the impact in some of these hotspot areas is true. However, we need a bit more data to get the visible, empirical facts. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, referred to that, and I entirely agree with him. We also need to identify the likely economic outcomes of certain actions. Letting platforms were referred to; we need an analysis of how they operate for some bits of businesses but not others, because they are doing lettings direct or whatever it may be, to get some idea of how that is functioning.

There is a bit of incoherence here. For a while, conversions into residential accommodation in rural areas were often subject to the condition that they could not be occupied full-time. They had to be occupied, effectively, as holiday accommodation. Usually, they could be occupied only for something like 11 months of the year continuously, because local authorities did not want to give consent for new, independent dwellings in the countryside; there was an objective not to add to them, which I understand.

When I attended a meeting on second homes at Exmoor National Park, it was asked why there was a reduced council tax assessment for people with second homes. It transpired that only by having the bait of self-declaration could they identify how many second homes they had in the area, so that is how they did it. I say incoherence, because one really feels that the world has gone mad in some of these situations.

There is a good deal of misinformation about what is perceived to be the vast profitability of short-term lettings. When I had the privilege of being on the Built Environment Committee, I ran a little exercise, which established what I knew: that I would be better off in headline income letting full-time on an assured shorthold tenancy. However, that would probably be not to a local person but to some writer, artist or someone who wanted a nice location. The real reason behind this is that, if you are dealing with an old stone cottage which requires constant maintenance and a lot of refitting—never mind that you may have energy issues and things breaking down; things go wrong in old cottages more than they do in new ones—you are constantly in and out. The only way you can keep control of that is short-term letting, because you can take a week out and get in there and fix the boiler and all the other things that have fallen apart. It is really not for the faint-hearted.

When you compare the weekly headline rents for short-term holiday lettings with those of an ordinary assured shorthold tenancy, you are not looking at like for like. You are not dealing with fully serviced accommodation, where all the linen and services are paid for, and where somebody just walks in and all they have to do is buy their own food and go, with all the cleaning and everything else being done in-between. All that costs money. One of the greatest litmus tests of health and well-being in these rural areas is whether you can get a cleaner or someone to fix your windows. That is the real test of what is happening in the economy. With that, I will sit down and wait for group 10.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. I will speak briefly and narrowly to the point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, in which he argued for a national registration scheme rather than one which, as the noble Earl said, the Built Environment Committee said should be available locally and at local option. The noble Lord’s reason was that having a national registration scheme would make it easier for the Government to gather large amounts of data. That is a very weak reason for what would be an astonishing intrusion into privacy and the rights of property.

I believe the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said that a national scheme was preferable because it could be implemented more quickly than one implemented by a local authority.

Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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That was not me.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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I beg the noble Lord’s pardon, but I heard those remarks made. I am simply saying that I do not believe that point; any scheme implemented by the Government at a national level will take a very long time to bring forward, whereas in my experience a local authority, duly empowered and with sufficient interest in the matter, could act more quickly.

One of the important findings of the Built Environment Committee was that this problem exists, as the noble Earl said, in very localised areas. We need to understand the problem if we are to find the solution, and so we need to understand the very important localism and find locally tailored solutions rather than rush into a national scheme which would be applied to the whole country and would involve a great deal of resource being spent to no particular purpose. As the noble Earl said, we will have the opportunity to return to this on group 10, whether this evening or on our next day.

As certain noble Lords have said, there is an anomaly in the taxation of properties, depending on how they are declared. If they are declared to be residential, they are liable to domestic council tax like anybody else, but if they are declared to be in business use, which is what an Airbnb-type property might be, they pay business rates. However, business rates are not paid by anything other than quite large businesses; very small businesses do not have to pay them. Therefore, by declaring oneself for business rates, one then qualifies for threshold exemptions that are not available for domestic council tax payers. Effectively, one escapes any form of tax on the property at all.

That is clearly an anomaly about which it would be worthwhile the Government thinking, but it seems to me that the right way to address it is to change the tax rules rather than introduce a large distortion in the property market. It is giving us a solution at the wrong end; if the problem is with the tax rules, it would be better and easier to remove the anomaly from them. However, we will have an opportunity to return to this later.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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I will pause for a moment to allow noble Lords to leave the Chamber.

My Lords, there are two amendments in this group to which I will speak, and two government amendments in the same group on which I will comment. Before I go further, I express my appreciation to the Ministers, the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, for their very kind co-operation and discussions with me and others in trying to resolve the points I am raising in this group. I appreciated it very much and, for reasons I will explain later, those discussions were extremely fruitful.

My first amendment is in exactly the same terms as an amendment that I tabled in Committee. It simply asks that a provision be included in the Bill to explain what is meant by the expression “freedom of speech” in this context. The problem arises because those of us who are familiar with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights are used to the expression “freedom of expression”, which is what the article talks about. I was concerned that, by some mischance, the Bill was seeking to create a different freedom from that which Article 10 is talking about. By simply putting in the definition in the fairly stark terms that I proposed in my amendment, I thought I could achieve some degree of certainty. I am glad that there was a certain amount of support in Committee for what I proposed, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has very kindly added his name to my amendment; I appreciate his support.

My other amendment in this group is Amendment 10, in which I have the support of not only the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, but the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, with whom I discussed this issue in some detail. It seemed to me and I think to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, that more needed to be said about the checks and balances which surround the whole concept of freedom of speech or freedom of expression, whichever terminology you choose to use. The convention makes this very clear, because Article 10 sets out the basic right in paragraph 1 and then in paragraph 2 makes a number of qualifications, which make comparatively good sense, to explain that the freedom is not unqualified.

In discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, I proposed to put forward an amendment which did not come before the Committee to explain what the phrase “within the law” means. I should explain that the way the Bill expresses the idea of freedom of speech is to encompass it as freedom of speech within the law. It seemed to me that the words “within the law” beg the question of what exactly that expression means. A simple way of doing it is to put in a definition, which is what Amendment 10 does. It states:

“‘within the law’ means that the exercise of this freedom is subject to the duty to respect the rights of others and not to do or say anything that is prohibited by any enactment or rule of law.”

I suggest that this simple terminology encompasses what “within the law” means, because the phrase suggests that there is some qualification on the idea of freedom of speech, and this amendment is trying to explain exactly what that qualification is.

Those are my amendments, and I do not think I need to say much more about them. I have discussed them both in some detail with the Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Barran.

As for the government amendments, I am delighted to see that, as a result of discussions, the Government have brought forward amendments which recognise the place which Article 10 of the convention has in our overall understanding of what the freedoms we are talking about really mean. For that reason, I am happy to see these amendments, and if they are to be moved I shall not press my first amendment. However, I remain of the position that my second amendment, which has been supported by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, has real force. When we come to the point, I suggest that it requires considerable thought and support because it is essential that we understand what the words “within the law” really mean. Either they are there for a purpose, and if the purpose is there it should be explained, or they have no purpose at all, in which case those words should not be in the Bill. I hope I have explained my position as shortly as I can. With that introduction, I beg to move.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak after the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I have the impression—perhaps I am making it more explicit than he was willing to—that the Government have slightly misconceived the issue: it is not a definition of freedom of speech but rather a definition of the legal framework within which freedom of speech is to be understood. That is, the meaning of the words “within the law” is at issue slightly more than that of the words “freedom of speech”.

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Lord Macdonald of River Glaven Portrait Lord Macdonald of River Glaven (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Lord may be being rather kind to the Prussian police. I have no doubt that in the early 19th century the Prussian police were extremely interested in what was said in colleges and on street corners.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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I am happy to take the historical dispute offline, as they say, and discuss it with the noble Lord afterwards.

Our concept of freedom of speech in traditional English law is broader. It concerns not merely things that are said in the press but what you might say at Speakers’ Corner, among your friends or in colleges and universities. Amendment 10 seeks to root the notion of the legal framework in which we are considering freedom of speech in that broader English common-law tradition. I see a relatively clear contrast between the two, which is why I had no hesitation in supporting Amendment 10. I am happy to acknowledge the discussions I had with the noble and learned Lord about it before he tabled it.

It seems that the Government are not taking either of those clear choices. They have come up with a third option, which frankly I regard as a little bit of a muddle. In the first place, it seeks to root the legal framework within which we are to understand freedom of speech in Article 10, but it refers specifically to Article 10(1).

As the noble and learned Lord said, Article 10(1) is perhaps the positive part of Article 10. It is the part that goes out and says, “Freedom of expression is very important and has to be protected”. It is paragraph 2 of Article 10 that goes on:

“The exercise of these freedoms”


and so forth

“may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties”

for various purposes, which it then lists. I will not detain the House by reading them out, but it is the restrictive part.

There is no mention of the second part of Article 10 in the Government’s amendment. Ministers with whom I have had the benefit of discussions about this, for which I am grateful, have said to me that it is clear they intend this to be a freedom which is consistent with what I have described as the English common-law tradition of freedom of speech. That brings me to the question: if that is what they mean but they still wish to root it in Article 10, what has happened to its paragraph 2? Does the Government’s amendment mean that paragraph 2 is disapplied in relation to the understanding of freedom of speech as it is to sit in the Bill, following their amendment? As drafted, the amendment is pregnant with paragraph 2, but we do not know whether the birth is going to take place. What is the role of that part of Article 10 in this?

My own view is that the Government have a lot of explaining to do on this late amendment to try to make clear to your Lordships what is being achieved. If this is the right means of achieving it and their intention is to have a broad understanding of freedom of speech, why are they rooting it in Article 10 in the first place and what has happened to the second part of that? Would it not be much better if my noble friends on the Front Bench simply opted for one of two amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, ideally Amendment 10?

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, from these Benches we very much welcome the government amendments in this group. We consider that “opinions” is a much safer term than “beliefs or views”. We also welcome Amendment 7, which aligns freedom of speech more closely to other conventions. I am afraid that I do not have the legal knowledge to discuss the views of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, on whether paragraph 2 should be there.

However, we support the other amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. We are also very pleased that the Minister has signed Amendment 6, which should help to protect freedom of speech and well-being on our campuses. We realise it is unlikely that the other amendments in this group will go any further; meanwhile, we thank the Ministers very much for listening.

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Lastly, I remind the Minister that when we come to the later stages, she may well find herself arguing that the process of appointing the free speech champion is undisturbed by any outside considerations whatever, or any outside consultation on who should be involved in the appointing process. That seems to me to be in direct contradiction to the argument here.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I do not think I have said this before in your Lordships’ House, but I stand in almost constant awe of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, because many years ago when I left university and joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, his book, The Foreign Policy Process in Britain, was, if not quite mandatory for those of us joining, then certainly highly recommended. I read it with great attention and I hope I learned much from it, both theoretically and to practical effect. I have been here in your Lordships’ House for over two years and I have never actually had the chance to say that I am slightly in awe of the fact that the very William Wallace who wrote that book is here and makes such a huge contribution to your Lordships’ House and, indeed, to my life.

I have not risen to speak predominantly to the amendment standing in the noble Lord’s name, but rather to the earlier amendment. However, I shall just say that the rosy picture he paints of academics happily getting on together, disagreeing on theoretical matters of physics and generally not hindering each other’s promotion, advancement or job prospects in any way is, I am sure, in many ways an ideal and one we should fight for, but is difficult to recognise in an age when we have seen professors effectively forced out of their jobs because they have views that are not sufficiently pro-trans or whatever. It is hard to imagine, even in a science department, how somebody could question or advance research that challenged some of the bases of climate science. In saying that, I am not suggesting that I have any reason for bringing forward such science, or that there is such scientific evidence, but, theoretically, were it to come forward, how would that affect somebody’s job prospects or their chance of securing academic grants and so forth? It is those realities, and I do regard them as realities, that the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, seeks to address.

The wording of the noble Baroness’s amendment is, as I am sure noble Lords recognise, taken directly from various findings of case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Strasbourg court. Case law in the Strasbourg court undoubtedly defends strongly the principle that, in a university, those who are employed by it, especially those in an academic role, have an absolute right to criticise the university, the university authorities, its conduct and its policies. So, the only objection, in my view, that can be raised to the noble Baroness’s amendment is that it is otiose—we do not need it because the right is already there and can be appealed to, so why do we need it in the Bill? The argument for putting it in the Bill, in many ways, is really to demonstrate to university authorities that these rights must be taken seriously.

I have to say that the cases in which these rights have been enunciated and vindicated by the European Court have difficult, and in some cases almost barbarous names. They tend to come from parts of Europe and Turkey. They are cases such as Erdoğan, Sorguç, Aksu, Kula, Kharlamov, which the noble Baroness referred to, and Ayuso Torres. They are not names or cases that trip easily off the tongues of the lawyers engaged by the majority of British universities to advise them on how to conduct the issues of free speech. Whereas the Equality Act, the Prevent duty and the Public Order Act are pieces of legislation with which those lawyers are very familiar indeed, and much more accessible to them. So, in defending free speech, there is a natural bias—the tension, if you like, that was at the heart of the debate on the earlier group—among those giving legal advice to universities and those receiving that advice, to pay attention to the legislation that has a tendency to restrict freedom of speech, rather than the European convention case law that defends and vindicates it.

The argument for the amendment from the noble Baroness is that it is not otiose to include it; these rights exist already but they need to be referred to and universities need to be reminded of their importance. Therefore, the amendment should stand. It is hard to know what I want to hear from the Front Bench in response, but I very much hope that my noble friend can say that the rights expressed by the noble Baroness are crucial and will be defended, and that the Government intend to ensure that the Office for Students does so. However difficult of access they may be, they none the less form a proper basis for the conduct of universities, by contrast to and in tension with the legislation, which restricts free speech.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Portrait Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab)
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My Lords, I remind noble Lords of my interests in the register. I celebrate the fact that the European convention and the Human Rights Act are being cited all over the Chamber today. That is wonderful.

I noted what the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, said about the music faculty at Oxford University. I do not recognise the aspersions that she was casting and will ensure that noble Lords are aware in due course of the situation as it stands. I certainly do not recognise that the university sought to stifle criticism of whatever the music faculty did. I will seek to clarify that with the Minister in due course.

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Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 21, standing in my name. It dawned on me, as I said in Committee, that the purpose of some noble Lords was not to improve this legislation that has been passed by the Commons but to eviscerate it. The speech just given by the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, seems to illustrate exactly that.

One of the few things on which I agreed with my noble friend Lord Willetts in Committee was when he said that there were two powerful elements in this Bill that made a real change, one of which was Clause 4. That is why it is a crying shame that the Government have conceded so much in relation to Clause 4; they have effectively turned it into a shrivelled sausage when it could have been something that actually made a real difference. But even with that concession from the Front Bench, it does not seem to be enough for my noble friend Lord Willetts or the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, who are insisting that even that pathetic thing be removed and crushed altogether.

A principal argument in favour of Amendment 20, tabled by my noble friend on the Front Bench, is that the Government intend thereby to give the universities an opportunity to resolve the problem through mediation and a complaints system. The difficulty is that, in terms, university authorities have expressed repeatedly the fact that they do not consider that there is a problem: they consider it to be an invented problem, or a problem which, if it exists at all, is rare and egregious and can be handled by the universities. Plainly, there are those of us who feel that the universities have failed to handle it, and need to be brought to book.

If the universities genuinely want to give mediation a chance, Amendment 21, standing in my name, gives them the opportunity to demonstrate that. A similar amendment was tabled in Committee by my noble friend Lord Sandhurst, and it is retabled here—I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, and my noble friend Lord Strathcarron for adding their names to it. Amendment 21 would retain the substance of Clause 4 as originally proposed by the Government and approved by the other place, but would give to universities the opportunity in each case to ask the court to stay proceedings so as to allow mediation to take place. It would be at the discretion of the court whether to agree to that. I am sure that, if the court thought that there was a prospect of success in the mediations, it would agree.

This is modelled on legal practice in certain other areas where I understand, for example, that the provision and possibility exist—although noble Lords know that I make no claim to be a legal expert on pensions entitlements and so on. So the principle is a workable one: the university can say, “Please will you stay the proceedings while we exercise mediation”. It preserves the substance of the tort in Clause 4 and gives academics, in particular, an opportunity to make their representations in the way that the Government originally envisaged.

I will address the Government’s proposal, because the proposal being advanced by my noble friend Lord Willetts—who I understand may speak shortly—and endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, is to delete the clause altogether. The Government’s proposal would allow those administering the complaints system to indulge in indefinite delay. There is no time limit by which a decision has to be reached in this amendment. My noble friend Lord Howe said something vague about how he thought that 12 months might be something that already existed and might therefore be applied or extended to this activity, but there is actually no time limit by which a complaint has to be resolved which would allow the complainant to trigger the tort. It would remove the possibility of seeking urgent injunctive relief, which is something that could be obtained through the courts. It would push complainants back to a choice between a financially ruinous application for judicial review—because it is financially ruinous for the individual —or continuing with a possibly endless complaints process in which, as has been said by others in this context, the punishment is the process. You are an academic with a career to pursue and you are probably not even in a properly tenured post, but to vindicate your rights you have to undertake a process, extending potentially over many months, which comes to consume your life and, ultimately, to damage your career. It is an unenviable choice, and the tort gave people some other option to allow, potentially, for more rapid relief.

Most of all, the Government’s amendment sends a signal to academics who feel oppressed, feel that they cannot express themselves and feel that they are required to conform to an ideology which they know in their heart they do not endorse that a Government who had said that they were on their side and were taking steps to protect them are no longer interested. That is a very bad signal indeed to be sending. I am sorry to say this, but I think that the Government are being feeble.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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Now that was a heckle of some value.

To conclude, it might be nice if the Front Bench, which has shown itself capable of endorsing enthusiastically the very laudable Amendment 6, tabled by the Labour Front Bench, could reciprocate by accepting one from its supportive Back-Benchers. If so, I strongly recommend Amendment 21 in my name.

Lord Willetts Portrait Lord Willetts (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 22 in my name and those of other Members of this House. I begin by thanking Ministers for their engagement with the tricky issues around Clause 4 and, as we have heard, the wide range of views in this House about it.

I make it clear that I completely back the principle of the Bill, which is the need for the right to freedom of speech to be backed with clearer and more enforceable rights than we currently enjoy. However, another point that the Minister has made on several occasions is that we should not overlook the protections that employment law already provides. It looks as though some of the most egregious cases, such as the terrible treatment of Professor Kathleen Stock, are in clear breach of employment law. It is quite a good principle that we should start by properly using the legal protections and rights that already exist.

As we have heard, there is also the framework of criminal law. Nevertheless, there really are problems in our universities, and most of us in this House are not denying it. I have been shouted down at universities, but I have also had a different type of experience, which reminds us of the good features of universities, which we should not forget. I remember a group of protesters with a megaphone denouncing my proposals on student fees. I went up to them to try to persuade them and they could not hear what I was saying, so they lent me their megaphone. I made my point and handed it back to them, and they got on with their megaphone, and we ended up—in the unpromising circumstances of a student demo outside a university—having a proper engagement and disagreement. We should remember that that still happens in our universities up and down the country.

Nevertheless, the framework of employment law and criminal law is not enough and the Government are, in this legislation, bringing forward a very significant further power for the regulator that already exists, the Office for Students, but giving it a clear responsibility in this area. One thing that surprises me about the sceptics—I have had debates with very concerned academics who back the Bill, and we have just heard from my noble friend Lord Moylan—is that they talk about a vague complaints procedure going on interminably, as if this is some kind of feeble option and we really need litigation as the guts of the Bill. In reality, the Office for Students, created in legislation steered through by my noble friend Lord Johnson of Marylebone, is a very powerful body and its powers are being increased in this legislation. It has considerable understanding of and expertise in universities and will gain extra powers in this legislation.

One of the arguments we heard in Committee about the need for litigation was that we need to have financial redress. It is clear that, within the Bill, there are powers for the OfS to require financial redress and to fine universities. These are very substantial provisions. What is very unusual about the Bill, unlike many other circumstances and many other policy debates I have been involved in over the years, is that the Government are not just empowering a regulator, they are, in parallel, adding a new proposal for a right of tort and civil litigation alongside. That is a very odd way of trying to tackle the problem. The Government should have confidence in the powers of their own regulator, reinforced by the proper enforcement of rights under employment law.

The Minister, whose engagement in this I respect and appreciate, said that we should not worry because, with the amendments he is bringing forward, civil litigation would be a backstop. I do not understand what a backstop is in these circumstances. We all know that a student union—and I worry about student unions at least as much as about university administrations—if one of these controversies flares up, will receive a lawyer’s letter in the first 24 hours. The lawyers will not say, “Let’s wait and see how the OfS proceeds, because we are the backstop”; the legal letters will arrive. When I think, therefore, about the real test of whether there should be this provision for tort, the real test that, surely, all of us in this House can share is: will the net effect of this provision be to increase and enhance freedom of speech in our universities, or will the effect of this power of tort be a further chilling, a further reduction in freedom of speech in our universities?

I think of people who try to organise events painstakingly to promote freedom of speech in their university. They try to find a neutral chair who will chair two highly controversial and disputing views. When one person turns up, they try to arrange for there to be an alternative. They try to find the right place for these meetings and sometimes they are already traduced in the media as if they are somehow part of the problem, when they are actually trying, very decently, to be part of the solution. Will the prospect of a legal challenge to what they are doing give them the confidence to carry on organising those events and promoting freedom of speech in our universities? I fear it will have the opposite effect. I think of a 19 year-old who sets up a student society in his or her university, thinking, “Will I find myself facing a legal letter if I get bogged down in trying to arrange an event?”

We already face a very worrying trend of a decline in the number of external speakers going to universities because people think it is just more trouble, too risky and too dangerous. The risk with these provisions is that they make that trend worse: more people will do exactly what we all fear. They shut up, they keep their heads down, they do not invite controversial speakers, they do not invite any speakers at all; they lie low and stay out of trouble. That would be terrible for freedom of speech in our universities and I fear that is the risk if people expect to face legal challenge for events they organise.

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Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for their support for this amendment. I raised the subject of academic integrity and freedom to disseminate research findings at Second Reading and in Committee. Several important issues were raised, and this amendment has been extensively rewritten in light of that. I believe that it now complies with Article 10 of the ECHR.

The revised amendment prevents the gagging of academics by research funders who do not like the findings. However, the right to publish research is also constrained by my amendment’s proposed new subsection (3), which basically states that, if the research findings would

“threaten national security, public safety, or health”,

they need not be published. They also would not if

“the contracting parties to a research funding arrangement agree confidentiality of results in advance.”

Major issues were raised during the last debate, and I will address them.

In Committee, I provided examples of how the Government themselves suppressed Covid-related research findings, for which we are yet to receive a full explanation. The research was funded by public money and did not threaten national security or public safety, but it was still suppressed. The publication of that research could have provided insights into the cost of Covid tests and of controlling the pandemic, and possibly have helped to frame more effective public policies.

I also cited examples of the tobacco and food industries censoring or preventing the dissemination of research. The unhindered publication of academic research would have created greater awareness of the dangers of smoking and the ill effects of processed food, and, again, this may well have enabled the development of more informed public policies.

Research showing that generic drugs are just as effective as branded drugs would have reduced the cost of medical treatments, as well as the cost to the NHS. In Committee, it was suggested that my amendment was somehow not appropriate for the Bill, and that transparency was a key issue. I will tackle that head on because I am happy to respond to these points. The amendment is about academic freedoms, and the clue is in the title of the Bill, which includes the words “Freedom of Speech”. Advancing and protecting the academic freedom to publish uncensored research is directly relevant to it; there is no other Bill where these kinds of issues can go at the moment. The point about transparency is important, but the unhindered publication and dissemination of research is the best form of transparency.

Over the years, I have been on many academic journal editorial boards, so I am well aware of the politics of publishing and commissioning research and so on. All reputable peer-reviewed journals require authors to disclose sources of research funding and to make the relevant data, wherever possible, available to other scholars. However, that point can be reached only when a scholar submits a paper for publication. If research funders supress the findings, a submission to a journal does not take place, and the data cannot be provided easily to other scholars—you need not necessarily disclose who the funders are, because that point is not reached. If research findings are diluted by the funder, the researcher has the option whether to accept the diluted paper and proceed to publication or not. If the researcher chooses not to proceed to publication, there will be no transparency about funding at all. If the researcher succumbs to pressure from the funder and accepts the dilution of research outcomes, he or she is unlikely to be permitted to say that the funder rewrote or took out large chunks of the paper. So there is no transparency about the pressures which prevent the publication of the paper, which is what I am really concerned about.

Of course, there are numerous research registers which list the grants obtained by scholars, but a mere listing of the source does not amount to transparency because it does not tell us anything about the gagging of those researchers or prevention of their publication. Just naming the funders does not tell us about the contents of the research, research methods, research methodology, analysis, discussion or possible public implications.

Full transparency, which is what I am concerned with, covers all those things, and that can be provided only by publication of the research, not permitting funders to say that you cannot publish it because, somehow, they now feel that it would damage their reputation or reduce the revenues arising from the sale of tobacco-related products or processed food. Gagging comes in many guises; it is not simply somebody saying that they will not let you publish—they behave in all kinds of interesting or strange ways.

I shall give a personal example. For a long time, I have taken an interest in auditor regulation. Under the Companies Acts, a resigning auditor is required to issue a statement addressed to shareholders and creditors stating whether there are circumstances in connection with that resignation that shareholders and creditors need to be aware of, then to list them, or to say that there are no circumstances and leave it at that. What do the auditors actually do? I conducted the only piece of research on that over the past 100 years, and I looked into it. I learned that Companies House does not publish the data, but on inquiry it said that it could write a piece of software for me, interrogate its database and tell me which company auditors had resigned. This was in relation to public limited companies. In those days you had to buy microfiches, so I would have had to buy the microfiches and track down whether there was a letter of resignation from the auditor.

I got the data and approached the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and asked whether it would help to fund the cost of writing the software and buying microfiches. I got the grant, and I looked at all 800 auditor resignations relating to public limited companies. What did I find? Only 2.5% of the resigning auditors complied with the law. The other 97.5% were silent; they did not say anything. But roll forward a few months and I started looking—and what do I find? In many instances, the auditors got out quietly but there was a scandal, with major frauds and other kinds of corporate collapses, which suggested that the auditors had basically abdicated their duty. They did not want to say anything or get a bad name for being troublesome, which is not very helpful for getting new audits or consultancy work.

I submitted my report to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which said that it would get back to me. That is what is required—you submit a report. Would it say that I could go ahead to publish or say that I could not? It said neither yes nor no, and meanwhile the research was getting stale, and I had to make a decision. Was it important enough for people to know what auditors were up to, or should I just be quiet? I decided that I would publish the research, and it was published as a research monograph. Needless to say, I never got a research grant from the ICAEW again. The public suffers.

That is just one example of how people are gagged. Not everybody wants to follow their conscience and just publish. What I am trying to do through this amendment is to empower academics so they can publish research that is vitally important. There is nothing in the Bill that prevents gagging of scholars through subtle or not so subtle forms of silencing. We all see the world by standing on the shoulders of intellectuals. The barriers to publication of research prevent us seeing things, and this amendment would lower those barriers. I beg to move.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 23 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sikka. I said at Second Reading that there was a lacuna in this Bill, in that it did not deal with finance and money. Finance, of course, is what makes the world go round, and the scope for using money to limit freedom of expression and academic freedom is obvious. It hardly needs to be explained. So why would a Bill that addressed academic freedom not deal with this question of money and its potential abuse?

Quite independently of the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, in Committee I tabled three amendments trying to cover such aspects as the use of donations, the use of research grants and a couple of other matters which I thought were worthy of debate. Independently, the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, tabled an amendment much along the lines of the one he has just spoken to. As we proceed to Report, I have dropped mine, but the noble Lord has refined the drafting of his amendment considerably, and it is now a very good amendment and one that I think deserves a response. Sadly, in Committee, I do not feel it had quite the response or the engagement from either Front Bench that this important topic deserves.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
Lord Grabiner Portrait Lord Grabiner (CB)
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My Lords, I will be brief. In his remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Mann, gave some extremely significant examples. Some very bad stories are no doubt out there but, with great respect, might it not be more appropriate for such matters to be dealt with in the code of practice rather than in primary legislation? It seems much more sensible to deal with this by way of advice to, for example, university institutions.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I take great pleasure in speaking immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Mann, and other noble Lords who have spoken on this topic. I am delighted that my Amendment 35 has been grouped with this interesting debate but I will be taking the discussion in a slightly different direction, which explains my hesitation at leaping in at this point. None the less, I am on my feet and will speak to Amendment 35 in my name, which is in this group.

At least some of us who were in Committee on Monday began to wonder how much this Bill would achieve by way of change, both culturally and in practice. I say that by way of introduction to my remarks on the amendment because I am coming to the question of how the Equality Act is interpreted in connection with the duty, which already exists under the 1986 Act, on universities to protect freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I remind the Committee that, under the Equality Act, all public bodies have a broad duty to

“eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act … advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it … foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”

The 1986 Act, as I say, has the obligation to protect and advance free speech but, in recent years, we have found that the Equality Act obligation is frequently being interpreted by universities as a reason to take steps to impose their views on equality, diversity and inclusion both on students and in public events. We have seen, for example, gender-critical feminists being turned away precisely because universities have interpreted their presence as contrary to their own public sector duty under the Equality Act.

Amendment 35 does not excuse universities from their public sector/public body duty under the Equality Act—they remain required to fulfil that broad duty. But it does insert a university-specific balancing requirement that requires universities also to have regard to free speech in interpreting this duty. This is a balancing amendment that ensures that potentially contradictory public law duties do not clash with one another. It is for that reason that I advance it but, to be honest, if we do not see something like this happening at various points in the Bill, it is hard to see how current practice and culture will change at all. With that in mind, I recommend Amendment 35; I hope that the Minister will be able to give wholehearted agreement.

Lord Smith of Finsbury Portrait Lord Smith of Finsbury (Non-Afl)
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Might I ask a question of the noble Lord? He spoke about how he was anxious to have the duties under the Equality Act and the duties under freedom of speech promotion sitting alongside each other, but his amendment refers to having

“particular regard to the duty”

of freedom of speech. Does that mean that the duty of freedom of speech would overtake the duties under the Equality Act instead of sitting beside them?

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, that is not the intention. The use of “particular” arises because universities, both as universities and as public bodies more generally, have a range of obligations under the law. All the wording is intended to do here is to say that that particular obligation needs to be taken into account because this Bill relates to freedom of speech in academic bodies. It is not intended to give priority; it is intended to draw attention to, and have particular regard to, that matter.

In natural language—this is of course legalistic language, to some extent—one would say “to have regard particularly to that as among the other obligations that universities have”, but this is how it is expressed in legal language. I assure the noble Lord that the intention is not to trump one over the other but to require a balancing of these existing obligations and put that requirement in the Bill. At the moment, although it might be said that they both exist and it is for universities to balance them, universities are not balancing them in a way that satisfies the intentions of this Bill.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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I will speak to Amendment 35, to which I have put my name; it relates to amending the Equality Act, as has just been discussed. I will also speak in support of Amendment 69 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, which would strengthen the academic freedom protections of the Prevent duty.

I start with Amendment 69 on Prevent. On Monday, a noble Lord—I think it was the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, but I cannot find it in Hansard so I cannot say; I wrote it down at the time—said that there is no place on campus

“for extremist views that masquerade as facts”.—[Official Report, 31/10/22; col. GC 21.]

I do not know who said that but somebody did, and it is quite a frequently said thing. I want to probe who the extremists are; indeed, I want to probe who the fact-checkers are in this instance.

During his first unsuccessful leadership bid, the present Prime Minister suggested an expanded definition of extremism to include anyone who hates Britain. It hit the headlines for a while, with people going around saying that there would be Prevent orders thrown at all sorts of people who might have been heavily critical of Britain or the UK. He backed off from it, but my point is that the whole concept of extremism has become so elastic and broadened that it has discredited whatever it was that Prevent was trying to do.

I have had a problem with the Prevent scheme since its inception. Such is the nature of today that, as this is recorded and in Hansard, I want to make it absolutely clear that this is not because I have any soft sympathies with Islamist terrorists of any nature; in fact, if anything, I think that the Government have been rather lackadaisical in not dealing with them more harshly. Putting that to one side, I was always worried about Prevent, particularly in an educational setting.

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Lord Smith of Finsbury Portrait Lord Smith of Finsbury (Non-Afl)
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I think we are entering dangerous territory if we seek to argue that one bit of law is more important than another. Upholding the duties that are placed on a university generally is something that universities have to do. Giving universities the task of balancing the requirements placed on them under legislation is the way we ought to go.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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I think the noble Lord slightly missed the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley. She was not suggesting that there are various legal duties and one is more important than another; she was making an ontological point about what a university is. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech are built into the DNA of a university. This is not simply a matter of balancing legal obligations. The point she was making is that privileging it is absolutely appropriate because that is what universities are for.

I want to make a further point, if I may. I hear this quite a lot from those who object to taking this forward. Do noble Lords recognise that there is a problem? The noble Lord will have his own experience of academic life, although I appreciate that he is speaking in a personal capacity. The free speech protection duty was last expressed in statute in 1986. The difficulty is that, whereas in 1986 the universities saw it innately as their duty to protect freedom of speech, the years have moved on, and now the university authorities themselves are oppressing free speech—not in every case, of course, but it is tending in that direction. So the circumstances have changed, and the need for some sort of balancing is apparent to many of us but seems not to be to those who speak, to some extent, even if in a personal capacity, on behalf of the academic community. That surprises us.

Lord Smith of Finsbury Portrait Lord Smith of Finsbury (Non-Afl)
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I would not fundamentally disagree with either the noble Lord or the noble Baroness about the free exploration of ideas and knowledge being central to the purpose of a university; that is almost self-evident. However, we need to ensure when we are putting legislation through the House that we are not imposing impossibilities on the people who lead universities, making it very clear to universities, colleges and student unions that they have a responsibility to promote freedom of speech and a responsibility to promote respect for all students within their community, for example. That is a sensible approach to ensuring that the Bill achieves what we all might want it to achieve.

On Amendment 69, I have a lot of sympathy with clarifying the Prevent duty in the way that the amendment suggests. That might be a rather useful way of ensuring that Prevent becomes rather more sensible than perhaps it has tended to be over the last few years.

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Moved by
31: Clause 1, page 3, leave out lines 32 to 36 and insert “have particular regard to the need to—
(a) eliminate unlawful interference with freedom of speech within the law and academic freedom,(b) promote and prioritise the particular importance of freedom of speech within the law,(c) promote and prioritise the academic freedom of academic staff of registered higher education providers and their constituent institutions, and(d) foster a culture of free thought and open-mindedness,sin all decision-making concerning the provision of higher education and in conducting and managing research activities.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to clarify the steps providers will need to take in order to promote freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to continue my minute and curious search for means by which the Bill might achieve some noticeable change. I notice I am grouped with an amendment from my noble friend Lord Willetts which appears to be there to ensure no such change is actually achieved in practice or cultural outcomes, so I think we are well matched. I will continue on this hunt for the prospect of change. In this case, I am not suggesting we amend any other legislation or duty, so noble Lords resistant to change will have to find different arguments to respond to me.

This amendment would amend not existing legislation but the text of the Bill. In new Section A3, the

“Duty to promote the importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom”


is defined in a manner which is pleasing to the Government. It simply says that it is there to promote

“freedom of speech within the law, and … academic freedom for academic staff of registered higher education providers … in the provision of higher education”.

This is insufficiently clear on which duty is being imposed on universities that does not exist already.

Amendment 31, which I have put forward, specifies what we expect universities to do as a result of the passage of the Bill into law. I will not read out everything it says, but it is there to

“eliminate unlawful interference with freedom of speech within the law and academic freedom … promote and prioritise the particular importance of freedom of speech … promote and prioritise the academic freedom of academic staff … and … foster a culture of free thought and”

open markets—sorry, “open-mindedness”. There is nothing wrong with promoting open markets either, but as it happens that is not the wording of this amendment. I am attempting to make clear what it is that we expect universities to do as a result of this duty to promote academic freedom, which the Government agree should exist but have defined in a manner which leaves the whole thing completely open.

There is an acid test to apply to this, which is the case of Dr Kathleen Stock. I do not know her, and I know nothing of her case that I have not read in public sources, so I am not making a special plea on her behalf. I am simply taking the story as emblematic. In her case, the university—I think it is fair to say—did not do some of the things it should have done to protect her and her rights. That could easily still be the case, especially with the amount of time that universities will have to spend on the astonishingly complex calibration of duties and obligations, which are apparently going to remain wholly unamended by this Bill. It has let her down.

The acid test is whether this clause would have protected a reputable academic from losing her post after expressing views which were objected to on essentially ideological grounds. My view is that, as drafted, it would not. The amendment I am moving would and I hope the Government will be able to explain why it should not be adopted when what they are doing is clearly not enough. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) (Lab)
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My Lords, I should notify the Committee that, if this amendment is agreed to, I will be unable to call Amendments 32 or 33 owing to pre-emption.

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Given that, I do not think that the changes proposed by my noble friend are needed as this is not about advice on compliance with the new duties imposed on providers and colleges. This is a general provision about good practice, and as such, it is not necessary to make it a requirement rather than leaving it to the discretion of the OfS. I hope that that explanation reassures my noble friend and noble Lords as to how the provisions on the promotion of freedom of speech, and of the importance of freedom of speech, will operate.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I hope they will forgive me if, in the interests of time, I respond only to the comments made by my noble friend Lord Willetts.

First, I must congratulate him on his masterpiece of oratory whereby he implicated our noble friend the Minister in his view such that it would appear almost churlish, by the time the Minister came to respond, that he should disagree with my noble friend on almost any matter at all. I have much to learn from him in that regard.

However, I wish to turn to one point made by my noble friend Lord Willetts. It has struck me with increasing force because it builds on something said earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, and other noble Lords: that nothing will be changed by this Bill and all change will be achieved by the code of conduct. That seems to be the message; in fact, it was almost explicitly the message given by my noble friend. I have been in your Lordships’ House only a couple of years but the tendency I have seen here is to say that, where guidance of a binding character is to be issued, we should scrutinise it and set the terms for it. When it came to what the College of Policing is doing about non-crime hate incidents, it was a united view across the House that the guidance issued by the college should become statutory guidance precisely so that we could scrutinise it.

Here, however, we seem to be taking a completely reverse approach. Nothing must appear on the face of the Bill, and everything must be left to the guidance to be issued by the Office for Students. As far as I can tell—I am open to correction by noble Lords—this guidance is not to be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny nor issued through the “made affirmative” process as a statutory instrument. It is not to come to our attention in any way at all. We are simply abdicating all the guts of the Bill to the Office for Students in how it will apply. I simply say to my noble friend that I find this really rather strange. I am tempted to suggest to him that, if my amendments were reformulated not as obligations on universities but as obligations on the Office for Students to include those things in the guidance, his principled objection would fall away—or is he absolutely determined that the Office for Students should have a completely free hand, with no parliamentary scrutiny, in how this Bill will be implemented if it becomes an Act?

I raise that as a challenge to what I might call the forces of institutional conservatism, which range across the Room—those who wish to see nothing change. Are your Lordships really suggesting that change can be achieved only by abdicating our responsibilities to a relatively new public regulator?

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I congratulate the noble Lord, if I may—he congratulated his noble friend in what became an absolute tour de force of a response itself. I have huge sympathy for his general proposition that in this place we allow too much not to be in the statute book and delegate far too much to secondary legislation and even to guidance. It is often something that we do when we are giving overly broad powers and we have made a bit of a mess of the legislation—“Don’t worry, it’ll all be sorted out in guidance.” However, I have to say, in fairness—perhaps I have become part of the new forces of conservatism; that I am now considered a conservative will show you how much politics has moved to the right in this country—that there is a qualitative difference between coercive police powers and pedagogy and creating a culture of learning and inquiry in an academic establishment, which would be very hard to legislate for at the level of detail that I personally would like something such as police powers to be provided for. I have huge sympathy with the noble Lord’s general proposition that bad law leaves a lot of stuff to be dealt with later invisibly by guidance but I am not sure that the analogy with police powers and creating cultures in universities is quite comparable.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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I have to say that I am sinking in sympathy on the general principle in this Committee, which is coming at me from every side. Nobody lacks sympathy with what I am saying—in general. It is only in the particular that they object to what might be put forward to practical effect—I am always open to the charge that I may have erred in drafting and may have got the wrong approach, and all that—but without substituting any particular proposal for the ones that they particularly find objectionable in my case. I agree that it is not a suitable parallel. Coercive police powers are not a suitable parallel with pedagogy—I picked it off the shelf—but they are perhaps a suitable parallel with somebody being driven out of their job because of particular views, because that too is a coercive act. If they are not defended from being driven out of their job, and we are simply saying that it will be dealt with by guidance and not in the Bill, what are we doing? They are skewered, because they now admit the need for change but they want it done by somebody else.

I now come to my noble friend the Minister, because I really must wrap up, and we have to move on.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, surely there is a difference between something that is appropriate as guidance, where right-minded people would think that guidance was appropriate, versus Henry VIII clauses, where Ministers are seeking to grant themselves sweeping powers over which there is no scrutiny. What we are saying here is not, “Let’s grant Henry VIII powers to a Secretary of State”, but rather that there are appropriate places for things, and on this occasion, guidance is the appropriate place.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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It is absolutely clear that of course there is a difference between guidance and Henry VIII powers but we are not in that field here. We are talking about what our contribution is as legislators and the fact that, on what we acknowledge to be tricky and difficult issues on which the public and leaders of universities would like to know our views, we are saying, “We aren’t going to agree on any of that. We’re going to give it to a body where we have no say and where there is no supervision for us at all, and we will trust them.” Frankly, it is a cop-out.

None the less, I am going to move to a close and thank my noble friend the Minister for the careful consideration that he gave to my amendment. I think that in some ways he is encouraging me to redraft it better for Report, as he pointed out its various flaws. He somewhat failed the acid test I set him of how his clause as currently drafted would deal with the situation of Professor Kathleen Stock. The noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, said that frankly it did not need to because existing provisions already do so and it was simply a failure of the university to apply them. If that is the Minister’s view, I think he should say so. Still, I am grateful to him because he gave very careful consideration to the amendment. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 31 withdrawn.
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Moved by
34: Clause 1, page 3, line 36, at end insert—
A4 Duty to secure freedom of speech and academic freedom: funding and grantsThe governing body of a registered higher education provider must take reasonable steps to ensure that grants of funds by the provider for the purposes of academic research are not refused to—(a) any individual member or group of members of staff of the provider,(b) any member or group of members of the provider, or(c) any student or group of students of the provider,on the grounds, solely or inter alia, that such persons adhere to or propagate any particular lawfully-held principle or political opinion.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment prevents discrimination in the distribution of research funding by higher education providers based wholly or in part on the lawfully-held principles or political opinions of the potential recipient.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I struggle on, looking for the prospect of meaningful change. In this case, unlike the previous groups—in one I was seeking to amend an existing statute, while in the last one I was merely seeking to amend the wording of the current Bill—I am motivated by a sense of a lacuna on reading the Bill, particularly at Second Reading, and I made mention of this at the time.

It is a well-known fact that what makes the world go round is money. Money is a very sensitive subject when it comes to universities. It used not to be—it used to be that anyone in a university who mentioned anything as vulgar as money would not be invited back to high table—but now money is an important consideration. The Bill is not silent on money, of course; it has a section on overseas funding. It is not to that section that I am turning my attention. The lacuna that I referred to is that it appears to say nothing whatever about funding coming from domestic sources.

This series of probing amendments—if the Committee wishes me to refer to them, Amendments 34, 45 and 46—try to box the compass, so to speak, of the various sources of money and how they can be used to prohibit free speech. Amendment 34 discusses grants made by universities to academics working for them or within their ambit. Amendment 45 refers to grants made downwards, so to speak, by UK Research and Innovation. Amendment 46 relates to donations that are made to universities. All of these could be used in a manner that was intended to influence, limit or shape freedom of expression within a university.

Sometimes we actually welcome that. I notice that it is a normal condition of cancer research charities that recipients do not have anything to do with tobacco companies. Many noble Lords would welcome that; they would say it was a good interference with freedom of speech and freedom of action attached to a flow of money as a condition. However, once one grants that, one ends up asking where to draw the line. These amendments are intended to test the role of money in doing that.

It has been suggested that Amendment 45 could trip over the Haldane principle, which dates from nearly 100 years ago but is still very properly entrenched in our constitutional process—that decisions on grants for research purposes should not be made by Ministers but must be made independently, and therefore to legislate on the matter at all is to offend the Haldane principle. But it is not, of course, because nothing in my amendment gives Ministers any power at all. There is nothing in the amendment that even relates to Ministers. Rather, it says that we as Parliament would be creating conditions, which we already do, for the operation and manner of operation of UKRI. I do not believe that Amendment 45 conflicts with the Haldane principle at all. I would very much like to hear my noble friend the Minister respond, so I shall not go into further detail.

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I trust that those noble Lords who have proposed amendments in this group are reassured by this explanation, which makes it clear, I hope, that the Bill already covers impartial research funding as required.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, given the hour, I will be brief on this occasion. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for explaining that, despite the fact that there is no explicit mention in the Bill of the large and important topic of money and how it makes universities go round, it is there; it is just that none of us had spotted it. Let us hope that those who are directly within the ambit of the Bill, if it becomes an Act, will be able to spot it. I would have thought that it would have been helpful to have a few words in the Bill to that effect but, no, it is there—only in a subterranean way. So we must all take comfort from that.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed. I am particularly grateful that, on this occasion at least, they agree with me that this is an important and large topic. I am simply disappointed that, at least for the two Front Bench spokesmen, it is simply too large to put in the Bill. It is too big; it is too complicated; it is very important but—

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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I did not say from these Benches that it was too big to be included. I suggested that there needs to be more discussion and clarification of the issues at stake because they are even broader than the noble Lords, Lord Moylan and Lord Sikka, were discussing. That is not to say that they should not be included.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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I am very grateful for that clarification, which I take as an encouragement to myself and the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, to enter discussions with the noble Baroness as we prepare for the next stage of the Bill to reach satisfactory wording on the topic.

Finally, I simply say how very grateful I am to everybody who spoke in the debate and managed not to say that it should be dealt with in the code of conduct. With that, and given the lateness of the hour—though I suspect the topic may come back—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
I come back to my fundamental point: at the end of this, whatever we say and whatever mechanisms we put in place, the academic community has to own it. It has to say that the culture of free speech is fundamental, and it needs to know that that is what it lives and breathes by. It will listen to legislation, but if it does not embody it in its own culture, we will have failed.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak to the two amendments in my name in this group, Amendments 13 and 28. In doing so, I am conscious of speaking after the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, with whom I agree on the matter of principle—a nice easy place for me—but disagree on the response of substance. It always fills me with trepidation to think that I am not on the same page as he is on some things.

I shall address the two amendments in the reverse order and speak to Amendment 28 first. That amendment should have been coupled with a proposal to delete lines 36 to 38 on page 2, which it appears to replicate in some ways; that will be corrected at Report, if we get that far.

The substance of what we are discussing is essentially clear. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has rightly pointed out that the Bill lacks a clear definition of what is meant by free speech, and on that we agree. He proposes that the definition of free speech be tied to the convention right in relation to free expression. My view is that that does not take us far enough. The convention right is, first, subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which has a history of narrowing that definition over time and creating more exceptions—for example, for the protection of reputation, and so forth. Because it is one that can be appealed in the European Court of Human Rights, it is likely to be interpreted in a very legalistic way by universities and to lead to a great deal of litigation. As the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, rightly said, universities need to be persuaded to own this as a project and not regard it simply as a further aspect of the legal thicket through which they have to work.

There is also great advantage in having a definition of freedom of speech which is a British tradition and based on British notions of common law: the notion that you are free to express anything which is not specifically prohibited by law. That is a different approach, if I may say so, from the one being advanced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead.

Amendment 28 is an attempt to put that approach—the idea that you can say something as long as it is not prohibited by law—into statute. That is the essence of Amendment 28. It contains an exception for Holocaust denial, but otherwise I think it resolves this question of defining freedom of speech in a clear and unambiguous way. I say this without knowing any more than the noble and learned Lord does about the Government’s current intentions in relation to the Human Rights Act, but my definition would future-proof the Bill against any attempt to resile from the European Convention on Human Rights that might come forward in such legislation, if it appears.

I now turn to Amendment 13, which is an attempt to define what is meant by reasonably practicable on the part of universities. Here, as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, has made clear, drawing on his experience as an academic, there has been a significant change over the years in the attitude of universities towards these tricky and difficult questions. As he says, some years ago, when he was perhaps a younger academic, university authorities themselves were committed to freedom of speech and it was they who would be protecting those who wished to express controversial and difficult appointments from the activist behaviour, riots or mobbish-type behaviour that might seek to close them down. As the noble Lord implied, the situation now is that, very often, the problem arises not simply from the student activists but more from the university authorities. We perhaps need a more directive approach, one that makes clear the burden on university authorities to protect free speech, as we can no longer rely on that innate instinct of theirs to do so.

As I said, Amendment 13 is an attempt to do that. First, it makes it clear that doing nothing is a reasonable activity—so that not intervening in order to close things down is a perfectly reasonable activity—and that there should be a clear obligation of tolerance on universities, allowing them to restrict only speech that harms the functioning of the institution. That is a vague phrase which perhaps could be improved in discussion as we come to Report, but I suggest that that latter category would include anti-social behaviour of abuse and insult, or destructive behaviour or racism. Those things could be taken to harm the functioning of the institution, but they would be narrowly drawn so that, in practice, the university had a legal obligation to defend people’s right to their free speech.

It is, if I may say so, a different approach—a slightly fresh and unusual approach. We are understandably so used to relying on the European convention as the basis of our interpretation of rights in the modern age, but our rights go back to well before the drafting of and our accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. We have a proper and correct, distinctly British approach to rights: the notion that one should be able to say something that is not prohibited by law and free to do so is a much wider notion than that imported in the European convention. I think it is a defensible one, and I think the notion in Amendment 13 of what constitutes reasonably practicable addresses the change in circumstances since the 1986 Act in a way that the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, identified. I believe it makes the fairly vague obligation on universities in that Act much clearer and much more deliverable.

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We will come on to the mechanisms of complex litigation later. I commend Amendment 2 from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and my noble friend Lord Triesman. While I disagree with the Government, I think they would be very wise indeed to accept it.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, it sounds to me that the noble Baroness is making the case for why Article 10 is insufficient. It applies already and it is not working. She has given a number of reasons why it is not working. It has not achieved the culture shift that—I think this is common ground—we believe needs to be achieved.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Inasmuch as there is a limit to what any legislation can do without the resources and culture, clearly that is the case. This is an argument that people make against human rights all the time. My point is simply that, if you are legislating for free speech in any sector in this country, you have to make reference to the human right to free speech in this country. Our current legal regime means that that is Article 10.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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With respect, I have not made a case against human rights. The definition I propose does not impinge on or restrict Article 10; it actually gives greater freedom and greater rights. I quibble at that point, because it is quite a serious point if it is being suggested that I am trying to impinge on existing rights. I am not.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I beg the noble Lord’s pardon. I take the point, and I tried to make it clear that I know that he has a very libertarian instinct towards free speech, which I share. I tried to argue that his Amendment 28 is more restrictive than Article 10; that is a matter of the way that it has been crafted.

My general point is that if this area of complexity that we are entering is to be made even more complex and potentially incoherent by having two different definitions of freedom of speech—one for everyone in the country and in the Council of Europe, to some extent, under Article 10 and another in relation to universities only—then that is at the heart of the problem in a thoroughly problematic Bill.

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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We certainly hope that this will gain traction. I agree that in most circumstances it is better to encourage voluntary action, as long as it works. This is very much a work in progress.

We have also asked the Office for Students to create a new registration condition to ensure that it properly tackles sexual misconduct. This would have real teeth and would mean that providers could be sanctioned with penalties, suspension from the register or even deregistration. This follows the publication by the OfS of a statement of expectations for providers in this area.

I make the point that we are the first Government who are prepared to tackle this issue. I shall continue discussing with colleagues on both sides of the House how best we can tackle sexual harassment and misconduct in our universities. I therefore have no difficulty in committing to taking this matter away and looking at it further.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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Does my noble friend wish to expand at all on my Amendment 13 about “reasonably practicable”? The essential point is that there is an existing duty in the 1986 Act that has two parts to it to take reasonably practicable steps to secure freedom of speech. If my noble friend’s position is that neither the definition of freedom of speech nor the definition of what is reasonably practicable is to be amended, why is he not frank in saying that there is no intention to change the current duty?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I apologise to the Committee. I know that I have been speaking for a long time, but this is the very issue that I was about to come on to next, if my noble friend will allow me.

Amendment 13, which is the amendment that my noble friend was referring to, seeks generally to strengthen the test for what is “reasonably practicable”. It would mean that, in relation to speech of a political, philosophical or academic nature, it would always be reasonably practicable not to interfere; in relation to other speech, it would be reasonably practicable only if taking that step would prejudice the functioning of the provider. I hope that I have paraphrased the issue correctly.

The Government’s position, supported by the OfS, is that we stand for the widest possible definition of free speech—anything within the law—and that, where debate is particularly contentious, it is all the more important that everyone feels able to put forward their views and arguments and be heard, on all sides.

The “reasonably practicable” wording of the main duty means that providers can take account of all their legal duties on a case-by-case basis. But I must be clear that my noble friend’s proposed strengthened test goes too far in not allowing providers to take account of all the relevant circumstances, including their other legal duties—for example, to prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment, or to comply with the Prevent duty so as to stop students and others being drawn into terrorism. There may be occasions where it is not reasonably practicable to secure freedom of speech of a political, philosophical or academic nature, even if that speech is lawful, and we must not impose a test that has so few exceptions.

If I might address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, about conspiracy theories, the question of whether espousing a conspiracy theory is lawful depends on what is said. If it is defamatory, it would be unlawful. The point of the Bill is to take a wide approach to freedom of speech as a fundamental principle in a democratic society, but there is nothing in the Bill to encourage baseless or harmful claims, or bad science, on campus, for example.

Amendment 25 seeks to clarify the position regarding balancing the right to freedom of speech with the right to protest. The purpose of the Bill is to protect freedom of speech, but the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental tool of civic expression and will not be curtailed by this Government. Of course, it can itself be an aspect of freedom of speech. If there is a protest against a particular academic because they have said something controversial but lawful, providers will need to decide what reasonably practicable steps they can take to ensure that the academic can speak freely.

The intended effect of the Bill is not to prioritise one right under the ECHR—that is to say, freedom of expression under Article 10—over others, such as the right to protest under Article 11. The requirement to have “particular regard” to the importance of freedom of speech builds on existing provision under Section 43 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and could, in a particular case, prompt a higher education provider to prioritise freedom of speech over another convention right. However, this would remain subject to its assessment of what is reasonably practicable and would need to be lawful.

It is worth noting that a provider’s code of practice under new Section A2 must include the procedures to be followed when organising meetings and activities, as well as the conduct required in connection with them. This will ensure that staff and students are aware of their responsibilities as regards their own conduct.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, suggested delaying Royal Assent to allow universities due time. Let me confirm to him now that implementation of the Bill will not be rushed. Various actions need to be taken before the new regime can come into force, including consultation with the sector and the provision of guidance, so providers, colleges and student unions will be fully engaged and able to understand their responsibilities under the Bill.

I turn next to Amendment 30 in the name of my noble friend Lord Sandhurst, which seeks to ensure that codes of practice have a process in place for dealing with meritless claims against staff and students. It is an important point that providers should not have to spend time and resources responding to frivolous or vexatious complaints. However, I should make it clear that the duties in the Bill are imposed on the governing body of registered higher education providers. There cannot be complaints made under the Bill about the freedom of speech duties against staff, members and students of the provider, or visiting speakers, as the amendment suggests. Higher education providers will in any case have their own procedures already in place for handling internal complaints. As for burdens on providers, unnecessary bureaucracy can take up time that could be spent focusing on the academic experience and high-quality teaching, but these measures are absolutely necessary to protect the core value of freedom of speech and we consider that the duties imposed are proportionate and appropriate.

I hope my remarks have provided noble Lords with reassurance about the Bill’s approach regarding the main duties set out in it and that they strike the right balance.

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Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (CB)
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My Lords, I shall just deal with that. I am aware of very vigorous debate at Cambridge University, but I am not aware of the university having fired an academic for standing to defend free speech. In fact, most of the arguments at Cambridge currently are about academics who are standing up and saying to the former vice-chancellor that the current vice-chancellor is going to go and spend more time with his family and that they have had enough of him, more or less.

To my mind, the Bill could have been written in three pages. It almost goes into micromanagement of higher education institutions—autonomous institutions, we have to remember. To my mind, it makes a bit of a meal of a problem that I completely accept exists but could have been addressed in a slightly more constrained fashion. All the debates I have heard, and I read the Second Reading debate, had more and more people wanting to hang baubles on to the Bill to essentially make higher education institutions non-autonomous and to put them into a straitjacket whereby there will be a deeper constraint on free speech.

We will come to Clause 4 next time, on Wednesday or whenever, and we can talk about that then. It is a relatively good and carefully drafted Bill. We run the danger of adding so much to it—and it comes, as I said, on the back of several previous higher education Acts—that we will end up with the opposite of what we wish to see.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Fox of Buckley and Lady Falkner of Margravine, and my noble friend Lord Johnson of Marylebone in opposing Amendment 15. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, referred to the 50th anniversary of a seminal book. I think it would be odd if we got through a debate on universities without referring to the fact that it is roughly 170 years since Cardinal Newman published his lectures, known as The Idea of a University, probably the first attempt in the 19th century to define what a university looked like and what it was for. I have a familiarity with every single line of that book because, when I was a schoolboy, I proofread the standard current Oxford authoritative edition for its editor, Father Ian Ker. Indeed, a very minute examination of the acknowledgements would reveal that to be the case.

We are discussing this in a very modern way, but there are two things we can take away from Newman that really are very important and relevant to this amendment. The first is that the word “university” implies universal; that is, there are no bounds on the fields of inquiry to which a university can go. The second is that, for Newman, this is a collective endeavour. We are discussing this as if the advancement of knowledge was to be followed only by individuals with specific expertise in certain areas, and as if the sharing and communication of knowledge among them—be it through papers, through social engagement or simply through having dinner together and discussing things—was not a crucial part of that endeavour. I simply urge those two points at this stage. It seems to me that Amendment 15 is wholly misconceived as to how knowledge is advanced and what a university actually is and should be.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendments 15 and 16 were probing amendments, so I do not think my noble friend Lord Wallace will be totally mortified to discover that the entire Committee is not in favour of them.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness; she makes stimulating speeches. She does tend to overegg the pudding a bit; nevertheless, I listen to her with great interest, and I am delighted to follow her.

Free speech is more important than anything else—and we in this place ought to know that better almost than anyone. “The price of liberty,” said Burke—and of course, liberty without free speech is impossible—“is eternal vigilance.” I am glad that we are having this debate because there is currently a tendency among some to be a bit complacent. One thinks of some pretty horrific examples: Kathleen Stock, who has been mentioned by noble Lords on two or three occasions, and JK Rowling.

One of the cancers of our age, which makes the proliferation of coarse speech and crude attack so much easier, is social media. Many in our universities, and others, use this, and many suffer from it, so it is right for us to ask: what can we do about it? But I do not think a Bill like this is necessarily the best way forward.

Those who have questioned the wisdom of the Bill have more than a point. I say to my noble friend—who introduced the Bill with his characteristic gentle elegance and in whom I have as much trust as I have in anyone in political life—that it needs to be significantly improved if it is to go on the statute books and fulfil its purpose. I do not think we need such a Bill but, clearly, we are going to have one, so it is the duty of your Lordships’ House to make it as effective as possible, and as least disruptive as possible.

Speaking as one who has the honour to have been a visiting fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, who helped to found the parliamentary fellowship scheme 30 years ago, and who is still admitted to the senior common room—I have also visited many other universities, and I am on the court of Lincoln University—I believe that we have institutions of which we can be truly proud. But it is very important indeed that students are exposed to views and attitudes that they consider to be offensive, because that itself is stimulating. Unless you can produce a counter-argument, you have not understood the argument. It is crucial that our young people are stimulated and exposed to a variety of views, just as they should be exposed to a variety of academic and scientific disciplines. I very much hope that one thing that will be a casualty of this Bill is the so-called “trigger” movement. It has been dismissed, I am glad to say, but it was even suggested that the online version of Hansard should be adorned with trigger warnings that there may be some offensive language to follow.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Indeed, shame. I believe we have had that dealt with.

We know about the counterculture and the cancelling because earlier this year four of us were complained about to the Commissioner for Standards because of remarks we had made in a good, vigorous and brief debate on an amendment to a Bill that sought to end the presence of physically intact males in women’s prisons. The committee, now chaired rather splendidly by the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, rewrote some of the rules and guidance, and the fundamental right that Members of both Houses have enjoyed since the Bill of Rights in 1689 was underlined thrice. That is as it should have been, but if we can be threatened even in this place then we have to be vigilant about the defence of free speech. If free speech is eroded in any way in our universities, the institutions from which future Members of both Houses will come, then that does not augur well.

As we know at the moment, democracy has to be fought for. As we know, there is a great power, the second greatest power in the world right now, which is already flexing its muscles in a variety of ways—roads and belts, belts and roads. We have to be a bastion of democracy, but we cannot be a bastion of democracy without having universities and colleges that produce vigorous democrats.

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Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord and I rise as a rare speaker from the Conservative Benches who neither is nor ever has been a visiting professor or honorary fellow at a distinguished academic institution. I started this debate with quite an open mind but, listening carefully to the speeches opposite, I have been persuaded to give whole- hearted support to the Bill.

First of all, the Bill is not about student protest. When I was president of the Oxford Union many years ago, I had the privilege of welcoming the former President Richard Nixon to give an afternoon lecture. The demonstration was huge, carefully supervised by the local police and monitored by the US Secret Service. I welcomed that; the size of the demonstration was a measure of the success of the event. Even more than the numbers of students packed inside, the demonstration outside showed that you had really hit the button. I am not trying to stop student protest, nor is the Bill.

Instead, to understand the thrust of this Bill, it is helpful to start with one of the most perceptive, and one of my favourite, quotations from the late Lord Keynes. Since this is a debate of learned quotations, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I read it to them:

“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”


Indeed, I say as an aside to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry, the whole debate around the Reformation was, in effect, framed by the academic scribbler he referred to, St Augustine of Hippo, some 1,100 years earlier, and the rather overexcited interpretations of those writings was still being worked out by a junior academic at a recently founded university lost in the forests of eastern Germany at the time.

The point I want to make is that academic thought has a real influence on social change, even if the time lag—as Lord Keynes said, it might be a few years or decades—is very significant. That is a really important point to take hold of. To take it a step further, taking their guidance from a contemporary of Keynes, Antonio Gramsci, activists are tempted in recognising this to seek to capture that academic podium precisely because of its long-term influence and, in doing so, to seek to deny it to others. That is exactly what many of us feel has been happening in our universities over the last decades.

Because of the shortage of time, I will not list examples. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, and others, have given many examples both of incidents and changes in attitude which illustrate what I think is going on and what is such a deep cause of concern to many of us. Noble Lords on the opposite Benches have said repeatedly that these incidents, which they admit are objectionable, are very rare. However, it is not the frequency of the events we should be looking at but their egregiousness. Their rarity could be taken as an example, proof or evidence of the success of the policy I have mentioned being pursued. As the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, has said, the punishment is the process. As the noble Lord, Lord Johnson of Marylebone, said in relation to Chinese influence, self-censorship is the response. So, of course, if the policy is being successful, you would expect incidents to be rare. That in itself proves nothing.

This Bill is an attempt to rectify the balance in all of that. While it is probably inevitably ham-fisted, it none the less deserves our support in principle. It may be capable of certain improvements. I suggest two. I was very struck by the remark of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, that we should address the plurality of objectives that we impose on universities. A number of them were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven. We should address them by trying to create some priority among them: some are more important than others. I agree with the noble Baroness that academic freedom should perhaps be put at the top of that tree as an overriding priority, not simply competing with lots of others, which both confuses the leadership of universities and, equally, makes it easy for those who wish to exploit the situation to escape by running around different competing priorities. An amendment to that end would be very welcome and would provoke a very interesting debate.

The second area the Bill is wholly silent on, and where an amendment would certainly provoke some interesting debate, is funding. The Bill, as far as I can see, says nothing about the influence of funding on shaping academic debate and discussion and how capable it is of potential abuse. I mean both funding within the university and funding, usually on a much larger scale, from central funding councils making grants to support various areas of research. We might well want to see amendments to make that funding more transparent and show that it was balanced—I am not talking about funding flat earthers or people like that, but, within the limits of a sensible academic debate, making sure that people are being funded in a balanced and sensible way.

I welcome the Bill’s general principle and take the view that it could be strengthened. It would be a great mistake to try to oppose it by digging into the weeds. We need to see the trees and the forest, and to understand what we need to do.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
Moved by
166: After Clause 164, insert the following new Clause—
“Guidance on Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy
(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months of this Act being passed, publish national guidance making the appropriate prescription of Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy a priority within pancreatic cancer care in the NHS through the implementation of national targets.(2) The Secretary of State must, within a year of this Act being passed and every year thereafter, publish data on the prescription of Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy for pancreatic cancer patients.”
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease, as noble Lords know: 10,500 people in the UK a year are diagnosed with it, 9,000 people a year die from it and five-year survival rates in the UK rank us 29th out of 33 countries with comparable data. The Government recognise that this is not good enough, so they are commissioning an audit of existing services as a first step to improvement. That is wholly welcome but it is turning out to be a very slow business, with the first data expected in 2023 and no timetable for action to follow.

Amendment 167 in my name is intended to add a sense of urgency to that. I am grateful for the support it has received from the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Patel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock. However, I turn my attention this evening principally to Amendment 166 in my name, which is also supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff. It relates to improving the treatment of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and can be delivered immediately.

The end-of-life experience of pancreatic cancer sufferers includes huge difficulties in eating and digesting food, because of the lack of an enzyme normally produced by a healthy pancreas. Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, or PERT, is a simple tablet costing only £7 a day. It is fully approved by NICE and allows sufferers to eat, but it reaches only about 50% of pancreatic cancer sufferers. Why is that? The truth is that we do not know exactly and, pending the audit, may not be able to say exactly. But a likely reason is that diagnosis of pancreatic cancer occurs so late because the symptoms present so late that a prompt decision has to be made about those who might be saved by surgery and those for whom nothing can be done. The former go to specialists, who tend to be aware of PERT and prescribe it. The latter, on the whole, move into more general palliative settings, where it seems that knowledge and understanding of PERT is less widespread.

Amendment 166 obliges the Government to make increasing prescription rates for PERT a national priority, without waiting for the outcome of the current audit. It was tabled in Committee and got a somewhat dusty answer from the Government Front Bench, hence its return today. To say that emphasising PERT should await the outcome of the audit would be to condemn literally tens of thousands of people to unnecessary suffering at end of life so I think these amendments, especially Amendment 166, will find general support across the House. Happily, I understand that my noble friend the Minister will be able to offer certain assurances when he speaks that would make any such Division unnecessary.

Before I conclude, there is one extra step that the Government could make early progress on that would be welcome. It is in disaggregating the data about the prescription of PERT, which can be prescribed for conditions other than pancreatic cancer. While the Government and the National Health Service are able to point to figures showing slowly increasing PERT prescription rates, what they cannot do at the moment is to say whether it is being prescribed for pancreatic cancer or some other condition. Disaggregating that data will be an important job for the Government to do, even to make progress with their own audit. Some comments on that today would also be welcome so, for the moment, I beg to move.

Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am pleased to speak in support of Amendments 166 and 167 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, addressing pancreatic cancer, to which I have added my name. I shall be brief as he has already made the case for these amendments so strongly. Both amendments include deadlines: for guidance on pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy to be published within six months; for data on PERT prescription to be published within a year, and yearly thereafter; and for a report on the audit of pancreatic cancer services to be laid before Parliament within six months and updated six-monthly. The reason for these deadlines comes down to a single word: urgency.

On average, pancreatic cancer sufferers live for only six months following diagnosis and more than half of the 10,000 a year will die within three months. That is hardly enough time for them to say proper goodbyes to their family and close friends, let alone to put their financial and other affairs in order, so the usual government timescales of “in due course” or even “shortly” are nowhere near fast enough for action to improve their treatment. I hope we may hear something more encouraging from the Minister.

Some such improvements may help extend their lives, even if only by a matter of months, but others equally important, such as PERT, may make a significant difference to the quality of the time remaining to them, however short. PERT enables pancreatic sufferers to digest their food; in some cases, it may even help them to gain the strength needed to undergo life-saving surgery. It is recommended by NICE and widely available. It costs just £7 a day per patient. I find it shocking that, as the noble Lord told us, half of patients who need PERT are not being prescribed it, mainly because of lack of awareness among non-specialist staff. Surely the Government can and should investigate and address this with urgency, as required by Amendment 166.

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Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords for bringing forward this further debate on the subject of pancreatic cancer services. I begin by confirming that the pancreatic cancer audit is included in the national cancer audit collaborating centre tender, which is currently live. Reporting timelines are included in the specification for this audit, developed in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement. However, I hope noble Lords will understand that, during a live tender, the document is commercially sensitive and cannot be shared beyond the commissioning team, as this would risk jeopardising the procurement process. While I recognise that it may be disappointing that I am unable to confirm the timeline for the pancreatic cancer audit until the procurement process is completed, I can say that the future contract to follow the procurement process in relation to the clinical audits is anticipated to start this autumn.

The normal process for a new national audit is a year of development and set-up, followed by data collection and analysis. The publication of the data would then follow. However, on a more positive note—and I hope my noble friend Lord Moylan considers this response less dusty—I can confirm that, alongside the audit of cancer services, important actions are being taken to ensure that clinicians are able to take informed decisions. NHS England and NHS Improvement have ensured that guidance on pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy is shared with cancer alliances to disseminate to clinical teams in their area. NHS England and NHS Improvement will also continue to work with Pancreatic Cancer UK to raise awareness among the clinical community about the value of PERT for many patients with pancreatic cancer.

Noble Lords will be aware that NICE has a clinical guideline, NG85, recommending that PERT should be offered to patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer, and that NICE has also included PERT in its quality standard on pancreatic cancer. NICE clinical guidelines are developed by experts based on a thorough assessment of the available evidence, but they do not replace the judgment of healthcare professionals. They are not mandatory, but they represent best practice. The NHS is expected to take them fully into account in ensuring that services meet the needs of patients. Ultimately, the use of PERT in individual cases is for clinical decision-making, following a discussion between doctor and patient. As such, national targets would not be appropriate.

My noble friend asked another question on data. PERT prescription data is already published online through the English prescribing dataset. This shows that levels of prescription have been rising. The data does not currently differentiate between prescription for pancreatic cancer patients and for people with other conditions. However, NHS England and NHS Improvement will consider PERT prescription data during the scoping of the pancreatic cancer audit.

I end by thanking my noble friend Lord Moylan for his constructive engagement and for pushing the Government on this. But I hope that the reassurances I have given are sufficient to persuade him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am very grateful to noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, Lady Walmsley and Lady Thornton. I know that support for the principle behind these amendments is widespread throughout the House. The Minister has also taken that on board, and I am grateful to him not only for his engagement before this short debate but for the words he uttered from the Dispatch Box. He will be in no doubt that noble Lords will be paying attention to these prescribing rates in the future, carefully following what is happening, monitoring and asking questions to ensure that the information is getting to clinicians and that the medicines are getting to the patients who will benefit from them.

Before I sit down, I want to say a word of thanks to the excellent charity Pancreatic Cancer UK, with which I have worked on this and which I know also works with officials at the department to improve treatment for pancreatic cancer patients. I will test my licence a little further by saying that it is not only pancreatic cancer; there are also conditions such as bile duct cancer, which are just as devastating and which we, as a nation and a National Health Service, need to bring to the fore so that people get better treatment, better care and early diagnosis. We really can do this.

With that, I express gratitude to my noble friend the Minister and the other noble Lords who have spoken. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 166 withdrawn.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
Moved by
148: Schedule 18, page 254, line 34, after “State” insert “which may not include products containing more than 20% of their calorific value by way of protein and not more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams in their composition”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, along with others to Schedule 18, ensures that foods that can be advertised as “low sugar” and “high protein” under Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods are exempt from the restrictions on advertising proposed in that Schedule.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in moving Amendment 148, I will also speak to Amendments 150 and 152 in my name. There are a number of interesting amendments in this group but I intend to stick to my last, broadly, and speak only to the ones in my name.

I had a number of amendments to this schedule—it has been renumbered; it was Schedule 17 but is now Schedule 18—in Committee, but I have decided to stick with just these three. I apologise that there are three; there is only really one, of course, but the schedule is drafted in such a way that everything has to be said three times. This amendment effectively relates to high-protein, low-sugar bars. Noble Lords may wonder why I have developed an interest in such bars; to answer that, I will tell them a story. That is all I am going to do. I will tell noble Lords a story about a real business; I will then ask my noble friend the Minister a question.

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Therefore, I hope that my noble friend can withdraw his amendment, and that other noble Lords will not move theirs when they are reached.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, especially at this time of night, it is very taxing to try to summarise what is a complex debate raging across a number of issues, and in particular to thank everyone who has spoken. If I fail to thank everybody by name, I hope I will be forgiven in the interests of brevity, but I thank my noble friend the Minister again, not only for her remarks but for the attention, care and hard work she has put into addressing all these issues with me and many other noble Lords who have spoken on the various topics we are addressing.

I have to thank one or two other noble Lords. In particular, I express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who went out, no doubt at considerable personal risk and with some arduousness, to purchase an example of the Grenade Carb Killa. I had never seen one in captivity or in nature until he produced it in the Chamber today. That in itself is something I am very grateful for. He chose the one that I think is called “white chocolate” or something like that.

Here the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has been helpful to me. I believe there are 14 different flavours of Grenade Carb Killa. It is the view of the confectioner that manufactures them that some will comply with the profiling model while others will not. Perhaps next time the noble Lord could try a different flavour and have it tested in Liverpool, I think it was, and that would generally help to advance things. The difficulty for the company, though, is that this is not a game. It needs to know which of these products has to be reformulated and how for it to remain compliant and stay in business. This was a very helpful illustration of the difficulties.

One other noble Lord I will mention is my noble friend Lord Bethell, who referred to the tobacco advertising ban as if it were some sort of comparison. There is no comparison. Nobody had to carry out a profiling exercise to decide whether something was a cigarette: it was a cigarette or it was not. There was no question of putting it through a model to discover it was a cigarette. Nobody in the cigarette manufacturing business had to reformulate their product and market test it to make it compliant with regulations. What you can do with a tobacco ban very quickly is simply irrelevant to the hurdles the Government are setting in front of businesses.

Apart from that, the many noble Lords who spoke on other aspects of the Bill, some with great knowledge and experience, have illustrated something that I hope everyone in the House can agree on, with the possible exception of my noble friends on the Front Bench: it really is a crying shame that issues of such importance and complexity should be rammed into a major Bill in a schedule when in fact it must be clear to us all now that this schedule should really have been a Bill in its own right, and should have received the attention and scrutiny these complex commercial and nutritional issues deserve. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 148 withdrawn.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Moylan Excerpts
I felt strongly about this issue for many years, because I have seen it slowly trundle down the track—the train leaving the station. I want to reach out a hand and say I have enormous admiration for some very close friends who campaign vigorously on obesity, and who sent me some very rude emails last night after reading the editorial in the Grocer. I understand why they are passionate about the ban as a great signal that progress is being made on obesity. But since 1997, successive Governments have come up with a total of 640 obesity strategies and none of them has been implemented or worked. This is an excuse for an obesity strategy. If noble Lords support my amendments, we can force the Government to go back and to come up with something that will actually work—which, in my opinion, is education for children and great nutrition in schools.
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot. Might I say, before I get into my stride, that certain noble Lords may have received an email that emanated a week or so ago from what I call the “cold dip” wing of the Conservative Party. Essentially, the message was, “Those rotters Vaizey and Moylan are out to spoil our whizzo scheme”. This is not true, in my case. Unlike other speakers, I declare that I have no interests to declare. I am not aligned with the food industry, the advertising industry, the broadcasting industry or any of the charities that wish to restrict, ban or control various foods and drinks. That seemed to cause a little upset to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who seemed to think that because I could speak in a disinterested fashion I was somehow precluded from taking part in the debate, but I hope noble Lords will not agree that is the case.

I have put my name to a number of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. The ones I have signed up to are essentially to do with giving enough time to implement the ban, if it is brought into effect, and I hope that they are accepted. I note that the Government have brought forward amendments of a similar character; they improve the Bill, but they do not go as far as they should. But it is a good sign, and it shows that what we are engaged in here is improving the Bill, not trying to destroy it.

I will add a particular word in support of my noble friend’s Amendment 247A, which seeks to make the identification of HFSS food a matter that would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. In effect, what the Government are seeking through this schedule is a power to make binding law—with all the apparatus of fines and other enforcement—by way of mandatory guidance that will not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Instead, business planning and investment will always be at the whim of civil servants with no recourse to Parliament. That is not a situation that, in other circumstances, your Lordships’ House would feel comfortable with. We should apply the same standards here and insist that, with Amendment 247A, parliamentary approval is required before these punitive measures can be amended.

The other amendments in this group in my name cover a wide range of issues, but all of them are aimed at helping business plan for and implement the bans that the Government contemplate. That said, I noted last Friday that “Red Box” in the Times was reporting a change of heart by the Prime Minister on the whole policy of introducing the advertising and promotions ban. If this is true, we can happily move on and ignore Schedule 17, since all the evidence—including the Government’s own impact assessment—shows that the policy will, as my noble friend said, have a minuscule effect. The Government’s own assessment suggests that there will be a reduction of fewer than three calories a day. I ask my noble friend the Minister to confirm, when he wraps up, whether or not this planned change of policy is in hand.

Amendments 247, 250A and 253A in my name deal with the question of whether the ban applies to brand advertising and sponsorship—already mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and my noble friend Lord Vaizey. This concerns advertising when no product of an unhealthy character is included in the advertisement or sponsorship statement. Putting the brand advertising exemption into the Bill is important for business—businesses which are looking for certainty as they are already planning advertising campaigns which will run after 2023.

The exemption for brand advertising was confirmed in Committee in the other place when the Minister there said:

“Products are deemed identifiable if a person could reasonably be expected to identify the advertisements as being for that product. This means that brand advertising is not in scope of the restrictions, as the purpose of the restrictions is to prohibit identifiable products.”—[Official Report, Commons, Health and Care Bill Committee, 26/10/21; col. 676.]


He made similar remarks on Report. This is helpful but putting the exemption into the Bill—alongside the other exemptions—would mean, should the Government wish to revisit this exemption in the future, that they would be obliged to return to Parliament to set out their reasons for doing so and seek the consent of both Houses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, commenting on this, seemed to say “Why do we need all this paraphernalia? Let’s just trust the Government and go with what they say”. I almost fell off my Bench when I heard her say that. So often in this House we are saying quite the reverse; we are saying let us not trust the Government and insist that, if we want something to happen, it should be on the face of the Bill. That is all I am saying. I believe the Government of course, and in my own small way I trust the Government—but Governments change. If we believe in this, let us see the Government put it on the face of the Bill. This has been called for by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Constitution Committee, which have signalled their dissatisfaction with this way of proceeding.

I turn to Amendments 249A, 252A and 257A in my name, which concern how the Government will assess the effectiveness of the ban. I am assuming, perhaps optimistically, that all noble Lords will agree that the restriction on freedom of expression involved in the Government’s policy should be continued only if it is seen to be effective in its purpose of reducing calorific intake. Indeed, that is the Government’s view, because the Bill contains a five-year review of the effectiveness of the restrictions, in line with better regulation principles, but it is not clear how “effectiveness” will be judged.

The purpose of my amendments is to seek some clarity on the issue now, as we adopt the new rules, so that the effectiveness criteria are not shaped retrospectively in five years’ time. This needs to be done now, in the interests of transparency and to enable the collection of data. It also needs to be done if the industry is to respond by changing its product mix—something which the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said she hoped for and looked forward to, and said there was evidence of its having done so in advance. But unless it understands in advance the criteria by which the ban will be judged effective, how can it possibly begin the process of changing the product mix to meet those criteria? The lack of impact of the ban is clear, but the criteria judging how it will be assessed effectively need to be addressed right at the outset.

There is also the question of what the Government will take into account in assessing those criteria. Their impact assessment envisages that the policy will likely reduce calorie consumption by around three calories a day, which is roughly equivalent to half a gram of butter, or one-five-hundredth of a standard pack of butter. This is so small as to be insignificant in terms of health benefits, yet the policy will undoubtedly have wider economic benefits, including on competition, innovation, prices, media revenues, advertising and the wider creative industries. Are the Government going to assess this wider picture?

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

My Lords, for decades, all the various weak arguments associated with the tobacco industry, opposing tobacco regulation, have been comprehensively and completely disproved by the effectiveness of that regulation at reducing the prevalence of smoking rates. Tonight, we will argue why we need to go further with measures of tobacco regulation to further reduce the prevalence of tobacco smoking. I will speak briefly on Amendments 276, 277 and 278.

It is topical that, this week, mission seven of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper committed

“to narrowing the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy … between local areas where it is highest and lowest by 2030”.

As Ministers regularly acknowledge, half of that gap is down to smoking, so real commitment to levelling up means that immediate action must be taken on these issues.

The tobacco-related amendments in this group will assist the Government in their stated aim to reduce the prevalence of tobacco smoking to below 5% by 2030. Amendment 276 requires the Secretary of State to introduce health warnings on cigarette sticks and rolling papers, in addition to the existing pack warnings. The claim that there is not yet sufficient evidence to justify the policy is a very weak excuse for inaction, and similar claims were made before the introduction of health warnings on cigarette packs. That is why the tobacco industry opposed them so strongly. These warnings on the packs are proven to be effective in reducing the prevalence of smoking tobacco, saving the lives of some of the people who were addicted to tobacco.

What is effective on the pack must be effective on the product, and 29 different studies have concluded that this would be the case. Other countries are considering this measure, and there is no reason why this country should not again lead the way.

Amendment 277 requires the Secretary of State to mandate pack inserts advising smokers about how to quit, and we know that very many smokers do want to quit. When the Government announced their smoke-free ambition in 2019, they said they believed that there was a “positive role” for such inserts, which they would consider as part of their review of regulations on exiting the EU. But the Government have inexcusably held back so far, making the lame excuse that

“further research”

is supposedly required to

“establish the public health benefit”—[Official Report, Commons, Health and Care Bill Committee, 28/10/21; col. 813.]

before proceeding.

The best research would be to introduce the inserts—at worst a harmless policy and something the tobacco companies could easily pay for from the huge profits they make from shortening the lives of half their customers. As the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said, pack inserts have been mandatory in Canada for two decades. They have been shown to enhance motivation to quit, increase quit attempts and sustain quitting tobacco.

Amendment 278 would close a loophole in current legislation. In May 2020, it was rightly recognised that menthol can hide the harsh taste of tobacco and make cigarettes easier to smoke and more appealing to children; that is why it was banned. However, a massive loophole allowed flavouring to continue. The Government’s response on this issue in the other place was that

“it is not clear how a ban on flavours would be enforced in practice, as it would include a ban on flavours that do not give a noticeable flavour to the product.”––[Official Report, Commons, Health and Care Bill Committee, 28/10/21; col. 815.]

However, this has not been a problem in either the Canadian provinces or our European neighbours, such as Germany and Finland, which have successfully implemented a complete ban on flavourings.

In the year after the ban on menthol cigarettes came into force, Japan Tobacco made more than £90 million in profits from selling 100 million packs of its so-called “menthol reimagined” brands, which, it argued, were entirely legal. The loophole must be closed. I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government plan urgently to step up a gear on tobacco regulation and support the tobacco-related amendments in this group.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I am aware that, in your Lordships’ House, any lack of zeal for persecuting smokers marks one out as an aberration, but some realism has to be brought to this debate. It is my understanding that the Government will rightly resist these amendments so, in the interest of brevity, I will leave it to my noble friend the Minister to give a detailed rebuttal of each of them. However, I have a few things to say.

Unless smoking tobacco is made illegal, which would only bring with it all the organised-crime consequences associated with illegal drugs, the UK will not be smoke-free by 2030 or any other foreseeable date. There is likely to be an irreducible demand for smoking among both a small core of regular smokers and a wider population of people who enjoy the occasional cigarette. A sensible policy would recognise this and seek to accommodate it. There are widely understood risks to health associated with smoking, of course, but, as we have heard in this Committee, so there are with fat, salt, sugar and even fluoride. Despite all that, we have the constant efforts of well-funded zealots to bully and humiliate smokers and place burdens in the path of businesses engaged in the manufacture and distribution of this lawful leisure product.

Each of these amendments falls into one of those categories in one way or another, despite the smoothly expressed words of those who tabled them about increasing public information and the like. The public are already better informed about the risks of smoking than about almost any other topic. The UK is already highly regarded globally for its success in reducing the number of smokers. Those who wish to give up smoking deserve some modest help from public authorities, I agree, but they can be helped in other ways—for example, by diverting into products with much lower health risks. However, the campaigners against smoking cigarettes have been almost as determined to kill vaping as an alternative—although, as was indicated by the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, even public health officials are now beginning to question whether the initial blanket opposition to vaping is preventing some people making the transition from smoking cigarettes.

A similar question arises now as non-combustible tobacco products increasingly come on to the market. These contain tobacco but it is not heated to the point of combustion, although they still deliver nicotine to the user. Most of the harmful effects of smoking come not from the nicotine as such but from the smoke. Non-combustible tobacco products do not give rise to any smoke. The Government should be able to say, and make clear in their tobacco control policy, whether there should not be distinct regulations covering, separately, combustible and non-combustible tobacco products. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to assure me that this will be so on sound public health grounds.