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

Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two
Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Mon 15th Nov 2021
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Mon 1st Nov 2021
Mon 1st Nov 2021
Thu 28th Oct 2021
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Lords Hansard
Wed 10th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 27th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Terrorism Act 2000 (Code of Practice for Examining Officers and Review Officers) Order 2022

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

(2 weeks, 2 days ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we, too, support this statutory instrument. As the Minister said, it gives effect to the draft code of practice. We understand that these changes are being made in response to a recommendation by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall. We believe it is important that the proper safeguards are in place, support the order and thank Jonathan Hall for his work.

When speaking to the introduction of these powers during the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill, the Minister, Lord Sharp, said that

“this is by no means an attempt to treat all migrants arriving in this manner as terrorists, or to stop and examine large numbers of people away from ports and borders. Schedule 7 is not designed and cannot be used as a universal screening mechanism”.—[Official Report, 10/2/22; col. 1939.]

What safeguards will be put in place to ensure that there is no slide into using these powers more extensively and frequently?

Furthermore, can the Minister clarify whether information given by someone in answer to a Schedule 7 examination, which is strictly counterterrorism powers, will be used for other purposes, for example by an immigration officer? I think the Minister answered that point, but I repeat the question. I also make the point that our staff got in touch with the department to ask this question and others, using the contact details given in the Explanatory Note, and did not receive a response. Usually there is a named civil servant at the bottom of an Explanatory Memorandum, but, in this case, there was a general email to contact. Our staff sent the email at 2.15 pm on Thursday and there was no response.

Although this order relates only to examinations under existing counterterrorism powers, new immigration offences under the Nationality and Borders Act have given rise to an issue about what questions it is appropriate for a person to be asked as part of these examinations. The nature of the questions was looked at as part of the Government’s consultation.

As far as those new offences are concerned, I repeat the general point we made during the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill that we on this side of the Committee are opposed to the Government creating a broad offence of arrival that makes it illegal for people to travel to the UK to seek asylum, regardless of whether they are fleeing a war zone or there is a risk to their life. During the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill we asked the Government instead to create an offence which captured the actual criminal behaviour that they want to target, such as arriving in breach of a deportation order, rather than an overly broad offence. We believe it is crucial that the Schedule 7 counterterrorism powers are used properly and proportionately to target terrorism concerns and not as a universal screening mechanism for people to be captured by broad, unrelated measures.

In conclusion, we must not let our fear of terror prevent us responding compassionately to those who need our help. Indeed, many of those arriving on our shores in an irregular manner are fleeing the same terror and violence that these measures are trying to protect our own citizens from. Terrorist organisations that would do us harm are ruthless and opportunistic; they look to utilise situations such as the refugee crisis for their own gain if given the chance. Therefore, we believe it is right that we ensure that our national security legislation is up to date and takes this into account, so that we can minimise the risk posed by irregular crossings of the channel.

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

My Lords, I again thank both noble Lords for their very constructive points and in general. I will not repeat some of our debates on the Nationality and Borders Act—it keeps coming up and I think we will be talking about it for some years to come. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is absolutely right that it is the Immigration Act 1971, not 1972.

Preventing extension of scope is a very good point. Criteria for exercising the powers away from port have been drawn tightly to ensure that they catch those who have evaded conventional border controls by their irregular arrival; they do not extend more widely. The change reflects the practical consideration arising from the number of people embarking on illegal channel crossings, and it will ensure that those who enter the UK by such means are subject to the same scrutiny and powers as if they had entered the UK by conventional means. I think that avoids the conflation of some of the worries that noble Lords have.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about confidential material; absolutely, yes, nothing has changed there. On the safeguards that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about, we are an open democracy, subject to scrutiny on a regular basis. On extension of scope, we will certainly keep an eye on ensuring that the legislation does what it is supposed to do and nothing further.

On the conflation of terrorism and immigration, it is worth reiterating my noble friend Lord Sharpe’s point that this is not a back-door method to treat all those who arrive in the UK irregularly as if they were terrorists—I think that reinforces the point I just made to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

Male Victims of Crime: Support

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 9th June 2022

(2 weeks, 6 days ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
- Hansard - -

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to their policy paper Supporting male victims, published on 5 May, what plans they have to ensure that male victims of crimes are supported.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, male victims are included in and benefit from the support of measures in the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the tackling domestic abuse plan. The Government recognise the specific challenges that male victims of these crimes may face. We have published Supporting Male Victims, outlining commitments to address these issues. The Home Office also funds the Men’s Advice Line and is uplifting funding for this year.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Dame Vera Baird, the Government’s Victims’ Commissioner, wrote:

“It is estimated that one in six men will experience sexual violence or abuse at some point in their lives … The Home Office’s refreshed ‘Supporting Male Victims’ document—notably not a ‘strategy’—will do shamefully little to advance the interests of these victims … It’s hard to escape the impression that male survivors are an afterthought.”


Does the Minister agree with that statement?

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

In all honesty, I have to say that I do not. In the year ending March 2020, the ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 13.8% of men and 27.6% of women aged 16 to 74 had experienced domestic abuse. That is equivalent to an estimated 2.9 million men and 5.9 million women. So the VAWG strategy reflects the disproportionate impact on women, but that is absolutely not to say that we take no notice of the impact on male victims. In fact, we recognise some of the difficulties that men can find in, first, coming forward to report the abuse and, secondly, taking it through the criminal justice system.

HM Passport Office: Backlogs

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

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer to the Question in the other place. I start with an anecdote: last Monday, a friend of mine showed me a picture of an 11 year-old Ukrainian boy in Wandsworth in his brand-new school uniform. He started at Southfields Academy, in Wandsworth, on Monday; I understand that so far it is going very well. He was standing there, proud as punch, in his new school uniform. My friend said that Wandsworth Borough Council has been very helpful in setting up all the various measures they had to put in place to host this family. I will not try to claim that as a Labour success, given that it happened only on Monday.

I thank the hard-working staff at the Home Office for trying to deal with this backlog. We believe that this is a problem of leadership and planning, not of the staff themselves. We also believe that the surge in applications for passports was wholly predictable. Too often, we have to come to this House to ask about delays—on passports, on Ukraine visas and on asylum claims, including those of Afghan interpreters, for example. The costs to the people involved in this application process are difficult to describe because of the extremity of the situation in which they find themselves. Does the Minister believe that the management and leadership process in the Home Office is fit to deal with the current shortcomings and future requirements that will be made of it?

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

First, I join the noble Lord in being happy about his story of the Ukrainian schoolboy standing proudly in his school uniform on Monday. I praise the noble Lord for not trying to claim it as a Labour victory; whenever these things happen, we are all happy that they turned out well.

It might be helpful to outline the context in which we find ourselves. As I said, HMPO processes 7 million passport applications in a normal year. Due to Covid, only 4 million applied in 2020 and 5 million in 2021. That means that more than 5 million people delayed applying for a British passport throughout 2020 and 2021. Therefore, the unprecedented figure of 9.5 million applications is forecast for 2022.

As I said, some of the problems with phone lines are completely unacceptable, but I think HMPO staff have performed to their best. In this context, 90% of applications being issued within six weeks, between January and March this year, is an excellent figure. In fact, over 98% were processed within a 10-week timeframe, but I am not going to stand and deny that there have been snags in the system. As I outlined, we are working very hard to resolve them.

Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 26th April 2022

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will certainly take that suggestion back.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, last month, as the Minister said, the College of Policing updated its guidelines to allow for the attendance of ministers of religion at the scene of a crime where appropriate, following a collaborative effort led by the Metropolitan Police and the Archbishop of Southwark. What steps will the Government be taking to review this decision and ensure that there are no unintended consequences of this welcome step? I note that a number of other questions from noble Lords have been about reviewing this decision and monitoring it to ensure that it is properly implemented.

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

The noble Lord and other Members of the House are absolutely right. We do not want any unintended consequences from this guidance—which has been developed very quickly, I might say—such as contamination of a scene, which might impede a criminal investigation. As with all things that we do, we will review this, and I am very happy to come back to the House in future months and see how it is working.

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

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

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for putting down this regret Motion. He introduced it very fully and, though I doubt he will, if he were to move it to a vote, we would support him. I have a number of questions, some of which have already been put by noble Lords who have spoken.

There was a major outbreak of Covid-19 at the barracks at the height of the pandemic. At that time, 28 people were sharing a dormitory with access to only two showers and two lavatories, and no ability to self-isolate. What are the current arrangements for Covid? What testing is available and are there now facilities for people to self-isolate?

Napier barracks is a symbol of the failures of the asylum system and this order shows that what was intended to be a short-term solution is now having to be relied on in the longer term, in spite of the poor reports we have heard about. Those concerns were raised by not only the Opposition but Conservative MPs and, crucially, the High Court and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

What has been done on overcrowding? We have heard that the numbers have gone down to about 12 to 14 in a barrack room. What has been done about the run-down buildings, the fire risks and the “filthy” conditions which the High Court referred to? People with serious medical conditions were housed in the dormitories at Napier, including those with diabetes, cancer and tuberculosis. What is the policy now on holding vulnerable asylum seekers in this type of accommodation? Is it still the case that Napier barracks is classed as contingency accommodation, rather than an accommodation centre, despite now being used over the longer term? What impact does this designation have on the Government’s duties in the operation of Napier barracks?

Turning to mental health concerns, major safeguarding concerns were raised with Napier barracks. A survey conducted by the inspectorate found that one in three people had felt suicidal during their time there.

The Government have included plans in the Nationality and Borders Bill to move to a model of large accommodation centres for asylum seekers. These plans will essentially replicate Napier barracks and this style of accommodation on a wider scale. After the track record we have seen, it is obvious why there is concern about this, as we have heard from other noble Lords. What other similar barracks-like accommodation is being used or considered for use to house asylum seekers? This question was also put by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. How will safeguarding be approached in these accommodation centres, so that none of the same failures is repeated?

Members of both Houses and the Home Affairs Select Committee were repeatedly told that all public health guidance was being followed and that the site was safe and fit for purpose. Independent inspections showed that neither of these things was the case. What are the oversight arrangements now for Napier and what will be the oversight arrangements for accommodation centres that are to be set up?

I end by saying that I am particularly intrigued about the answer to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft. I had not realised that there were adolescent boys in neighbouring hotels in that area. I thought her question was an important one, and I look forward to the Minister’s answer.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who spoke in this debate and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who brought it forward. I just thought I would clarify that I do not think the right honourable Diane Abbott visited Napier under the previous Home Secretary—I am being told that it was not Napier.

A number of noble Lords have referred to Napier as a detention centre but it is not a detention centre—I will go into further detail on that. It is being used as contingency asylum accommodation, which enables the Home Office to continue to meet its statutory obligation to accommodate and support destitute asylum seekers. As noble Lords will be aware, the accommodation at Napier was set up in response to the enormous pressures that were placed on our asylum accommodation by the Covid pandemic. The pressure to accommodate individuals continues to grow, and it has been exacerbated by the rise in the number of dangerous and illegal small boat crossings of the channel.

The use of Napier barracks was against that backdrop. In September 2020, the Home Office approached the MoD regarding the use of Napier barracks. The Covid pandemic, coupled with pre-existing pressures on the asylum system, meant that this significant number of people had to be accommodated at considerable speed. The use of Napier barracks was intended to be of a temporary nature, and it was expected that the MoD would retake possession of the site in September of last year. The Home Office therefore originally took occupation of it for an initial six-month period under permitted development rights for Crown land in response to the pandemic. In December 2020, those rights were extended for a further six months.

My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft asked about the use of hotels. I will go on to give further details about the barracks, but on the use of hotels, if we did not put people in them, those children would be without somewhere to stay. Such were the pressures on the system at the time, but it is by no means an ideal situation.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I open by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for the way in which she introduced the two government Motions.

First, on Lords Amendment 70 in my name and the Government’s Amendment 70A, it is fair to say that the Government’s response goes wider than my original amendment. That is a good thing. It is indeed true that the Government are considering the issue in the round. Sexual motivation is not the only reason why people are spiked through their drinks or through needles; there may be any number of motivations for people doing it, so it is reasonable to look at this matter in the round and that is what the Government are proposing to do through their amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his support on this matter.

Moving on to sex for rent, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Kennedy, who has played a leading role in this House in promoting Amendments 141 and 142. She showed her knowledge in this area in the questions that she put to the Minister about how this matter will be taken forward regarding the online safety Bill. She put some pertinent questions and I hope that I can be copied in on the answers regarding the timetable and whether particular aspects of the DCMS Bill will address the sex-for-rent issue.

The further concession, if I can use that word, which the Minister has made is that there will be a public consultation, which will launch by the Summer Recess. Of course that is welcome but, as she fairly pointed out, there are a number of elements to this. It is not an issue for one department or one that is easy to solve. Indeed, it is not easy to quantify, although there is no shortage of horrific examples that one can see online on any number of websites where people seek sex-for-rent arrangements.

I thank the Minister for the way she introduced the Government’s Motions. We will support them if they are put to a vote.

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

I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby and Lord Paddick, for their very constructive comments, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for her always very constructive approach in bringing these matters forward.

The point about someone having to identify as a prostitute is a really serious matter. I say again that anyone who makes a report to the police would benefit from the anonymity provisions in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. The Section 52 offence applies when an identified victim has been caused to engage in prostitution or incited to do so, whether the prostitution takes place or not. The Section 53 offence applies where a victim has on one or more occasions provide sexual services to another person in return for financial gain.

The consultation on this will be before the Summer Recess. We will write about the terms of reference once they are settled. The consultation will be confined to the case for a bespoke new offence.

On the online safety Bill and where it meets what we have been talking about, the legislation will define the harmful content and the activity covered by the duty of care. This includes illegal content and activity, harms for children and legal but harmful content, and activity for adults. The relevant offences, which are Sections 52 and 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, have been included in that list of priority illegal harms in the Bill, demonstrating the importance that the Government attach to the tackling of these harms.

I hope that answers the noble Lords’ questions. Again, I thank them for their constructive work on this.

Passenger, Crew and Service Information (Civil Penalties) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 23rd February 2022

(4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Labour Party supported the original regulations, which introduced the civil penalty. They are proportionate, reasonable and in the national interest. We support those existing regulations remaining in place and we will not be opposing them this evening. We welcome that the penalty has not been enforced in any case so far, which the Minister confirmed in her introduction. But I repeat the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson: it would be interesting to know how many warning notices had been issued, although the Minister made it clear that there was 100% compliance once companies had received the warning notice.

The Minister in the House of Commons said:

“In practice, the approach to civil penalties has been, and continues to be, one of collaborative engagement.”—[Official Report, Commons, Delegated Legislation Committee, 2/2/22; col. 4.]


I would be interested to hear from our Minister what that means in practice and whether that collaborative engagement is ongoing.

The Minister has already answered my next question, in a sense. I was going to ask whether the Government had considered extending the sunset clause for another seven years. She used the expression that the sunset clause had placed the regulations “on probation” and that they seemed to have passed that probation period. I think that is a reasonable answer to the question that I was going to ask.

How do the Government propose the ongoing review of these measures to make sure that they stay relevant? Will there be regular reviews, for example?

A further question partly arises out of my noble friend’s amendment. He outlined the concerns from the EU that he has come across and raised a number of questions, which I wrote down and I am sure the Minister did as well. I will be interested in her response to those. The main thrust of them was wondering whether there would be a commonality of policy between the EU and the UK Government so that there is not double punishment for potential corporate transgressors, and a commonality of approach would surely be beneficial for the operators themselves.

A further question, which again the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has raised, was a concern that any extra checks that may be put in place should not lead to greater delays. We heard about the noble Baroness’s experience last week. I do not know whether they were seen as a temporary measure because of the current situation, and those delays should be expected to disappear in the coming months.

In conclusion, as I have said, we welcome the removal of this sunset clause. We think the measures have passed their probation period. I think my noble friend has raised some interesting questions with his amendment, and I look forward to the noble Baroness’s response.

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

I thank noble Lords for their questions. I have written them down and will try to answer them in no particular order. I start mainly by addressing the question from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about immigration officers being immigration officers and transport operators being transport operators. No operator is required to take any immigration decisions. The information is to enable Border Force to take better immigration decisions. On the European Commission proposal, these are not passengers that the carrier would actually know about, so the regulations have no bearing on that issue. In terms of Ireland, there is no application to land transport by road or rail. In terms of what we mean by schedule, schedule is the service that the truck travels on and not the truck itself.

Getting on to questions from other noble Lords. First, I was asked why the sunset clause is being removed. It was standard practice at the time that a sunset clause was added to the Passenger, Crew and Service Information (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015. That sunset is on 31 March, and needs to be addressed to ensure that regulations do not cease to have effect. Noble Lords will remember that that was the sort of bonfire of regulations time. I think now is the time when we can say that this system is working, and I will go through why. The approach has been taken to remove the sunset clause. It will preserve that deterrent effect that I talked about earlier of the civil penalty regime which, alongside the passenger, crew and service information requirements, is now a permanent and ongoing element of the UK’s border security arrangements and has been for a considerable time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about the legislation and its effectiveness. It will be subject to ongoing review to ensure its continued utility. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, as well, asked why the Channel Tunnel was not included back in 2015. I think that was because the emphasis was on the operation of juxtaposed controls. Those controls are maintained, but advanced information enables better targeting of those individuals requiring close examination.

On delays, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about how in practice this is preparing the way to progress towards the operation of more effective controls, on the basis of knowing in advance who is travelling. It will support the operation of the Government’s future border and universal permission to travel plan.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about the civil penalty regime. Border Force takes a collaborative approach to engagement with carriers to secure their compliance with requirements to supply passenger, crew and service information. To address non-compliance, the imposition of civil penalties is very much a last resort. The threat of financial penalties through the service of notice of potential liability has had the quite dramatic effect of addressing and resolving instances and issues of non-compliance.

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Order 2022

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 23rd February 2022

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked a number of the questions that I was planning to ask. I am aware that there is a wider debate on immigration fees and the Government’s policy of making a profit on certain groups, such as Commonwealth veterans or those paying for optional premium services. That wider debate is being carried out on the Nationality and Borders Bill as we speak.

I am aware that in this SI we are talking about two specific cost increases to the cap. Specifically, I noticed the note in the impact assessment that the optional premium services are

“charged above cost … to meet customer demands and to limit fee increases in other areas.”

Is the Minister able to say how much extra money is made through these optional premium services? By how much does that reduce other costs?

Another point, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is about tourism. Does the Minister recognise the importance of supporting the tourism industry? As she will know, there was an interesting Question in the Chamber earlier this month about school parties coming from France. I think she will have picked up the general sense of frustration in the House that school parties from our nearest neighbours are not coming. I understand the point about Covid, but nevertheless I hope she picked up the general sense of frustration in the House at the answers she gave to that Question.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, explored another point by asking the Minister to give a wider explanation about the need to provide extra headroom on the fees. As he asked, what is the cost of processing the fees? How much headroom is the Minister seeking in this SI? I understand the reasoning behind it, but what is that headroom and what is the processing cost?

The other point that I wanted to make—to pick up a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—was about the general move to self-funding, which is a clearly stated aim by the Government. The noble Lord went on to question why this element within the visa system should be moving to self-funding when other large departments have not had that constraint put on them. I would be interested to hear from the Minister a philosophical defence of that position, given that we benefit from immigrants. That point is acknowledged, so why should the department be moving towards self-funding?

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

I thank both noble Lords for the points they made. I will first answer the last question on why we should be moving towards self-funding. We have been self-funding since as far back as I remember and it has always been the case that those who use our border and immigration services should contribute towards the cost of running them. It is not something that absolutely everybody in the country avails themselves of, unlike the NHS, which we all pay for through taxes. That is my best guess as to why we charge contributions towards the cost of border and immigration services.

Both noble Lords asked about the costs of the short- term visit visa. The incremental growth between 2015 and 2019 was from £85 to £95, and there have been no increases since 2019. The fee is currently £35 less than the published unit cost, which is £130. The current maximum amount of £95 has not changed since it was set in 2016. The impact assessment for this order suggests that an increase, even to the new maxima, would not have a significant impact on demand: 41,000 fewer applications. Against a baseline of 1.72 million, this represents about a 2.4% reduction in 2022-23, with a net benefit to HMG of £55 million. That is additional revenue minus costs, including the impact on the Exchequer of reductions in inbound tourism. There is little evidence to suggest that previous fee increases have had a notable impact on volumes.

The fee is broadly comparable to those of competitor countries, although the differing benefits offered by these products make direct comparison quite difficult. For example, the Schengen visit visa is cheaper at £67 but is valid for three months, compared with six months for the UK short-term visit visa. The comparable US visa is £117 but is valid for 10 years.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about the premium service. It is entirely optional and costs between £15 and £48. As I say, it is optional. To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the fees are set under the charging powers in the Immigration Act 2014. The estimated unit cost of the in-country student main applicant and dependant applications are £252 for a child student and £153 for an overseas applicant. As I say, the cost and the fee are quite different. I explained at the outset that the fees contribute to the cost of the border.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me a couple of other questions that I did not manage to write down in time, so if there is anything outstanding I will write to him. At this stage, I beg to move.

Data Protection: Immigration Exemption

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

(4 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we last debated this on 19 January and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for bringing this Take Note Motion to the House. To put it on the record, in 2018 the Labour Party opposed the immigration exemption, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, accurately said, we voted in favour of the Government’s position regarding the statutory instrument which we considered on 19 January.

I reread the lobbying material we have received from the Open Rights Group and the3million. It is clear that the Court of Appeal suspended the effect of its declaration until 31 January—which is today—and I do not know enough about the procedure of that court, but will we receive some information, maybe through the Government, of the result of that declaration? I can see that both noble Lords are shaking their head.

I thank the Minister for copying me in on the letter she sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It makes clear there was some attempt at consulting the Open Rights Group and the3million, but clearly that discussion did not result in placating those groups. So it may well be that there is a further judicial review or a further challenge by those groups. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has very fully set out the likely basis for that challenge.

As we said in the aftermath of the debate on the statutory instrument, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Clement-Jones, have a lot of experience with this Bill, having debated it in 2018 and having brought the matter back repeatedly since then. We on the Labour Benches will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say. As I said, we originally opposed this element of the Bill and we would be interested to see how confident the Minister is that the changes put forward by the Government will not result in a further challenge.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. As noble Lords will know, paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act 2018 outlines specific rights under the UK GDPR that can be restricted if they would likely prejudice either

“the maintenance of effective immigration control, or … the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control”,

known as the immigration exemption. As noble Lords have pointed out, these regulations amend the immigration exemption, following the judgment in the case of Open Rights Group & another v the Secretary of State for the Home Department. This statutory instrument builds on existing safeguards of individual rights and should be welcomed.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we will be supporting the noble Lord, Lord Best, if he chooses to press his amendment to a vote. If I may refer briefly to my experiences as a magistrate, it is indeed true that we do not actually see this charge brought very often—of course, we do see beggars, but it really is not that often. It seems to me that there is widespread cross-party support for repealing the Act. A compromise has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and I will be interested in hearing the Minister’s response. If the noble Lord does choose to press his amendment, we will support him.

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

My Lords, I will join other noble Lords in trying to be brief, given the lateness of the hour. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Best, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, for their commitment on this issue. I can only apologise that the letter was so late in returning to them.

I assured noble Lords in Committee, and I do so again now, that the Government firmly agree that no one should be criminalised simply for having nowhere to live or for sleeping rough. The Government’s dedication to supporting this group has been at the centre of our response to the pandemic, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, has said. We have also recently provided £28 million to local authorities to support them to promote vaccination among people sleeping rough and to provide emergency accommodation to get people off the streets. That builds on the success of the Everyone In programme.

The Government are fully committed to reviewing the Vagrancy Act, but the review has been delayed by the pandemic and by our resulting endeavours to protect vulnerable individuals. In Committee, I explained that rough sleeping and begging were complex issues, and that we therefore must give due consideration to how and why the Vagrancy Act was still used to tackle begging and what impact any changes to the Act will have. This includes consideration of any legislative gap left by repeal that may impact the police’s moves to deal with begging.

The noble Lord spoke about the way the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 can be used to deal with certain types of begging, but that Act is not always a suitable alternative. Begging is complex and does not always meet the legal tests in the 2014 legislation to allow the police or local authorities to tackle specific forms of begging where intervention may still be useful, specifically passive begging, where there is no associated anti-social behaviour but where, none the less, there might be an impact on communities as well as the individual. For example, someone who is sleeping rough might engage in passive begging and might use that money to survive on the street. They might be resistant to taking up offers of support, and this might have an indirect impact on communities or businesses. In such circumstances, there would be nothing the police could do to help compel the individual to take up support.

There are also international examples of different approaches taken to tackle begging, including passive begging, that we should consider. For example, should the police be able to intervene if begging affects businesses or, as in some countries, if begging is opportunistic, for example near an ATM, or fraudulent, such as feigning injury or illness?

The Government think that enforcement, when coupled with meaningful offers of support and close work with other agencies, can form an important part of moving people away from the streets. It is vital that the police can play their part here and that they have effective legislation at their fingertips, but this position does not negate the Government’s firm view that rough sleeping should not be criminalised and, where an individual is truly destitute, it is paramount that a multiagency approach is taken to provide that necessary support. To ensure that the response is effective, we need legislation that complements the delivery of services and allows for constructive engagement with vulnerable individuals. I recently wrote to the noble Lord with more information on the detail of our position.

As it stands, an outright repeal of the Vagrancy Act might leave a gap. That is why, as I explained when I met with the noble Lord, once the necessary work has been concluded, the Government are committed to repealing the outdated Act and replacing it with much more modern, fit-for-purpose legislation when parliamentary time allows. Until we have completed this work, it would be a bit premature to repeal the Act. In the light of the commitment that I have outlined, confirming that the Government will consult on what the appropriate legislation should look like, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I feel privileged to come in at the tail-end of this six-year campaign. I have to say I found it very moving listening to my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, who does me the privilege of taking an interest in my family history. I have followed his campaign on this matter as well. I also note the points he made about the position in Northern Ireland. It has been a six-year campaign—to use the words of my noble friend—to wipe away the stain on history. It seems to me these amendments are doing this. I also join in the praises from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, of the Minister, who appears to me, as a latecomer to this, to have been with the campaigners every step of the way.

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

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their kind comments. It is lovely when unity breaks out in this House, particularly when that unity has been hard fought. On the union—I take my noble friend’s points about Northern Ireland—I will certainly relay those comments to the Minister for Justice. I would imagine that the publicity will start on commencement of the Bill and be published on GOV.UK. There has already been some great publicity on social media and elsewhere, so publicity is already under way.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for outlining this amendment with such clarity. Domestic homicide is a horrendous crime and I reassure the House that tackling this is a key priority for the Government. Part of the solution is ensuring that domestic homicide reviews take place at every opportunity. They offer an opportunity, as the noble Lord said, to learn lessons to prevent the same mistakes occurring again. It is important that every domestic homicide is considered for a domestic homicide review so that, as he said, lessons can be learned and further deaths prevented.

I reassure the noble Lord that domestic homicide reviews are conducted in the great majority of cases, but there may be instances where one is not appropriate or necessary. The Government are clear that domestic homicide reviews should be considered at every opportunity, and the 2004 Act already makes provision for the Home Secretary to direct that a domestic homicide review takes place where required.

When a community safety partnership decides not to conduct a review, the decision is closely scrutinised and escalated to the Home Secretary to enable her to use her powers to direct a domestic homicide review, if appropriate. This involves a review of the decision by the independent quality assurance panel, whose views form the basis of the advice provided to the Secretary of State. The review of all decisions not to conduct a review is a new process implemented earlier this year. Since implementing it, the Secretary of State has directed four homicide reviews. I hope the noble Lord sees this as an example of how seriously this Government take these reviews.

On data collection, I reiterate to noble Lords that the Home Office has in fact committed to creating an online central repository of domestic homicide reviews to improve accessibility, exactly for the reason the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Ponsonby, pointed out. At present, all reports are published on individual local authority or community safety partnership websites, but often only for a limited period. Creating the central repository will mean that all completed reviews are readily available, including to support the monitoring of the implementation of any recommendations. This is expected to go live next year. I understand that the terms of reference of the review have been published.

Regarding the letter the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, cited at the beginning of his remarks, I will do some investigating and come back to him, because I really do not know what has happened to it. That is unfortunate, but I will chase it up and ensure he has a response. With that, I hope he will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will of course withdraw the amendment, which was essentially intended to nudge the noble Baroness. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made a very reasonable point when he highlighted the postcode lottery if there is not a review of all cases. He also said—I thought very persuasively—that services will take greater care if they know there will be a review. Perhaps I could ask for an additional, interesting piece of information to be included in the letter: how many domestic homicides have there been in a recent period where there has not been a review? I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Hate Crimes: Misogyny

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 6th December 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It was clear from the murder of Sarah Everard and the ensuing inquiry that we need to look into an awful lot of areas: the culture, vetting and other elements of what might have led to what happened. It probably goes beyond misogyny.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, when the Minister responded to my noble friend, she said that she was waiting for the outcome of the Law Commission’s review and its recommendations. Does she agree that the Government need to do more than just respond? They need to proactively act. She mentioned the various other measures that the Government have taken, but here is a golden opportunity to act. What legislation are the Government looking at to move the agenda forward to recognise the recommendations of the Law Commission and the rape review?

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

I agree with the noble Lord that it is not just about looking at the recommendations, but about seeing how we can put them into legislation and how they become part of our efforts to fight hate crime in whatever form it exists.

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

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

(7 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for introducing this statutory instrument, which has vital implications for our national security. It keeps our citizens, their families and our communities safe. We will not oppose the instrument, which renews the Secretary of State’s powers to impose, extend, vary and, where elapsed, revive a TPIM notice. This is a technical measure and is required every five years by the 2011 Act. It would be incomprehensible to let these powers elapse on 13 December.

TPIMs are a tool in an arsenal to combat terrorism. The TPIM system needs to be agile and robust to respond to the ever-changing terrorist threat. Individuals with no criminal conviction can have these exceptional measures applied against them. It follows that there need to be strong safeguards to balance the protection of our citizens with the rights of an individual to be treated within the law and in a human rights compliant manner.

Does the Minister believe that TPIMs are effective? As she said, there are five TPIMs in force as of this October. Does she believe that the resources necessary to properly administer them are in place? What impact have the recent changes had operationally? We have seen the impact of so-called lone-wolf terrorism tragically recently. The Labour Party has called on the Government to look at this specifically and to publish a review. How does a TPIM combat this type of lone-wolf terrorist threat?

I also ask the Minister about funding for community counterextremism projects and the recommendations of the Government’s own commission of experts, in particular the ISC proposals on precursor chemicals for explosives. My honourable friend Conor McGinn in the other place referred to the Government not following the recommendations of their own experts. I will widen the question: can the Minister say something about their use of experts? How do the Government believe outside experts can be best used to develop and implement a strategy to combat terrorism?

Today’s SI deals with the renewal of TPIM powers, but can the Minister say something about the Prevent scheme? It is concerning that referrals to the scheme have dropped to just below 5,000, which I understand is a 22% drop and a record low. What is the status of the independent review of Prevent and when does she expect it to be published?

I will pick up some of the points that noble Lords have made in this short debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, quoted from an article by the Prime Minister in the Telegraph. She went on to express her hope that this is the last such debate. I agree with that sentiment. We all know that the Prime Minister sometimes uses colourful language to make strong points, but she agreed—I see that she is nodding her head—as I do, with what the Prime Minister said in that article. But I am not driven to the same conclusion as the noble Baroness. We need these measures and we need them now, which is why we support a renewal of this SI.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is undoubtedly the most expert among us today. He raised four questions and I would be interested to hear the response to them, because I thought that they were very pertinent.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, put his questions succinctly and I will reiterate a couple of his points. My understanding of TPIMs agrees with his: they were not seen as a permanent replacement but as an intermediary step before prosecution, yet we see people being kept on this type of regime for long periods. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, essentially also made the same point as that of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, about the safeguards not being properly funded, so that, for example, it is not possible for people to take advantage of legal aid to review the TPIMs on them. I thought that the questions from the two noble Lords were important and the Government need to answer them.

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

My Lords, I thank all Members of the Committee who have spoken in today’s debate. First, I will correct the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb: the TPIMs have been in place not since 2006 but since 2011, I understand, so this is their 10-year anniversary. But I will certainly pass the noble Baroness’s point to the Home Office.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked me a few questions, but his main thrust was on legal aid. He outlined the opinion of Jonathan Hall QC on this. I can confirm that he has raised those concerns and that the Government will respond to both the 2019 and the 2020 reports shortly. It is for the Legal Aid Agency to assess any application for legal aid for a TPIM review and its decisions are made independently of government, in accordance with the legislative framework, but I do not think that that was the noble Lord’s point—I will get on to that. It is right that both means and merits tests are applied to all applicants for TPIM reviews to ensure that the legal aid scheme meets its dual objective of targeting funding at those who need it most and providing value for money for the taxpayer.

To that end, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked a specific question on people who do not know what the case against them is—therefore, how can they respond? The merits test is a key part of the legal aid scheme. The Legal Aid Agency applies the merits criteria on the open evidence alone and there are provisions to help applicants where it is difficult to establish prospects, so closed evidence should not disadvantage applicants from satisfying the merits test.

The Home Office keeps the prospects of prosecution under review and each case is regularly reviewed. TPIMs can be imposed for a set time period only and people are not kept on them indefinitely.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

On that specific point, when the Minister says that TPIMs are regularly reviewed with a view to prosecution, how often is that? Is it once a year or once every six months? How often are they reviewed?

Antique Firearms (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 23rd November 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Labour Party supports these regulations. They are largely technical in nature. This instrument corrects an error in the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021. In his summing-up of the brief debate in the other place on 8 November, the Minister, Kit Malthouse, described the whole experience of correcting this error as a “chastening experience” for him and the firearms team at the Home Office, and he expressed the hope that there would not be a recurrence of a similar error in future. I thank him for that candour, and I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the apology.

In 2017, the Government legislated through the Police and Crime Act to provide a statutory definition of an antique firearm. The Home Office consulted on what the cut-off date for manufacture should be, the propulsion systems and the cartridges. This information informed the 2021 regulations. It is these regulations that are being updated. The instrument corrects an omission from the regulations. It amends the schedule to the 2021 regulations by adding cartridges for vintage rifles, punt guns and shotguns with bores greater than 10. It also makes minor corrections to the descriptions of some other types of cartridges in the schedule.

From reading the short debate in the other place and the Library note, I have a few questions for the Minister. First, the territorial extent of this instrument is England, Wales and Scotland. What is the position in Northern Ireland on similar issues with antique firearms? I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on that. Secondly, the Library note explains that the ongoing approach to monitoring and reviewing this legislation is twofold. The first is to establish a non-statutory group of experts who will meet annually to consider the latest developments in the criminal use of antique firearms. Secondly, the Home Office is to carry out a three-year review of the 2021 regulations. Can the Minister say whether these groups have been established and when they are next due to meet?

In his response to the debate on 8 November in the other place, the Minister spoke of the prevalence of the use of antique firearms in criminal activity. He said that the National Ballistics Intelligence Service

“saw a rise in the use of antique firearms between 2008 and 2016, with 95 uses in 2016, and recoveries have decreased slightly.”—[Official Report, Commons, Delegated Legislation Committee, 8/11/21; col. 7.]

He also said that there had been six fatalities since 2006 from the use of these weapons. This data seems very out of date. When would the Minister reasonably expect to have a more up-to-date analysis of the extent of the problem of the use of antique weapons in criminal activity?

Finally, in the other place, my honourable friend Conor McGinn asked the Minister about the new statutory guidance to chief police officers on firearms licensing coming into force. He asked about the information to be provided about any medical conditions, particularly mental health conditions, of people applying for licences. I understand that this is outside the scope of this statutory instrument, but can the Minister say whether the twofold monitoring approach, which I mentioned earlier, will cover developments in mental capacity assessments of those who currently hold firearm licences?

We support these regulations. Our priority, like the Government’s, is to protect the public, and we agree that a systematic, ongoing review of regulations is the best way to achieve this.

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

I thank the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose asked whether there is a new type of gun. The answer is no. The classes of vintage rifles, punts and shotguns with bores greater than 10, which were omitted, are now being inserted. Nothing new is being inserted—these should have been inserted in the first place, hence my apology.

As to the definition of antique firearms, that is specified in the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021. They must have been manufactured before 1 September 1939.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about the territorial extent. It is a devolved approach. They have a similar approach to Great Britain. Shooting in Scotland is covered by the same legislation as England and Wales, apart from air rifles.

I will consult the department on the data when I go back. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, thinks that this data seems to be a bit out of date. The data I have is that the antiques firearms recovered per year in criminal circumstances increased from eight in 2008 to 95 in 2016. The number of recoveries has decreased slightly since 2016, down to 80 in 2020. I will see if I have any more up-to-date information for him. I will also find out for him when the non-statutory groups of experts in the three-year review are due to meet, because I am not sure at this stage.

I hope I have answered all the questions.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I have one additional question. Will the review groups also look at the mental capacity and that other aspect of the licensing process?

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

I will definitely get back to the noble Lord on that. I think there has been something on that recently.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer also added his name to this amendment. We clearly support the amendments. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, who I understand campaigned for decades on this issue. I thought it was quite moving, if I may use that word, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, saying he earnestly hoped that he was coming towards the end of his campaign. I hope he is right and that the Minister may be able to give him some comfort in that respect. Everybody who has contributed to the debate thinks this is a thoroughly appropriate amendment and, even though it has been a very truncated debate, the passion and the sense of finality have come through, and I very much hope that the Minister will give a suitable response.

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

My Lords, it is about three minutes to the witching hour and I am absolutely delighted to be able to respond on behalf of the Government to these amendments. I and the Government are committed to enabling those with historical convictions for decriminalised homosexual conduct to apply to have their convictions disregarded. To answer the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, in discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, Professor Paul Johnson and my noble friend Lord Lexden, we felt that this was the neatest way to do it, as opposed to any other way. We have been actively exploring whether further offences can be brought within the scope of the scheme, to enable more people, both civilians and ex-service personnel, to benefit from it.

I really want at this point to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Lexden and to the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, who is my noble friend, and to Professor Paul Johnson at the University of York for his expertise on this issue. I am very grateful for the conversations we have had on these amendments and similar amendments to the Armed Forces Bill. I am also grateful to the noble Lords for reiterating their commitment during Committee to work with the Home Office and the MoD on the best way forward for achieving our joint desire to redress this historic injustice.

We accept that the current scheme may be too narrow, as it is essentially confined to convictions for the now-repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men, but, as noble Lords have indicated, other now-repealed offences were also used to unfairly target gay men and women simply because of their sexuality. In further righting these historic wrongs, we need to ensure that any disregards in respect of additional offences meet the established legal criteria to ensure that necessary safeguards are upheld—this is something we have agreed and that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. has outlined tonight. The disregard scheme was deliberately and carefully designed in a way that ensures that the Home Office does not inadvertently disregard convictions or cautions for behaviours which are still illegal today or which involved other illegal behaviours, such as underage or non-consensual sex or sexual activity in a public toilet, which is still an offence under Section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Labour Party has been at the forefront of calls to make misogyny a hate crime. Former Nottingham police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping ensured that it was recorded as a hate crime there, and we have heard from my noble friend Lady Warwick about his work with Chief Constable Sue Fish in that regard. During the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act, we secured the piloting of the recording of misogyny as a hate crime among crimes of violence against the person, including stalking, harassment and sexual offences. Police forces recording misogyny as a hate crime is an important step forward, but we want to go further by including sex and gender in the list of protected characteristics in hate crime laws for the first time.

I shall speak only very briefly because of the hour, but I want to conclude by saying that I thought that my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti encapsulated the decision before us. We in the Labour Party support Amendment 219 and oppose Amendment 219A. As my noble friend said, first of all, this relates to where an offence has already taken place. Secondly, it is already the case that race and religion are aggravating factors, and they have been for many years. We believe that misogyny should be added as an aggravating factor when sentencing.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank my noble friends Lady Newlove and Lady Noakes for tabling their amendments. Both have highlighted the importance of tackling violence against women and girls, as have other noble Lords. We rightly share this priority.

These amendments provide us with an opportunity to discuss the important issue of hate crime, and also to pay tribute to the work of the Law Commission. It performs an important service, considering complex matters of law and making recommendations for change and simplification. This very valuable function helps to bring coherence to complicated and technical areas of law.

The Government share the opinion that all hate crimes are a great injustice and should be dealt with by the full force of the law. I know that noble Lords are aware of the breadth of activity to combat the scourge of hate crime, but in the interests of the hour—I do not think I have ever started my first group of amendments at 10 past 12 at night, so this is a first—I shall consider the amendments before the Committee.

As I have stated in the House before, in 2018, as part of the updating of the Government’s hate crime action plan, we asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of current hate crime legislation. This specifically included concluding a review as to whether other protected characteristics, such as sex, gender and age, should be included. The review’s terms of reference were to review

“the existing range of protected characteristics, identifying gaps in the scope of the protection currently offered and making recommendations to promote a consistent approach.”

As noble Lords have said, the Law Commission’s final report is now imminent. It may be published as early as this month, and that of course is a matter for the Law Commission, which is fully independent of the Government. Noble Lords accepted this during the passage of the then Domestic Abuse Bill, and I think we should see it through in the way we agreed.

However, I do not think that we should commit to giving effect to all the Law Commission’s recommendations before anyone—including noble Lords—has even seen and studied them. It would be inappropriate for any Government to sign what is effectively a blank cheque.

In particular, I know many people hope that the Law Commission will recommend—if I can use the popular parlance—that misogyny should be made a hate crime. To those people, and indeed to any noble Lord, I would say, “Wait and see.” We do not know what it will recommend, and nor should we at this stage. As an independent body which considers and weighs up the evidence, the Law Commission will come to its own conclusions. We will only know what the commission’s advice is when the final report is published.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, pointed out, where the Law Commission suggested it was minded to consider adding sex and gender to hate crime legislation, it did so only in a consultation. But the purpose of a consultation is precisely to consult. The Law Commission will also want to consider what consultation responses have said and to shape its conclusions accordingly. Whatever the commission’s inclination might have been in 2020, we cannot assume the commission’s final position until it has been published.

It would be premature to accept Amendment 219 and negate the whole purpose of asking this distinguished, independent organisation to give full and proper consideration to the whole construct, purpose and design of hate crime legislation. What is the point of the Law Commission in the first place? I know that people have been critical of it, but I think it is a very useful tool to deal with certain complex issues.

It would also probably be premature at this stage to accept Amendment 219A. As I have said and my noble friend stated, we cannot pre-empt what the Law Commission will recommend. What I think we can say is that the law is complex and contentious, and that has been reflected in our debate tonight. It seems to me that there is every possibility that the Law Commission will make recommendations that will require primary legislation to implement and I do not think it would be appropriate to make what could be quite significant changes to our statute book through secondary legislation. I dare say that, were such a proposal ever to emanate from the Government, I would expect noble Lords to be critical.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I was interested in the explanation of this amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As he rightly said, there are all sorts of potential issues—one can think of electric cars—and reasons this may not be workable as it has been drafted. Nevertheless, the noble Lord made the point about the vulnerability of police officers when they are in this situation, and of course the vast majority of cars do use conventional engines at the moment.

The other point made by the noble Lord is that a driver is under no obligation to get out of the vehicle. I have to say that, in the current circumstances, if there was a lone woman in the vehicle and a lone police officer asked her to step outside, that may be problematic. Nevertheless, that is not the burden of the noble Lord’s amendment. He has raised an interesting point; we want to protect police officers in vulnerable situations, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

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

My Lords, if I understand the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, correctly, this amendment is aimed at improving the safety of police officers at the roadside. I share his concerns and want to reassure him that the safety of police officers is vitally important to this Government, as is demonstrated by our programme of work on the police covenant. I will not echo the arguments made to the noble Lord by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on the defects of his amendment, but I want to say that we are committed to ensuring that the police have the powers that they need to protect people.

The British model of policing is based on consent, and the exercise of police powers, including the Section 163 power, needs to be transparent, fair and legitimate to ensure that the public can remain confident in policing. I am supportive of the intention behind the extension of this power, but more evidence and consultation are needed to demonstrate that it would provide benefits to officers’ safety and build support for the effectiveness and legitimacy of the proposal to extend the power. I can say to the noble Lord that we will work closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing and the Police Federation to explore these issues further and consider what more can be done to improve officer safety at the roadside. On that basis, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, my right honourable friend Ben Bradshaw spoke to his amendment, which was along similar lines, in the other place, to increase the sentences for this type of offence from six months to a possible 14 years. I agree with most of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and particularly her opening point: in general terms, I do not like sentence inflation. This is a very large potential inflation in sentences. Nevertheless, I take the point that she and other noble Lords have made, that a maximum of six months in custody for failing to report a serious or fatal injury during a road traffic accident seems like an unduly light sentence for the most extreme cases.

We have heard reference to the petition; I understand that it will be debated in the House of Commons later this month. I have a question for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I would be interested to know how this would interact with existing sentences. For example, if a person has committed an offence causing serious injury or death by dangerous driving, would the expectation be that they would also be sentenced to a number of years for not reporting the accident? How would the two charges work in combination with each other? I have an open mind on these amendments, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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

My Lords, as noble Lords have explained, Amendments 161 and 166 relate to the offence of drivers failing to stop. We know that in a small number of cases, the failure to stop might be related to an event that leads to the death of, or serious injury to, another person, but in the vast majority of cases, convictions involve low-level traffic incidents. In an extremely small number of cases, there may not be any other evidence to connect the death or serious harm with the driver who fails to stop, meaning the only offence they have committed is that failure to stop. I understand the concerns raised, but these amendments potentially risk providing for a maximum custodial sentence of 14 years for failure-to-stop offences resulting in serious or fatal injuries in circumstances where there would not have had to be evidence of a causal link between the failure to stop and the death or serious injury.

What is more, these amendments cut across the basis for the current offence. I must stress that the offence of failure to stop and report is designed to deal with the behaviour relating to the failure to stop. The offence is not to provide an alternative route to punish an offender for a more serious but unproven offence.

Where there is evidence that the driver caused harm, there are a range of other offences, including causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless driving, with which the driver can be charged. In these cases, the courts can treat the failure to stop as an aggravating factor that adds to the overall seriousness of the offending. Where there is evidence that the driver knew about the incident and took steps to avoid detection, they may be charged with perverting the course of justice, a common law offence that already carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Linking death or serious injury with a failure to stop as the cause would risk creating an unnecessary and unfairly severe offence. To take an example, where there was evidence of causing death by careless driving and failure to stop, the offender would face a maximum penalty almost three times higher for failure to stop than they would for causing death by careless driving—14 years compared to five years— even though the causing death offence requires proof of a fault in the standard of driving.

The law already imposes severe penalties for vehicle offences that lead to death or serious injury, but when doing so, a clear causal link must be proved between the driver’s behaviour and the outcome. The proposed amendment would essentially be equating, or in some cases exceeding, the seriousness of failure to stop with actual culpability for causing death or injury. That, as I have said but want to repeat, causes serious anomalies with other offences that could result in potential injustices, and it is why the Government cannot accept the amendment.

In relation to Amendment 166, which also seeks to amend the current offence, we are concerned by the potential impacts on what is a complex area of law. For example, it is unclear what impact replacing the word “accident” with “collision” would have; it might exclude incidents that are currently and rightly within scope of the existing version of this section. We also reiterate our objections set out above to the creation of the offence of failing to report where the collision caused foreseeable serious or fatal injury.

We are of course aware of the traumatic effects of such incidents, however rare. From what I have already said, it should be clear that this is a complex area, and any change to the law has to fit within the current driving offence framework. However, let me assure noble Lords that my ministerial colleagues at the Department for Transport understand the concerns that have been raised. I can assure the Committee that the Department for Transport is exploring options that could be pursued in this area, including but not limited to the available penalties and how the offence operates as part of long-term and wider work on road safety. I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will withdraw his amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My noble friend asked me a very interesting question, but I am not sure that I can answer it. I suppose that the short answer is that I am very conscious that this is a divisive issue and one that the police themselves have strong views on. They do not agree with each other—I have certainly heard a range of views within the police about its effectiveness or its blanket use being ineffective. I think that the answer is that the Government need to look at this issue very sensitively and be very aware of the distrust that it breeds within communities, particularly ethnic minority communities.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for explaining the amendments, which relate to stop and search powers. We can always rely on him to share his experience on the ground. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for his very thoughtful contribution at the end.

Amendment 129 seems to be a step in the direction of decriminalising drug possession, but I do not think that the noble Lord has ever disguised his wish to see that happen—ditto, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. As the noble Lord will know, this Government have no intention of decriminalising drug possession. Our approach on drugs remains clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs.

The noble Lord gave the statistic from Matt Parr saying that 63% of searches were for drugs. He is absolutely right on that. We make no secret of our intention to disrupt drug markets, because that is often part of the police’s strategy for tackling serious violence, and possession searches may come in response from reports from CCTV or the public or from factors that officers more obviously encounter on patrol, such as drug transactions. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, seemed to reflect that in talking about the types of issues that he sees in the magistrates’ courts.

There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that controlled drugs are harmful and can damage people’s mental and physical health, and our wider communities. The decriminalisation of drugs in the UK would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families and communities. I bet that everyone in your Lordships’ House can think of someone who has been affected. The police therefore have a wide range of powers at their disposal to deal with drug-related offences, including the powers to search and obtain evidence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. How the police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for chief constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law.

I return to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about what we are doing to assist young people away from drugs. He will know that we invested tens of millions of pounds in the National County Lines Coordination Centre; he will also know that we do not wish to criminalise young people—our prime aim is to move them away from a life of drugs and some of the criminal activity that can sit alongside it.

On Amendment 276, the police should have the powers they need to keep the public safe and combat serious violence while ensuring that these powers are used fairly and within the law. The Government fully support the police in the fair use of stop and search to crack down on violent crime and protect communities. It is only right that these powers are used to stand firm against criminals who break the law.

Every knife taken off our streets is a potential life saved. While I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his statistics, I will give some of my own. In 2019-20, stop and search removed over 11,000 weapons and firearms from our streets and resulted in over 74,000 arrests. Crime statistics have previously shown that increasing proactive policing such as stop and search is helping the police find more knives and arrest more criminals.

That said, the noble Lord is right to highlight the vital importance of ensuring that officers are using their powers based on intelligence and legitimacy, to ensure that the rights of the individual are upheld. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives police the powers to stop and search individuals or vehicles, in anticipation of or after an incident of serious violence, to find offensive weapons or dangerous instruments. They do not need grounds to suspect that the person or vehicle is carrying these items.

Because of its suspicionless nature, the use of Section 60 must be limited in geographical scope and duration, and must be authorised by an officer of at least the rank of inspector. That is to ensure that these powers are used proportionately and only where necessary. PACE Code A sets out that use of Section 60 should be authorised only where there is a reasonable belief that serious violence may occur, and that this should be based on objective factors and led by intelligence. The authorising officer should communicate this intelligence to officers on the ground. When carrying out searches under a Section 60 authorisation, officers should search only individuals likely to be involved, having regard to the intelligence that led to the Section 60 being authorised.

Section 60 searches make up a tiny proportion of the stops and searches carried out by police officers: in the last year they were just 3% of all searches carried out. Despite its low level of use, the police tell us it is a vital tool to tackle serious violence. These powers can also act as a deterrent to prevent offenders carrying weapons, by increasing the perceived risk of detection.

That is why the Government announced, as part of the beating crime plan in July this year, the relaxation of the five voluntary restrictions on the use of Section 60. This follows a two-year pilot during which we gathered and analysed data from forces and community scrutiny leads on their perception of the changes, which told us that officers felt more confident using Section 60 during the pilot, and that the relaxations better reflected the operational reality of policing and the pressures and conditions officers face on the ground. It also showed that many forces had implemented their own best practices to reassure themselves internally that this power was being used legitimately and with accountability.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, pressed me on this and I will say that there are a number of legal safeguards, including statutory codes of practice and the use of body-worn video, to ensure that officers are accountable during a search, including any conducted under the powers in the Misuse of Drugs Act. We publish extensive data on these powers, which allow police and crime commissioners and others to hold forces to account. HMICFRS also inspects force level disparities and the use of stop and search as part of its regular inspection programme. I assure the Committee that no one should be subject to the use of stop and search powers based on their race or ethnicity, and that safeguards exist to prevent this.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I have very much been in listening mode on this. Amendment 132B would require the oversight of the Secretary of State for police bodies to commission or deploy weapons, surveillance equipment or investigatory technology. I welcome the questions raised. All the speakers have thought about this matter far more than I have, and I look forward to the Minister’s response with interest. I do not know whether she is an expert on heli-tele, but I take the noble Lord’s point that technology as a whole is running ahead of regulation. That goes to the heart of the points made today. I also take the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the purposes of her committee in looking at the possible regulatory approaches, such as a hard or soft approach.

Things are moving very fast; we all know that. We are all challenged in our day-to-day lives in the way we communicate with people. This institution has been challenged in the last 12 months, and things have changed dramatically. With an open mind, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Hain, for setting out their case for this amendment. I can do no better than echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on heli-tele, which were absolutely to the point. I think the Committee is generally referring to some of the new, emerging technologies and the framework around them.

I have done quite a lot of work in Parliament on LFR and biometrics, but very little in this Chamber, so I am very pleased to have a chance to debate this with noble Lords this evening. I refer the Committee to some of the work I have done in the Science and Technology Committee on LFR, biometrics, forensics and so on. It makes for riveting reading.

We are really aware of the issues that noble Lords have raised. There are some links to the matters we debated on Monday relating to confidence in policing and the importance of policing by consent. We are mindful of the need to ensure that the police’s use of technology is appropriate, and it might assist the House if I begin by setting out some of the existing legal framework in this space. What noble Lords have talked about tonight covers a vast area, but I will give some of the headlines for a flavour of what we are doing.

The framework includes police common law powers to prevent and detect crime, the Data Protection Act 2018, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and law enforcement bodies’ own published policies. This framework places important obligations on those responsible for the deployment of technology, including the need to undertake data protection and equality impact assessments, and has provisions to regulate automated decision-making where there are significant implications for the individuals affected.

I also want to assure the Committee that the Government recognise the importance of ensuring that there is strong evidence around the use of technology in policing. To this end, we supported the appointment, in June, of Professor Paul Taylor as the National Policing Chief Scientific Adviser. Ensuring that all technological developments in policing are based on good evidence and the best understanding of science is absolutely crucial. Professor Taylor chairs a police science and technology investment board, which demands rigorous quality assurance of all proposals. He is also represented on the relevant National Police Chiefs’ Council committees and is developing national research and development guidance with the College of Policing.

We also recognise the need for appropriate co-ordination of investment decisions across the policing landscape. Therefore, with oversight from the ministerially led strategic capabilities and investment board, we are supporting the development, mobilisation and implementation of the 10-year national policing digital strategy, to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place across policing to harness and exploit the benefits of data and analytical capabilities.

Work under way includes establishing an NPCC data board to promote a consistent approach to developing data literacy; assessing efficacy, ethics quality and standards; and establishing a central data office within the Police Digital Service, which aims to improve data management and sharing across policing. The data office will provide the essential infrastructure for the sector to ensure strategic direction, central co-ordination, and accountability on national expectations of locally held data. Work is also under way to develop a national data ethics governance model, building on the work West Midlands Police has done to establish an ethics committee to advise on data science projects. The national model will also be developed in collaboration with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and the Home Office.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said, it is unusual to have such unanimity across the House in Committee on something that is superficially a very complex matter. I agree with two noble Lords in particular. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, was very succinct: he said that the information that the police retain should be subject to parliamentary or government control and not to police guidance. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marks, in being cautious about regulation and having a full role for Parliament in any rules that are introduced.

I am sure that this is a very complex matter. I have just been wondering whether, in my role as a sitting magistrate in London, I would see this information. I obviously routinely see the police national computer—PNC—list, which includes convictions, cautions and bail conditions. If we go ahead and have a “bad character” application for a trial, additional information may be disclosed to us—to do with allegations of, say, a domestic abuse nature.

I was also thinking about my role sitting as a magistrate in family court, where I routinely see allegations that have not been substantiated in any court but have been recorded over many years in social services reports. I think that it is right that I see those allegations when we as a court are making decisions about the way that children should be treated in the context of a family court.

I give those two examples, which are different to what noble Lords have spoken about, to acknowledge the complexity of the situation with which we are dealing. I am sympathetic to the points that have been made by noble Lords, but I am also sympathetic to the Government addressing this with an open mind. I will listen with great interest to what the noble Baroness says about whether they propose bringing back any amendments at a later stage of the Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which has been very constructive. I thank my noble friend Lord Moylan for tabling the amendments. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, for promoting the need for balance, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for his concluding words.

I say at the outset that the Government do not disagree with my noble friend’s view that people should not be inhibited from saying what they think, provided that it does not transgress the legal framework that this Parliament has put in place. Noble Lords would all be concerned if the activities of the police were—even if inadvertently and quite possibly for the best of motives—having an adverse effect on particular individuals who had committed no crime. If that possibility were having a chilling effect, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, or causing people to temper their quite lawful remarks, that would be a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.

That is my starting point. I will try to set out some of the background to the issues raised by the amendments that are before noble Lords. My noble friend Lady Noakes asked: how have we got here? It is a key legacy of the Macpherson inquiry, set up to consider the issues surrounding the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and is intended to give the police the means to understand tensions within communities before they escalate to serious harm.

As the name implies, the data pertains to incidents that are not crimes. It can include location data to know where repeat incidents of apparent tension and hostility might occur—for example, outside a place of worship. In this respect, the data is vital for helping the police build intelligence to understand where they must target resources to prevent serious crimes that may later occur. The importance of such intelligence has been illustrated where its use could have prevented real harm. The tragic case of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, subjected to persistent hate and abuse and where the police failed to draw the links to repeated incidents of harassment, is a prime example.

Of course, non-crime hate incidents may also include the collection of personal data. Some of these records will include an accusation of hate crime that has been made against a person but was not proven. I know there has been concern that such data might appear in enhanced criminal record checks, which are required for jobs such as working with children and vulnerable adults, and that a person could be inappropriately disadvantaged for expressing a sentiment that is in no way criminal.

Precisely to guard against that possibility, the disclosure of non-conviction data in such checks is covered by statutory guidance issued by the Home Office to chief officers of police. This makes it clear that the police should disclose such information only after careful consideration and when it is proportionate and relevant to the job in question. Data of this kind can be disclosed only on the say-so of a senior officer, who should also consider whether the individual concerned should be given the opportunity to make the case that the information is not shared. Individuals also have the right to request an independent monitor to carry out a review of whether information is relevant to the role for which they are applying.

In practice, it is rare for the police to disclose non-conviction information of any kind: only 0.1% of enhanced certificates included such information in 2019-20. However, I fully understand that the public are concerned with how the collection of non-crime hate incident data might infringe fundamental liberties, particularly free expression, and may harm a person’s future prospects. However, I do not think that it is as simple as saying that the issue could be resolved through the introduction of more stringent regulations governing the processing and disclosure of data. We need to avoid unintended consequences through any reform of this practice. First, we need to ensure that we do not tie the hands of police in collecting the non-personal location data that I describe, and which can be vital in building an understanding of hotspots where serious harm might occur; this takes us back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, about balance.

Secondly, it is important to remember that the process of determining whether a crime has occurred is not always linear or simple. While the law on hate crime is clear, the process of determining whether an offence was committed may not be. The use of non-crime incident recording can exist in the grey space between the police making initial inquiries and making records such as this, and a decision to take no further action due to lack of evidence, or where a suspect cannot be identified. Non-crime hate incident records often form part of the normal record-keeping of early criminal investigations.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for moving his amendment. As the Committee might be aware, I sit as a youth magistrate, usually at Highbury magistrates’ court. I have to say that I was not aware of the difference in the remand criteria; I should have known but I did not. I also thank Transform Justice for bringing this to my attention. The noble Lord has very thoroughly explored the differences in the number of youths remanded by the police versus those remanded by the courts. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response.

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

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for raising this important issue of children remanded in custody. I quite agree that police custody is not a suitable environment for children and that they should not be detained there unless it is absolutely necessary.

The provisions introduced by this Bill will amend the “tests” set out by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, also known as LASPO, which must be satisfied before the court remands a child to custody. These are intended to ensure that custodial remand is used only as a last resort, where there are no other options and it is necessary to protect the public.

Before the courts get involved, if a child is charged with an offence, Section 38 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides that the police must release them either on bail or without bail pending their appearance at court, unless one or more specified conditions apply. These conditions are that the child’s name or address are not known or are not believed to be genuine; there are reasonable grounds to believe the child will not appear in court to answer bail; the detention is believed to be necessary to prevent the child committing an offence, causing physical injury, loss or damage to property, or interfering with the investigation of offences; or the detention after charge is believed to be necessary for the child’s own protection or in their own interests.

I would like to reassure the Committee that there is already a degree of alignment between police bail and court bail, and the police custody officer must have regard to the same considerations as those that apply when a court is considering whether to grant bail under the Bail Act 1976.

I acknowledge the concern that many more children are remanded post charge by the police than are remanded by the courts while awaiting trial, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, outlined, and that this may give rise to consideration of risk-averse decision-making by the police. I do not necessarily believe this to be the case. It is important to remember that post-charge detention by the police serves a different purpose from youth remand in the courts, so it is unrealistic to expect an exact alignment of the conditions required to make decisions.

With this in mind, it is perfectly possible for the police to make a decision to remand a child post charge and for the courts to make a decision not to remand the same child to custody, and for both these decisions to be reasonable based on the evidence and circumstances before each party. In the overwhelming majority of cases, a child remanded by the police will be held for no more than 24 hours.

I also acknowledge the concern that police remand is a driver of custodial remand—that is, for example, that a court is more likely to view a child remanded by the police as dangerous. I am not aware of any data showing a causal link between police remand and custodial remand. A comprehensive evidence base comparing the circumstances whereby police bail after charge decisions are made under Section 38 of PACE would be needed, giving consideration to the threshold for grounds to refuse bail and whether custody officers have access to and apply all relevant information when making a bail decision.

Before I conclude, I take this opportunity to put on record my thanks and the Home Office’s gratitude to Brian Roberts, who was the department’s expert on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Sadly, he died last month after 50 years of public service as a police officer and then an official in the department. He is greatly missed by his colleagues.

On the basis of my remarks, I hope the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Migration

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

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my noble friend for that question. As he was talking, I was just thinking how one of the awful moments for the Home Office was the Windrush scandal. One of the huge contributions that was made to this country after the war was by the Windrush generation. It has come to the forefront of people’s minds in the last few years, more than ever before, how people such as those in the Windrush generation helped this country, as did the Irish.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, do the Government agree that a lack of care workers is adding pressure on to the NHS? During the passage of the immigration Bill, the Government committed to this House to review skill shortages in the adult care sector and to look at visa options and immigration policy to plug the gap. The Government have commissioned a review from the Migration Advisory Committee. Has this review started, when can we expect the results and will there be an interim report?

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

My Lords, I think that the work has started, but I will correct that if I am wrong. The threshold, as the noble Lord knows, was previously set at degree level jobs. Modelling by the MAC suggests that the new border RQF 3 threshold strikes a much more reasonable balance between controlling immigration and business access to labour, so that will capture some of the cohort that he talks about. On the broader point, as we have seen in a number of sectors, employers will now have to think about paying their workers a more competitive salary to attract people such as care workers to do the valuable work that they do and have been doing throughout the pandemic.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I remind the House that I sit as a family magistrate in central London and regularly deal with these types of cases. I have to say that this has been a better debate than the one we had in Committee. The reason is that many of the speakers showed a greater appreciation of the complexity of these types of cases, which we hear in court. A number of speakers, including those who put their names to this amendment, stated that if the Minister were to make it crystal clear that the term “parental alienation” will be dealt with fully outside of the Bill, then they would think that a good solution to the issue in the amendment. We have also had a number of very eminent lawyers—the noble and learned Lords, Lord Mackay and Lord Morris, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti—clearly say their view is that the amendment is not necessary, as long as the issue itself is addressed elsewhere.

We have had a lot of contributions and I will not go through all the speeches. However, I want to pick up a couple of points noble Lords have made, in particular a contribution by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. He spoke about the distressing and polarising effects of the issue being debated in Committee; I think we have all received a huge amount of lobbying material since then. He also said that he had no doubt that parental alienation exists and that professional organisations such as Cafcass, through its child impact assessment, and the court system try to address the whole range of domestic abuse, including parental alienation.

I want to make one point, which has not been made by any other speaker, and stems from that made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. She summarised it, in a typically succinct way, by saying that the effects on the child are twofold: first, the witnessing, either directly or indirectly, of domestic abuse, which is clearly extremely bad for the child; and secondly, the malicious attempt by a parent to turn the child against the other parent. She has characterised that issue accurately, but I have been sitting as a family magistrate for about eight years now and have seen many cases where a parent has admitted, perhaps through a conviction, that their behaviour means they have committed such abuse. I have seen that many times but never seen a parent admit trying maliciously to alienate the child from the other parent. I have simply never seen a parent acknowledge that they have indulged in such a course of action. The court is of course in a very difficult position, so we move on to the possible use of experts, training for the judiciary and the life experience of magistrates and judges who are dealing with these cases.

I come back to where I opened: there has been a greater acknowledgement by the contributors to today’s debate of the difficulty in making these decisions. Of course, I am in favour of more training—magistrates, lawyers and judges are trained in any event, but more training would be welcome. I hope that the Minister will manage to convince the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, that it is not necessary to press her amendment. I personally believe that the issues she has raised and the intensity of the speeches she has given can be properly met through regulations under the Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on this International Women’s Day, I pay tribute to the courage of and thank my noble friend Lady Meyer, and other noble Lords, for their continued engagement on this issue. As pointed out by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, parental alienation clearly proved to be one of the most polarising issues in Committee. He challenged us to focus on the areas of agreement and I will try to do that. It was apposite that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, referred to the comments of the noble and right reverend Lord and said that we had a better debate today than we did in Committee. I agree. We are beginning to develop a shared understanding on where we are trying to get to on this, and to understand what points the amendment is driving at.

My noble friend Lady Meyer has lived experience of this very difficult, deeply distressing and personal issue, and 19 years of campaigning experience to boot in the area of alienating behaviours. I pay tribute to her; in no way do I seek to deny or to minimise the devastating impact that alienating behaviours can have on family life. But we must carefully consider the suggestion that legislation in the form of my noble friend’s amendment is the appropriate response here, and I hope that I can give her comfort on that. I will now outline the aspect of things that I think go to the heart of the Bill and the nub of the point that she is trying to make.

Our approach in Clause 1 is to define domestic abuse by reference to types of abusive behaviours, as pointed out by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle—although he agrees with the amendment—and not by reference to the form in which those behaviours may be manifested. We are fearful of creating a hierarchy of behaviours by appearing to give more weight to one manifestation than another, and do not—as my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay said—wish to inadvertently narrow the Clause 1 definition by giving specific examples such as that proposed by my noble friend in her amendment to Clause 1(5), as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, pointed out. The behaviours to which my noble friend Lady Altmann referred would be in scope; whether the examples she cites would be covered would clearly be a matter for the courts to decide.

As I indicated in Committee, I accept that there are circumstances where alienating behaviours indicate a wider pattern of emotional or psychological abuse. However, where this is the case the definition of domestic abuse in Clause 1—subsections (3)(e) and (5) are particularly relevant, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Brinton, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, said—already applies and, as such, does not need to be further expanded.

To answer the question about statutory guidance asked by my noble friend Lady Meyer, and almost all noble Lords who spoke in this debate, the draft statutory guidance covers alienating behaviours. I am very grateful to noble Lords who have already shared their views on the guidance and we welcome further feedback and suggestions for improvement. There will then be a further opportunity to comment on the guidance when we formally consult following Royal Assent.

One of the strengths of the Bill is that it recognises the impact of domestic abuse on children, considering them as victims in their own right. From the perspective of risk of harm to the child, the relevant legal framework is provided for in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, together with the definition of harm in that Act. My noble friend Lady Meyer and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referenced the Cafcass definition of parental alienation. Although that definition supports our shared understanding of the impact of alienating behaviours on the child, it is an important point of clarification that the Cafcass definition is not one of domestic abuse—we need to be clear about that. Cafcass is clear that there are a number of reasons why a child might resist time with, or be hostile towards, one parent following separation or other breakdown of a parental relationship.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I start by commending the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, because she spotted something that nobody else noticed on Monday evening, which is that I spoke in response to this amendment, but the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, had not moved it at all. That might be why I sounded as if I had prejudged a bit. I will reiterate some points on this occasion, but I apologise for being a bit previous with my comments.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said, Amendment 171 addresses the so-called carers’ defence within the controlling or coercive behaviour offence. Subsections (8) to (10) of Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 allow for this limited “best interests” defence, where the accused can demonstrate that they were acting in the best interests of the victim. The defence is not available in situations where the victim fears that violence will be used against them. I must be clear on that. For this defence to apply, the accused would also need to demonstrate to the court that their behaviour was reasonable in all the circumstances.

The defence was designed to cover cases where the accused is genuinely acting in the best interests of the victim. The first example that comes to my mind is a situation where the accused is looking after an elderly partner or parent with Alzheimer’s disease and must ensure that that person does not leave the house for their own safety. In these circumstances, it is entirely possible that the accused’s behaviour, while it might be considered controlling in a different context, is reasonable given the nature of their caring responsibilities.

As we have heard today, proponents of this amendment fear that it may enable the abuse of disabled people. However, there is a real risk that, without such a defence—and bearing in mind the example that I have just given—a person may be wrongfully prosecuted for and convicted of controlling or coercive behaviour, when in fact they were acting in a person’s best interests.

Ultimately—and I am repeating my words from the other night—it is for courts and juries to decide merit on a case-by-case basis, whether or not the threshold for the defence has been met. It should also be noted that similar or equivalent offences in Scotland, such as Section 6 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, and the proposed new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland, in Clause 12 of the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill, which has recently completed its passage through the Northern Ireland Assembly, also contain a similar defence.

I hope that, in the light of my explanation—for the second time—of the necessity of this defence, the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which has been a short but important one.

The central point I took from the intervention from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, is that the Carers Trust wants better support and wants the support of carers to be a more suitable focus rather than this potential loophole for wrongly accusing carers of some form of abuse.

The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, was much more robust in her language than I have been. She called it a patronising defence and said that the courts should decide. Essentially, that is what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said; the courts can decide because the charges can be brought with other legislation, as she acknowledged in her intervention.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, argued that the neatness and ease of reference may be a deciding factor in keeping this defence in this legislation and that putting it in other Acts would create difficulty for practitioners. That is the point that I think both the noble Baronesses, Lady Burt and Lady Grey-Thompson, would not have agreed with, because this Bill is about domestic abuse; it is not about giving potential defences to abusers that are already covered in other legislation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, opened her comments by saying that nobody noticed. I am sorry to disappoint her, but we did notice—but there was no easy way of informing the authorities that she had given an answer to these points on Monday evening. Nevertheless, this is a probing amendment and we will consider our position. I think that it shows that people with disabilities want to be fully represented in this landmark legislation. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in fact the Minister answered my question in almost her final sentence. It was about the status of callouts when considering this data. Police callouts are available to family courts and to sentencing criminal courts in domestic abuse cases. My question was going to be about the availability of that information to DAPOs, but I think that the Minister answered it in the affirmative.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Monday 25th January 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Act 2021 - Government Bill Page View all Domestic Abuse Bill Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-II(a) Amendment for Committee (for Third Marshalled List) - (25 Jan 2021)
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this is a solid piece of legislation and I hope that the process on which we are embarking will make it better. I remind the Committee that I sit as a family magistrate in London, so I regularly deal with all types of family-related cases, including parental alienation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, gave a heartfelt speech; I found it very moving. She has clearly endured the most difficult of circumstances. The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, gave closely, carefully and well-argued support of the amendments to which she put her name.

In family courts, as everyone has acknowledged, you quite often hear allegations of parental alienation, and a normal scenario is different from what we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer. A more normal scenario is that the parents are separated, the father has not seen the children for a while—too long—and he makes a private law application to see his children. The mother says there has been domestic abuse—or there have been allegations of domestic abuse—and the father makes a counter allegation, almost as a defence, saying that the mother is alienating the children against the father. That scenario is quite common. It is for the courts to try and sort it out, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, got it right when she said that both domestic abuse and parental alienation allegations can be either true or false. It is the job of the court process to sort that out.

I want to add two other observations. First, it is the duty of the court to get the best result for the child; we are not there to get a fair result for the parents. The question that we often ask ourselves is: “How do we get the voice of the child into the court?” One usual way of doing that is through Cafcass; there is an interview with a very experienced Cafcass officer who gives their view about what would be best for the child, and that view can be examined in the court. The way that Cafcass looks at these issues will be examined later in other amendments.

There is another way of doing it, which happens very rarely. I have not done it myself, but I have done it in public law cases, and that is where the child tells the court what they want. In the scenario where I was involved, a child was going to be taken into care by social services, and I have to say, it was extremely moving. The children whom I have done this for were well aware of the realities of the situation, and they were very aware that they were saying different things to the court—to me as the magistrate—than they had been saying to their parents. My experience is that children understand these situations; they can be toxic and extremely difficult, but nobody should underestimate children’s ability to understand the difficulty of their family situation.





I do not come down for or against these amendments, as such. It is a difficult situation. Other noble Lords made the point that there are many ways that parents can undermine and be unpleasant to each other that are not to the benefit of the children. One noble Baroness referred to the Bill as a potential Christmas tree of abusive relationships, and this does not help, because there are many varieties that one sees in court. Nevertheless, the central point I make to the Committee is that it is the court’s role to come up with the best solution for the child, not what is fair for the parents.

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

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Meyer, who is right to highlight the protection of children. I acknowledge, empathise and sympathise with her terrible experience of parental abduction, which, as she said, led to her being alienated from her children for years. We know that domestic abuse has devastating consequences, not only for adult victims but for their children, which is why the Bill rightly recognises children as victims in their own right. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, pointed out, this is very much part of the court proceeding, as has also just been articulately outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Some of the protections that have been outlined in the Bill, such as preventing cross-examination in courts, mitigate this in some ways.

I also agree with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in questioning the judicial training that must support the outcome of such proceedings, whatever it is. We know that child arrangement cases involving domestic abuse or allegations of abuse often include allegations of alienating behaviours, where one parent seeks to undermine or frustrate the other parent’s relationship with their children, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, also outlined. These actions, as my noble friend highlights in her amendment, are often referred to as “parental alienation”.

My noble friend Lady Helic, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, pointed out how the term has so often been used to sidetrack from the issue of domestic abuse. She pointed out that the pro-contact culture of the courts quite often leads to the wrong decisions being made.

To answer my noble friend Lord Polak, there is no widely accepted definition, nor a commonly held framework, for parental alienation. Instead, views are wide-ranging: some focus on the parent’s behaviour, some focus on the child’s behaviour and others focus on the impact or outcome of the behaviour. For these and other reasons, I refer instead to “alienating behaviours”. That phrase is used in the guidance, as the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Bennett, point out. The guidance will be subject to consultation after Royal Assent. The beauty of the House of Lords is of course its scrutiny of Bills. To that end, we very much welcome views on how to deal with this issue.

Alienating behaviours can include a range of attitudes and actions. Some are subtle, such as drip-feeding negative views, while others are more obvious, such as deliberately flouting child arrangement orders. I am clear that these behaviours are wrong and problematic, but they are not limited to cases involving domestic abuse. They occur in the context of acrimonious separation and other high-conflict cases, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. I have sympathy with my noble friend’s wish to address these behaviours, but I submit that the definition in Clause 1 for the purposes of the Bill is not the right context in which to do so.

Alienating behaviours should be considered primarily in terms of the impact on the child. Most noble Lords referred to that and to the potential emotional and psychological harm to the child that can result, for example, from repeatedly hearing negative views about a parent or being prevented from spending time with a parent. From the perspective of risk of harm to the child, the relevant legal framework is provided for in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, together with the Section 31(9) definition of harm in that Act.

I accept that alienating behaviours can, in some circumstances, be indicators or manifestations that point to a wider pattern of psychological or emotional abuse. To be absolutely clear, I do not accept that alienating behaviours should be defined as domestic abuse in their own right. However, in circumstances where such behaviours are indicative of a wider pattern of emotional or psychological abuse, we can be confident that the Clause 1 definition already applies and renders the proposed amendment unnecessary.

Our approach in Clause 1 is to define domestic abuse by reference to different types of abusive behaviours and not by reference to the form in which those behaviours may be expressed or manifested. If we were to include within the Clause 1 definition a list of possible indicators under each type of abuse, we would risk appearing to give more weight to one form of behaviour and therefore creating a hierarchy of behaviours. Should a particular indicator or manifestation of psychological or emotional abuse not be listed, it may be deemed to be less serious or, worse, not a form of abuse at all.

The arena in which we can most effectively address alienating behaviours as potential indicators of a recognised type of domestic abuse is the statutory guidance under Clause 73, which has been published in draft. I have gone through how that will be consulted on. It has been created and continues to be edited in consultation with the sector. As I said earlier, we welcome further suggestions on how the guidance can be further strengthened, including in the area of alienating behaviours. Once the Bill is enacted, the Home Secretary will formally consult the domestic abuse commissioner and other key stakeholders before the guidance is promulgated.

I note the points by my noble friends Lady Gardner of Parkes and Lady Chisholm that the unintended consequences might be to swing the pendulum of this good Bill the other way. My noble friend Lady Newlove warns of parental alienation creating a loophole in which to perpetrate abuse. I give the final word to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, who warns that, if these amendments are accepted, victims might be painted as abusers.

I hope that, in the light of this explanation and our commitment to address alienating behaviours in the statutory guidance, my noble friend Lady Meyer can withdraw her amendment.