All 7 Baroness Stowell of Beeston contributions to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Tue 14th Sep 2021
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 24th Nov 2021
Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great privilege to lead the Back-Bench contributions to the debate on this Bill. As we have already heard, this is very wide-ranging legislation. I will focus my remarks today on Part 3 and the measures about public order, which make it possible for the police to do their job, as people expect, when the methods used by protestors are unacceptable to the vast majority of law-abiding people. I know that some Peers will express concerns about these measures; we have already heard some concerns expressed by the Opposition Front Benches. There may be some legitimate arguments to be made about whether language should be in the Bill or in secondary legislation, and no doubt we will have those debates in detail when the time comes.

If we are to legislate properly, it is important that in giving the police new powers to oversee and manage the impact of protests, demonstrations or assemblies, we provide them and the courts the clarity they need to meet wider public expectations of them in how they do their work. Because this is such a sensitive issue, I believe we must be live to the risk of process and procedure not only undermining what the Government have a mandate to achieve but perpetuating a bigger problem, accidentally or otherwise—that is, legitimising some forms of protest or assembly which are perniciously undermining our society.

In the brief time I have, let me try to explain what I mean. I start by emphasising that this is not about the subject of protests; I am not interested in whether it is climate change, racial equality or anti-vaccines. This is about behaviour and conduct which is deeply troubling because, whether by accident or design, it is promoting division and dismantling our society: behaviour that appears to be based on a belief that if people are sympathetic to a cause they can—and indeed some believe they must—demonstrate by causing disruption and distress to other people, until everyone declares their support and submits too.

As I said in the debate on the gracious Speech, back in May, until the big disruptions in central London during 2019, I am pretty sure most people assumed that it was not possible for anyone in the name of any cause, however important, urgent or noble, to blockade main roads and major junctions and not be stopped from doing so. What dismayed me about those events that summer, including the way that the police initially reacted and some of the media reports, was that common consensus among law-abiding people was at risk of breaking down. In this context, I am talking about the common consensus of what is acceptable behaviour in public when it comes to how we protest and demonstrate in support of things we believe in or are against. It is this underlying risk that makes it even more important, I believe, that we get right our own approach to the way we do our work on this Bill.

Some noble Lords may have been present in the Chamber last week for a debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who is also speaking today, about standards in public life. During it, I raised the point that we see signs that the social norms which bond us together as a society are breaking down. Our responsibility as leaders is to promote common standards.

In a complex world where people are increasingly angry and distrustful, and asked to take on trust complex solutions, they need reassurance that decision-makers are motivated by a common purpose of upholding what is fair in a decent society. They, and any of us, can judge each other’s motives only through the actions that we can see on display.

My big concern if the House of Lords fails to support the principle of these measures, which clarify what is and is not acceptable when it comes to how people protest in public, especially when they have a legitimate right to disagree or question, is that we encourage more distrust within our society. There are some causes which, ultimately, should attract universal support, but that means we cannot allow them to be hijacked by people whose behaviours serve only to repel those whose confidence and support are very much needed for us all to thrive and meet the challenges of a modern world.

As regrettable as some noble Lords and indeed campaigners outside might find aspects of this legislation, it seeks to deliver the clarity that is needed to benefit us all. We in this House should not support methods of protest which serve to divide us; we need to promote that which unites us, even when we disagree.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (8 Nov 2021)
Moved by
153: Clause 66, page 63, line 21, after “vehicle” insert “or pedicab”
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will speak to this amendment and my other amendments in this group. First, though, I welcome my noble friend Lord Sharpe to the Front Bench, and I look forward to his response.

These amendments are about pedicabs. I will briefly explain the problem, and then come to the solutions and proposed way forward. For any noble Lords unsure about what I am referring to, pedicabs are passenger vehicles operated by a cyclist at the front pulling a small carriage at the back. Sometimes they are known as rickshaws. Noble Lords may have seen them lined up on Westminster Bridge touting for business from tourists. They are often covered in flashing lights and blaring out loud music. They are mainly found in the West End and other tourist hotspots, whether that is Oxford Street and other major shopping zones during the day, or Leicester Square, Soho and the theatre district at night.

We have an unacceptable situation. These vehicles are legal, but, believe it or not, they do not need insurance. There is no way to identify the drivers, there is no requirement for operators to undergo criminal records checks, most vehicles do not undergo any safety or maintenance checks, and there is no control over the fares charged. Pedicabs are the only form of public transport in the capital that is completely unregulated.

It may assist the Committee if I explain very briefly the history of how this unacceptable anomaly occurred. Nearly 20 years ago—lawyers here will be able to expand on this—pedicabs were defined in case law as stage carriages in Greater London under the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869, so do not fall under Transport for London’s licensing powers. This is not the case elsewhere in England and Wales, where they are defined as hackney carriages and subject to local licensing and regulation.

The upshot is that pedicabs can ply for hire in any street or place in Greater London. They are acting with impunity and in competition with black cabs, and where appropriate with licensed taxis, for custom. To state the obvious, those vehicles are subject to a range of regulations and exacting standards. It will not surprise the Committee that this impunity and the full knowledge that they cannot be held to account leads to a wide range of safety and traffic incidents. This includes dangerous driving, such as going the wrong way up one-way streets—I have personally seen pedicabs come on to pavements—nuisance driving, parking in bus lanes, and impeding traffic. There is a range of passenger safety issues associated with roadworthiness, and some vehicles have motorised the bicycle at the front, creating more risks to passengers. Hit and runs are not uncommon.

Then there is the nuisance and anti-social behaviour, which has a detrimental effect not just on businesses and residents but on the reputation of our capital city. There is aggressive touting for business; ripping off passengers with outrageous charges; very loud music played all day and night; harassment of passengers, including women; violence between drivers; and even reports of facilitating drug dealing across the city.

The Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 has been useful to some extent, but it is only a short-term measure, as it takes a huge amount of evidence, time and police resource to apply. We need regulation to prevent those wishing to give our capital city a bad name having the chance to do so in the first place. Having said all that, there are some reputable firms that want regulation. Indeed, there is an environmental case for pedicabs to be part of London’s public transport system, but that can happen only if they come under the control of Transport for London.

What is the solution? Before I explain my amendments, I want to highlight a better solution. My honourable friend Nickie Aiken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, has been campaigning tirelessly on this issue since she was elected in 2019. She has cross-party support from London-based MPs, many of whom have campaigned on this issue since Labour was in government. Her Private Member’s Bill, due its Second Reading on Friday 19 November, would bring pedicabs under the remit of Transport for London and allow it to introduce proper regulations. That would bring London into line with the rest of England and Wales. The Bill, and what it will achieve, is supported by MPs, the Mayor of London, Westminster Council, Kensington and Chelsea Council, other affected councils, Transport for London, the Soho Society, the Marylebone Association, the Heart of London Business Alliance, and a wide range of other bodies that are members of the Regulate Pedicabs Coalition. No one is against this, so I know she is pushing at an open door when it comes to government support. For the last five years, Minister after Minister has promised to introduce legislation to make this regulation happen when an appropriate legislative vehicle is available, but so far none has arrived.

So, here is what I am asking. First, I would like the Minister to confirm that the Government will support Nickie Aiken’s Private Member’s Bill if it gets a Second Reading on 19 November. But notice that I said “if”, because, even with the Government’s support, we face a real risk of not getting that far. This is the third attempt to introduce legislation via a Private Member’s Bill. Nickie’s Bill is the fifth due to be debated on that day, so there is a real danger that it will not get a Second Reading and will fall again. To be fair, this Private Member’s Bill is a suitable vehicle because it is simply bringing London in line with everywhere else, where local authorities can already regulate. It is not introducing new policy; it is just correcting something which needs to be corrected.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will certainly withdraw the amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for making clear that the Government support the Private Member’s Bill, and I will of course accept the offer of a meeting with my noble friend Lady Vere—although, if it is a meeting we have to have because the Private Member’s Bill has not been successful in its Second Reading on 19 November, I hope the Minister is ready and prepared for action to take us further forward.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his suggestion, which I will certainly consider, if necessary, and discuss with the Government in the first instance. I would very much prefer government support if it is necessary to take this step.

I also reassure the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that it is certainly not my intention, nor that of my honourable friend Nickie Aiken in her Private Member’s Bill, to include the kinds of vehicles he describes—the domestic arrangement where a parent may have a small trailer on the back, with small children in it. This is about vehicles that charge passengers to transport them.

I also take on board the points made about the nature of the new ways of transporting freight using cycles within London. That is why I emphasised in my opening remarks that, on pedicabs more generally, there was a time when there was a real effort to ban them altogether. Now we realise that, with today’s environmental challenges, there is scope for vehicles that use pedal power, as opposed to standard motorised power.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who spoke in support, and to my noble friend Lord Attlee. I hope that I do not need to come back on Report to detain your Lordships further on this but, if I have to, I will. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 153 withdrawn.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-IX Ninth marshalled list for Committee - (15 Nov 2021)
Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I very much agree with noble Lords who have said so much about the retail workers on whom we have depended so greatly and will continue to depend in the future and who face so many instances of assault and attack. The campaigns that this has generated show just how seriously we take this, but I have to ask, particularly in the light of Victoria Atkins’s commitment in the Commons, whether the Government have identified a serious gap in the law, filling which would alter the situation materially for the better, or whether the worst of the problem arises from inadequate police response to incidents. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, quoted figures for that. Perhaps there is an inadequate police presence in areas where this kind of attack is prevalent, or perhaps the inadequacy comes, in some cases, from the Crown Prosecution Service about cases that should be brought to court.

This kind of attack is affecting retail workers in a number of different situations. Some of it is drug related, with people desperately trying to get money to pay for their drugs and attacking shopworkers when they are found stealing goods from a shop. Some of it is alcohol related and alcohol enforcement related, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, have pointed out, whereby shop workers have simply been trying to enforce the law. Where I live at the border with Scotland the issue is more complicated because the law is different on either side of the border.

Some of it is even hate crime of which ethnic-minority shop owners have been the victims. That is so awful when one thinks of the incredible contribution that, for example, Ugandan and Kenyan Asians have made in providing retail services at all hours of the day and night in all sorts of communities, including in some of the most difficult areas. Those shop owners deserve our support and protection, but we need to know how best to provide that.

One my concerns about the amendments and the approach taken so far, which is perhaps a tribute to the effective campaigning of retail workers and their organisations and representatives, is that a number of other groups of people who deal with and serve the public are also exposed. My mind turns to the staff of estate agents, for example—the Suzy Lamplugh case is a vivid reminder. It is not clear whether such staff are covered by the retail workers’ provision. They may be, but I am far from certain. I also think of transport staff, housing officers, local authority planning officers and even parking wardens. It is sometimes seen as some kind of joke to laugh at parking wardens and at how angry people get at them. Any kind of harassment or attack on people who are serving the public is no joke at all and requires the attention of government.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, pointed out, however, that attention is not necessarily best served by simply putting in longer maximum prison sentences, thereby creating sentence inflation and generating far more expenditure on prison, which could perhaps be better spent on policing and community support of various kinds, including activities directed at young people in local communities who are drawn into violence. We need to look at what else we can do in terms of police response, CPS commitment and community support to support the staff who serve us.

If the Government have identified a significant gap in the law, a change to which would help those responsible for enforcement and protection, we would be interested to hear it. However, one way or another, we need to help those who are helping us.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in some respects similarly to the noble Lord, Lord Beith, I come to this debate with an open mind in terms of the specifics of the amendments put forward by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. I very much align myself with him and others who have spoken in that I am appalled at the assaults, attacks and abuse of people on the receiving end who work in stores of all kinds.

However, I will be interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister says as regards whether the law currently provides for these kinds of attacks. One of the things that I found extremely concerning in the briefing provided by USDAW and others was the lack of police response when shop workers were on the receiving end of an attack. When they contacted the police, there was little or no reaction. That is really troubling.

The only thing I want to add to what has been said relates to something that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, touched on. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, also referred to the fact that we are asking shop workers in many respects to uphold the law for us. However, there is another aspect to the role of shop workers and shopkeepers that we do not mention often enough and is important. They are community leaders and people in whom we should encourage a sense of authority for themselves. I want people who are doing these jobs to feel that they are holding a position of power. They are responsible for a public place and when they are at work they are in charge. They deserve our respect for that. I see them much more than just as service providers; they are standard setters. In local communities, in particular in local convenience stores, they can make an enormous contribution to the health of a community and the way in which local people feel about themselves.

If the Government are inclined to go down this route of legislating in the way that has been proposed—and even if they are not—I encourage the Minister that there should be some effort in conjunction with legislation to promote the importance of retail workers, not just in the way they provide a service to us but in the way they are leaders of their communities and important to our maintaining the social norms and standards that are crucial to the health of our society as a whole.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-XI Eleventh marshalled list for Committee - (22 Nov 2021)
Moved by
292E: After Clause 170, insert the following new Clause—
“Crime scenes: religious rituals or prayer
In securing a crime scene where a person within that crime scene is severely injured, such that there is a strong likelihood that they might die, there is a presumption that the constable in charge will allow entry to the crime scene to a minister of religion in order to perform religious rituals or prayer associated with dying.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is intended to probe expectations of police procedure.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, before I get to the amendment, I think I can speak for all of us in saying that our thoughts are with the Amess family this evening.

Noble Lords who were in the Chamber for the tributes to Sir David Amess after the horrific crime that led to his shocking death will recall that at the end of her contribution the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked a question. I will quote her directly:

“Could priests be allowed to attend a crime scene so that they can give the victim their last rites, especially when they are dying?”—[Official Report, 18/10/21; col. 26.]


She posed this question, because it was reported that Sir David’s local priest had been denied access by the police to attend him in person to administer the last rites. It should be stressed that the priest accepted the instructions of the police and said prayers beyond the perimeter of the crime scene. I am not going to rehearse the events of that tragic day. None of us were there. It is not for me or any of us to second-guess the police officers on duty. I believe that the police should have the discretion to make whatever operational decisions they judge to be right, depending on the situation they are dealing with at any given time.

However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and many others, I found the news that a local priest was not able to attend to a dying man surprising and, to my surprise, somewhat upsetting, especially because he was the victim of such an horrific crime. I do not believe that this is a matter for legislation. Others who participate in this debate might think differently, including those who have put their name to this amendment. But after the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and I talked, we decided to table this probing amendment to explore whether the presumption could be that at a crime scene the police constable in charge would allow entry to a minister of religion to give the last rites or other prayers associated with dying.

Perhaps now is the moment to declare that I am not a Catholic, or, I have to say, particularly religious, but like most of us who are perhaps hatch, match and despatch types, agnostics or atheists, I respect and understand how important faith is to people who practise their religion and recognise that it can become important at times of grief and loss, irrespective of the extent of our convictions. Like most other people, I think it is right that the police and all public authorities respect all religious faith, but I do think it is reasonable to expect the main elements of the Christian faith to be understood or more familiar to the police than most religions, because while religious affiliation is in decline among today’s Britons, it is still safe to say that Christianity is the main religion in the UK. That complex picture of increasing diversity and a declining majority does not mean that we should not give the importance of Christianity a plug from time to time and should not take for granted that something such as a priest being given access to a dying man at the scene of a crime will happen just because we assume that the reason why it is important is widely known and understood.

Even though there is no evidence that this was anything other than an isolated incident, having learned that something so innocent yet important was prohibited, those of us who are public figures have a responsibility to say loud and clear that we would expect it to be possible unless there are good reasons otherwise, and that we do not want the myriad sensibilities which these days the police are required to take account of to be at the expense of timeless expectations, such as access of a religious minister to someone at their most desperate hour of need.

I am grateful to the Catholic Union, which has been in contact with me since I tabled this amendment. It has been at pains to emphasise that the Catholic Church is not looking for special treatment for priests; it believes it is important for all people of faith to have access to ministers of religion when they are sick or dying. I know that the Catholic Union and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference have requested a meeting with the Minister. Notwithstanding what my noble friend has already said at Oral Questions today—I was not in the Chamber for that, but I caught up with it and know that a working group has been set up off the back of a discussion between Cardinal Nichols and the Met Police Commissioner—I reinforce that request for a meeting, so that we can discuss the appropriate steps for the Government to communicate to the police the level of importance that Parliament has afforded this matter and to receive assurance from the police that they have understood our concerns.

If it is doable, my noble friend the Minister might also like to invite a ministerial colleague from the Department of Health and Social Care, as I understand that there is growing evidence of a lack of access for priests and ministers of all faiths to care homes, hospices and some hospitals. This too was raised during Oral Questions earlier today. I realise that this would have been difficult during Covid because of lockdown restrictions, but the fear is that social norms may have been permanently uprooted and replaced by new customs and practices which, while necessary during a pandemic, are here to stay because they are more convenient for the institutions concerned.

I know from my private conversations with her that my noble friend the Minister cares deeply about this topic. In her response, I hope she is able to tell the Committee what action the Government have taken to assure themselves that, in all possible circumstances, the police will give access to a local priest or religious minister. I very much look forward to hearing what she has to say. Meanwhile, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for allowing me to work with her on this, and to all noble Lords who have put their name to this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Masham of Ilton Portrait Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, for introducing this amendment. When I read about the terrible murder of Sir David Amess while he was attending his parliamentary surgery, I was very shocked and saddened. Later, I learned that his parish priest was denied entry by the police to the crime scene to administer the last rites. I was also shocked and surprised then. After the disgusting and tragic murder of Sarah Everard by a member of the police force, I hope they will show some contrition by understanding this sensitive amendment. We need kind, honest, well-trained police to undertake their vital work to keep everyone safe.

David Amess was an honourable, brave man. He will be remembered as an exemplary Member of Parliament. If someone else had been murdered instead of David, I feel that David would be bringing an amendment similar to this to Parliament.

The sacrament of the last rites, which is also known as extreme unction or anointing the sick, is for people who are gravely ill or close to death. It is the sacrament for the remission of sins, to strengthen and comfort the soul, and food for the journey. While not every Catholic will request the last rites to be administered by a priest, many do. It can be of utmost importance to some.

I would like to thank Alasdair Love from the Public Bills Office, who helped to put together this amendment. I am pleased that Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dame Cressida Dick, have agreed to establish a joint group to study these issues. I hope that training for police officers on this matter will be included. This gives some hope. I add that the coronavirus has made this sensitive and important matter even more complicated, but problems are for solving. I hope that providing the sacrament of healing to the dying who desire it will become more available. I look forward to the Minister’s reply and thank all who support this amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Covid has put aside many norms, including, as my noble friend said, chaplains in care homes and maybe in hospitals, although I understand that chaplains are available 24 hours a day in hospitals. I am more than happy to meet my noble friend and the Catholic Union ahead of the next stage and to request a Health Minister. However, I hope that, in light of the discussions between the archbishop and the Metropolitan Police, and having had this opportunity to debate this difficult issue, my noble friend would be happy to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister and to all noble Lords who have spoken today. First, in response to my noble friend’s last couple of points, of course I will withdraw this amendment, and I am grateful to her for agreeing to the meeting requested by the Catholic Union and for including in that meeting a Minister from the Department of Health and Social Care. Having been requested, it is important that that meeting goes ahead and provides an opportunity for a discussion on these issues from that single perspective. As she has already said, it is very encouraging that Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Dame Cressida Dick have initiated this working group to look at the issues arising from the events of that tragic day.

The debate this evening has been remarkable. I have found it quite moving. I was very unsure about tabling this amendment, if I am honest. I hesitated quite a bit about it, and then after I had tabled it, even with the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, I kept thinking, “Oh God, is this the right thing to do?”, but I thought it was important that we had an opportunity to debate these matters. As I said earlier in my opening remarks, I genuinely felt that it was important for us to stand up and say, “This is important”, rather than just accept it as something that happened and move on.

The result of that seems to have been noble Lords expressing views and raising points that I had not even thought about and elevating the importance of this issue. In addition to what the Minister has already agreed to, it would be proper for her to give further thought to how we can explore its importance even more. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, who suggested that the Government facilitate the dialogue between the various different religious faiths. As the right reverend Prelate, to whom I hope I did justice to at the beginning, said, this is not just about the Catholic faith but about how we address some of these bigger issues, which really do need to be considered. As a society, we have to make sure that the things that are really important to us as human beings and to our cohesiveness as communities are recognised and given the attention and weight that they deserve by those of us in positions of power to make these things happen.

Again, I am grateful to all noble Lords and I look forward to sitting down with the Minister and the representatives of the Catholic Union. Until then, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 292E withdrawn.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have had some powerful speeches already and it is a real pleasure to hear them. This was supposed to be the worst bit of the Bill. It is a terrible Bill but this was meant to be the absolute pits. However, the Government have made things worse by bringing in the latest amendments, so this is not the worst bit any more; it is just the next worst bit.

I have signed about a dozen amendments in this group. I could have signed them all and definitely support them all. Many of them are good, and worth raising, but the only real way forward is to remove these clauses altogether. I hope that opposition parties can join together to do that on Report, because our civil liberties and human rights are far too important to be negated in this way.

Amendment 293 from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, sets the scene perfectly because it stresses the importance of the right to protest in a free country. We always look down our noses at all these illiberal countries abroad who suppress their citizens—their human rights and liberty to protest—but this Government are trying to do exactly the same. Any restriction on the right to protest has to be really carefully considered, not rushed in with 18 pages of amendments at the last minute and without any proper discussion.

There is a balancing act between the rights of individuals and those of wider society. The balancing act already happens because there is a great number of restrictions on protest in this country. The police have many powers, which they use, and many tactics—some of which go too far, such as kettling. The Government want to ramp up these restrictions even more: being noisy or annoying could be banned. Some Peers could be banned because they are annoying. We could end up with the only protests, as has been said, being the ones that are so quiet and uneventful that they achieve absolutely nothing.

This is deep, dark politics. This is about a Conservative Government wanting to rewrite completely how we operate within society, as individuals against the state. I think they are planning, or hoping, to remain the dominant political party for generations to come. That is what could happen through these terrible amendments.

If you make protests impossible to perform legally, criminalise non-violent direct action, abolish or restrict the ability of citizens to challenge the Government in court through judicial reviews, turn people against lawyers, gerrymander the election boundaries and dish out cash in the way that looks best for Conservative MPs, that is deep, dark politics. Many of us here are not particularly political and perhaps do not see the dangers inherent in what you, the Government, are doing. It all seems like a calculated ploy to turn all the cards in favour of an unaccountable Government that cannot be challenged in the courts, at the ballot box or on the streets. We all have to unite against this and deleting these clauses from the Bill is the beginning of that fight.

I have a tiny quibble on the issue that noble Peers have mentioned about the survival of the planet. The chances are that the planet will survive. What we are doing in this climate crisis is destroying the little bit of ecosphere that supports human life, so that is what we have to think about. It is not about survival of the planet but about survival of people.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I may be able to tone down some of the hyperbole. Let’s go back to first principles on what this Bill is about. I think we are all united in this country in support of our right to protest. That is a very precious right that we all feel strongly about. Nobody wants to put that at risk and nobody is trying to put that at risk.

In a world which is becoming more divided, with people having very strong, trenchant positions in the views they adopt, we are trying to ensure that it is possible for people to express their views in a way which does not undermine some of the other social norms in our society which allow us to disagree but be united at the same time. Over the last few years, we have seen a new fashion of protest which is carried out in a way that is unacceptable to other people in its disruption; whether they agree with the matter in question or not is almost irrelevant. We need to try—I believe this is what the Government are trying to do through this Bill—to make it possible for protests to continue in a way which does not divide society further.

I do not support the amendments, but I agree with one point, made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. We have to be very careful on the issue of noise. It is impossible for people to protest silently and I will look to the Government for reassurance on that matter when the Minister comes to respond.

Let’s not forget what we are trying to do here: allow people to disagree in a way which does not divide us further. I worry that some of these amendments will perpetuate a division which we do not want to see happen in this country.

Viscount Colville of Culross Portrait Viscount Colville of Culross (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to support Amendments 294 and 298 because I believe that Clauses 55 and 56, which introduce noise triggers for public demonstrations and assemblies, are fundamentally undemocratic and will have a detrimental effect on free speech in England and Wales. I apologise that I was not able to speak at Second Reading, but I was unable to attend the House on that day.

I have always thought of the Conservative Party as supporters of free speech, so I am disappointed that this Government seek to take that right away through these clauses. I repeat the quote from Jules Carey that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, gave that this is

“an existential threat to the right to protest.”

Of course, these clauses are a response to the outrage at BLM, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain protests which have been incredibly disruptive to the lives of thousands of people across the country and especially in London. But the blocking of highways was always illegal under the Highways Act and the existing triggers in the Public Order Act 1986 can be harnessed by the police to control the other protests. The House will debate the new draconian measures the Government plan to introduce later which, as was mentioned at the beginning of today’s Committee debate, seems to be a poor way to treat the House.

The introduction of noise as a criterion for the police limiting or stopping protests and assemblies seems to me an unnecessary and damaging extension of police powers. The factsheet for the Bill promises that the police will use the noise trigger only

“where it is deemed necessary and proportionate.”

But “proportionate” must be subjective as a threshold for the trigger.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

I did make the point that I was not wholly comfortable with what was being said about noise in the legislation, and I was looking to my noble friend the Minister for some comfort—but I do think there is a new fashion of protest, which the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, also referred to, which is very different from that which we have seen before and is causing a huge amount of disruption, which people find unacceptable.

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

I thank the noble Baroness for her clarification, but I have to say to her that noise is absolutely fundamental to the issues that we are debating now. As the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said, in relation to the other protests and the obstruction of highways et cetera, the powers exist already in the Public Order Act and in other places to deal with them. So the question now is whether we should have the new, very restrictive curtailments on the right to protest proposed in this Bill which are about noise and its impact, and that is what I am addressing.

Not only is it a terrible idea which will place the police in an impossible situation, but the Bill compounds their difficulty by failing to provide any definitive criteria by which the police can determine whether the level of noise or its impact on others is sufficient to trigger their powers. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, raised this issue. No decibel level is defined in the Bill; no definition of intensity of impact, which the police are supposed to take into account, is set. As a result, the police will be dragged into areas of heated political controversy on which they will have to make entirely subjective decisions—except in the cases where the Home Secretary will help them out by making her own entirely subjective decisions—deciding that one protest may go ahead in a certain way and a certain place but having to decide that another may not. Presumably the police’s decisions will be open to challenge by protesters on the one hand and those who wish to curtail protest on the other. It is hard to think of a better way to undermine trust in the impartiality of our police services.

As I mentioned at Second Reading, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has also mentioned, many noble Lords will have taken part in the protests outside South Africa House against the apartheid regime. It was the express intention of those protests to generate noise and, doubtless, the agents of the apartheid state were impacted, and they may well have genuinely felt serious unease as a consequence, but, as long as those protests remained peaceful, it was surely no business of the state to protect them from the impact of that noise or any serious sense of unease that it may have caused.

That is an example from the past—it would be interesting to know how the Minister thinks the powers would be applied in that case—but let me take one from the present. Currently, a fortnightly vigil for democracy and human rights is held outside the Zimbabwe embassy on the Strand. The vigil is not normally loud, but, on occasion, when the Zimbabwe Government are involved in particularly egregious violations of human or political rights, it can be noisy and, without doubt, it has an impact on people in the vicinity. People are understandably angry in such circumstances, particularly in circumstances where protesters have been gunned down in Zimbabwe, and the noise that the protesters here generate will certainly have an impact on and may cause serious unease to embassy staff. But again I ask: if the protest is peaceful and orderly, is there any reason to prevent it happening?

As evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights highlighted, police will inevitably be faced with pressures from certain embassies to ban protests outside their premises on the grounds of noise or serious unease. Can the Minister expressly address this issue in her summing up? Do such embassy protests fall under the powers of this Bill? Could a senior officer, for example, direct protestors not to protest outside the Zimbabwe embassy if he was convinced of serious unease being caused to embassy staff? How would the police assess evidence of the threat of serious unease in court? I hope the Minister will not tell the House that she cannot envisage the police using such powers in these circumstances, because that would only highlight how this part of the Bill will entangle the police in decisions they simply should not have to make.

If those are some of the potential, but hopefully unintended, consequences of this part of the Bill, what of the intended consequences? We know that the public protest clauses and proposals contained in Part 3 and in the government amendments, which will be debated in a later group, are deliberately aimed at environmental protestors, whether Extinction Rebellion or Insulate Britain, because the Government have basically told us that they are. Many of the people involved in these protests are young people who are protesting against an existential threat to their futures. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, made a very powerful speech in this regard. What is the reaction of the Government to these tiresome people who have the temerity to demand a future for themselves and their children and who understandably will not be bought off by the long-term promises so casually given out by the Prime Minister and so nakedly betrayed by his failure to take the action now to realise them? To deal with them, the Government propose using these wholly disproportionate powers.

What do these people want? They want us to insulate Britain. It is hardly world revolution. Yet in the face of an unprecedented climate emergency, we cannot even do that. No wonder they are angry. No wonder they despair of politics as usual. Instead of consuming a lot of time and energy banning their protests, because they are noisy or might have some impact, perhaps it would be better to have an infrastructure Bill with a long-term programme to tackle the problem of our energy-leaking and climate-threatening buildings. At least that is a problem we know how to deal with and could if we had the will. Certainly, it would be a better use of time, because if the Government think that these measures to curtail protests on the spurious grounds of noise and impact and to jail more people for a longer time will stop these protests, they are sadly mistaken.

Those who face an existential threat do not just buckle under, no matter the level of restriction or curtailment of their rights. If you doubt that, look at a history book. Look at the civil rights movement which the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, mentioned, or the suffragettes, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, highlighted. These people were protesting in the face of laws far more extreme than even this Government would contemplate. Bringing in unjust laws to deal with this situation does not stop protest. You deal with it by addressing the issues fairly. These measures will only further embitter the protests. Far from what the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, hopes for, it will not bring about any greater sense of unity, and it will not only further embitter the protest but embroil the police in unending controversies which, as far as I understand, they have no desire to be dragged into. Also, they have been provided with no objective criteria on which they can adjudicate such controversies.

The amendments in this group will remove some of the most objectionable aspects of this attack on peaceful protests. I hope that the Minister gives serious consideration to the powerful arguments that have been made by noble Lords on all sides, but really this part should come out of the Bill completely.

I conclude by saying that I am very pleased to say that we are a long way from the situation in Zimbabwe, where a youth leader languishes in jail in appalling conditions for more than 200 days, charged with blowing a whistle at a protest, where the police have become so embroiled in political controversy that they are no longer trusted by the public at all, and where public safety and public order are consistently deployed as reasons to stifle the most modest of protests. But those who courageously struggle in such situations look to our democracy, with our traditions of free and raucous protest, as a beacon. We should remember that. Every time we take a step away from them, we dishearten democrats around the world and give succour to those who oppose them.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage
Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 72-II Manuscript amendment for Report, supplementary to the Second Marshalled List - (13 Dec 2021)
Moved by
59: Clause 67, page 65, line 21, after “vehicle” insert “or pedicab”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would include pedicabs within scope of the offence of causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate, driving.
--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in moving Amendment 59 I will also speak to the other amendments in my name as part of this group. I will try to take as little time as possible, because I know that there is still much to get through this evening.

These amendments refer to pedicabs, which are also sometimes known as rickshaws. They are loud and sometimes garish, and they hang out at all the tourist hot spots here in London. I will not repeat all that I said in Committee, but let me remind your Lordships of the problem I am seeking to address.

Pedicabs are the only form of public transport in London that is completely unregulated. The vehicles and their drivers are not subject to any kind of checks, they do not need insurance, they can charge passengers whatever they want, and they are exempt from the vast majority of traffic violations. Pedicabs can ply for hire in direct competition with our heavily regulated black cabs on any street or place in Greater London. Knowing that they can act with impunity, the vast majority of them do.

Noble Lords heard me describe in Committee the evidence of careless driving and antisocial behaviour. One of the most unacceptable aspects of pedicabs is the huge disruption they cause through the extremely loud music that many of them play. This unacceptable situation has gone on for well over 20 years. Westminster City’s residents, business owners and tradespeople who have to navigate our congested streets to do an honest day’s or night’s work have had enough and want something done.

My modest amendments to this Bill do not go anywhere near far enough in addressing the unfairness of this situation, never mind limiting the damage and reputational risk of allowing these vehicles to continue unregulated on our roads. I tabled them in part to raise awareness of the problem. These amendments are the best I can do with the legislation in front of us.

I am very grateful for the positive response I received from noble Lords in Committee. I am especially grateful to the Government for their fulsome support, not for these amendments but for the much better solution, which I referred to in Committee, that is currently in the House of Commons. A Private Member’s Bill has been brought forward by Nickie Aiken, the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster, which would give Transport for London the powers it needs to introduce a licensing and regulatory regime for pedicabs. It would not ban them outright, because there are one or two reputable businesses which provide this service and want to be properly licensed and regulated.

Before I say any more about why I have retabled my amendments and where we are now with the Private Member’s Bill, I should explain why legislation is needed. Although pedicabs can be covered by local authority licensing and regulatory regimes in the rest of England and Wales, case law has determined that, in London, these vehicles are stagecoaches rather than hackney carriages. Therefore, Transport for London needs to be given the necessary powers to introduce a proper licensing and regulatory regime.

I am pleased to say that Nickie Aiken’s Pedicabs (London) Bill started its Second Reading on Friday 19 November, which was after the Committee stage of this Bill. Getting that far is no mean feat, bearing in mind where she was on the Order Paper that day—she was fifth, and she managed to get her debate under way. She set out her case very powerfully, and the Minister responded, declaring the Government’s full backing for the Bill, which is brilliant news and vital if that Bill is to make it on to the statute book. Sadly, time ran out that day before it could complete its Second Reading. Nickie tried again, unsuccessfully, to complete it on 3 December. It is now scheduled again, for Friday 21 January.

Nickie is not giving up, and neither am I. There is still a real chance that she will get over that hurdle next month. If she does, and with the Government’s declared support, there is every reason to be positive that we will get this on to the statute book this Session—but time in this Session is starting to run out.

I am very grateful to my noble friends Lady Vere, Lady Williams and Lord Sharpe, their officials and the Bill team for the time they have given to meeting me to discuss this matter over the last few weeks. Since Committee, I have explored a range of alternative amendments to this Bill, as stopgaps in case that Private Member’s Bill fails, but these are either deemed out of scope or are detrimental in some other way as to render them unacceptable.

I will not divide the House on these amendments tonight, as I know the Government do not support them; no doubt the Minister will explain why. I remind noble Lords that these amendments would bring pedicabs into scope of careless driving offences and prohibit loudspeakers, which they use to amplify music.

Even though Nickie and I have not given up on her Private Member’s Bill succeeding, I am worried not to lose the faith of the people of Westminster, the black cab drivers and businesspeople who pay their taxes, live by the law of the land and work hard to maintain the reputation of our capital city. Countless times over the years they have had their hopes raised and dashed that this will be sorted out. Indeed, this situation must feel like a real injustice when they face so much regulatory burden and so many hurdles, while the pedicab riders who flout the law without a care in the world do not. This sense of unfairness only gets worse, as yet more road restrictions in the capital are implemented, especially for our black cab drivers.

I am immensely grateful for the Government’s ongoing support of the Private Member’s Bill and all the effort everyone is making to get it over the line. We are not giving up on that; there is still everything to play for. Before I withdraw this amendment at the end of the debate, I ask my noble friend the Minister: what assurance can he give me that the Government will not allow this injustice to drift on if the worst happens and Nickie’s Bill does not pass in this Session? I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling these amendments, which are very interesting. I will speak to the amendments as opposed to the Private Member’s Bill, but I will have quite a few comments on that too.

I have nothing at all against pedicabs, though I do not like the noise and they get in the way sometimes—but then so do bicycles, although they do not make noises. My worry is, first of all, with the definition of a pedicab. As I read it, it would also include a tandem bicycle. Who would know whether my passenger on the back was paying me? I think one has to go into a bit more detail than that.

There are more and more pedicabs going around which are actually pulling freight. I am sure the noble Baroness would not want to stop them being an environmentally friendly form of freight. If the vehicle had two seats, and if the driver had a friend on the back and somebody said, “You’re paying for it”, he would come under this regulation. That is before we get into the question of electric assistance, which I think some pedicabs have. Frankly, some of them go very fast and I do not think it is particularly safe, but we have to make sure that the definition is absolutely right.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank again my noble friend Lady Stowell for her work on this issue. I know she feels passionately about the regulation of pedicabs, particularly in the capital. I also thank all noble Lord who took part in this brief debate.

In England outside of London, as my noble friend is aware, pedicabs can be regulated as hackney carriages—that is, as a taxi—so the local licensing authority can require the driver and the vehicle to be licensed. In London, which has separate taxi and private hire vehicle legislation, this is not the case, as my noble friend pointed out. This means that there are not many powers for Transport for London to regulate pedicabs.

The Government agree that there needs to be greater regulation of pedicabs in London. That is why they are fulsomely supporting the Private Member’s Bill being brought forward by Nickie Aiken MP in the other place. I know my noble friend has also been a strong supporter of that Private Member’s Bill. The Government also strongly support that Bill as it would enable Transport for London to put in place a cohesive regulatory framework for the licensing of pedicabs in London. I share my noble friend’s disappointment that it has yet to pass its Second Reading, but, as she noted, that has been rescheduled for 21 January.

Should that Private Member’s Bill be unsuccessful, the Government remain committed to bringing forward the necessary legislation when parliamentary time allows. I assure noble Lords that we will take this commitment seriously. We explored whether the provisions of the Private Member’s Bill could be incorporated into this Bill, but regrettably, as they focus on regulation and licensing, they fall outside its scope.

Once again, I praise my noble friend’s commitment to resolving this issue, but although I note the spirit with which her amendments have been proposed, it is the Government’s view that amendments are not the right method for making these changes. The introduction of a licensing regime for pedicabs, as the Private Member’s Bill would introduce, is the appropriate way forward for this matter. The Government do not believe that a partial way forward would be an appropriate or effective way to deal with this.

On the subjects raised by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, to go back to the previous group, my noble friend the Minister outlined the call for evidence. I suggest that that would be the appropriate place to raise those points, because they are very good ones. This is probably not the right time to get involved in a debate about what is and is not a tandem, however.

I hope my noble friend is somewhat reassured that the Government share her view and commitment on this. Although I cannot give her the categorical assurance she seeks, I hope she feels able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his and the Government’s ongoing support for resolving this matter, and particularly for the Private Member’s Bill, which remains live in the other place.

I note that my noble friend said that amending this legislation is not the right way to address this issue. That point is very much in response to most of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. What I acknowledged in bringing forward these amendments is that there is a well-established regulatory body here in London standing ready to introduce a licensing and regulatory regime that would properly cover pedicabs in a way that would target them and not catch the other vehicles that would not be intended to be included in any kind of regime. The concerns he has would be addressed by the way we want to make sure this matter is dealt with.

The point is that it is possible in the rest of England and Wales for local authorities to license and regulate pedicabs as and when they arrive in cities or different towns, as my noble friend the Minister has already said. It is only in London where we have this legal gap. There is nothing at the moment—apart from any kind of specific laws that get broken—which would cover any unacceptable activity. But it is so unfair because we currently have operators on the street who can quite legally ply for trade and compete with black cabs on an uneven playing field, and in doing so, they rip off tourists and give our capital city a bad name. None the less, I am sure there are a lot of pedicab operators who would provide a fantastic service that would operate alongside black cabs, Uber and everything else if we were able to bring in a professional regime and, at the same time, prevent them operating in a way which would be unacceptable to residents and businesspeople in our capital city.

This issue needs to be addressed, so let us all keep rooting for this Private Member’s Bill. I would be happy to speak to the noble Lord about any specific points he wants to raise about that Bill, in the hope that it is going to come here.

Finally, if I can use the collective noun of “officialdom”, there comes a point when we have to recognise that it is not good enough if the only thing we ever do is legislate in a way which increases the burdens on people, but we never find the time to introduce laws that tackle those who have no intention of ever operating within the law. That is what we need to do. However, on that note, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 59 withdrawn.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will be very brief, since I supported an amendment in November attempting to achieve a similar outcome. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, on her tenacity in pursuing this issue. This amendment simply builds on best practice already established in policing, where forces need to recognise the causes of violence against women. It attempts to fill a gap in our hate crime legislation, where sex and gender are the only protected characteristics not recognised, and to send a clear message that women’s safety matters. I simply reinforce those points and all those that the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, made. I support her amendment.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

I was not going to intervene in this debate, but I will do so briefly. First, I will not stand behind anyone else in a queue of people showing respect and admiration to my noble friend Lady Newlove, so it pains me when I find myself on the opposite side of an argument to her. That said, I agree with so much that she said in the way she described the crimes and assaults that many women experience. I also agree with a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said.

I do not want to get involved in any kind of discussion about the difference between sex and gender. The point that I want to put on the record, not least because of what the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, is that there is not a consensus among women that misogyny should be introduced as a hate crime. I would be very concerned if that were to happen, not because I am in any way not concerned about the violence, the hatred and some of the discrimination that women face but because I do not want us to cultivate a society in which women are universally seen as victims and all men as aggressors. That is a risk and a potential consequence of us pursuing this course. I put that on record and look forward to the way in which my noble friend the Minister responds to this debate.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Portrait Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I too shall make a very brief intervention, in agreement with my noble friend Lady Stowell. I have some concerns that this is not the way to solve the problem of violence against women. I absolutely accept that misogyny does exist, I think women have good cause to be aggrieved about the increasing challenges we all face and the idea of misogyny as a hate crime certainly sounds attractive, but at a time when I have never known women angrier and more afraid, I think we have to ask whether this is really the right legislation to deal with our grievances. From my experience, women want better conviction rates for rape, better protection against domestic abuse and violence, and to be able to go for runs outside without fear of attack or even murder. With an average of two women murdered every week, that is what they want the police to focus on.

The Law Commission report says

“while we consider that there is a serious problem of crime that is connected to misogyny”—

I accept that too—

“we have concluded that the particular model of hate crime laws is unlikely to prove an effective response to misogynistic offending, and may prove more harmful than helpful, both to victims of violence against women and girls, and also to efforts to tackle hate crime more broadly. We suggest that reforms in other areas are more likely to result in tangible positive results.”

I agree, and I think there is a danger: we need to be careful what we wish for. There is every possibility that this kind of crime will get bogged down by bureaucracy and endless debate, none of which will improve the lives of women at all. The law of intended consequences may well be part of this. I just say to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that surely the example he gave is not correct, because transgender identity is already a protected characteristic. I was confused by that.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Walney Portrait Lord Walney (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I fear that I am not going to make myself hugely popular by putting a note of dissent into this debate. I know that, given what has been said, noble Lords will do me the courtesy of listening for a moment or two.

Many good arguments have been made in the course of this debate and previously against some provisions in the Bill. Where I think that this House can do itself a disservice is in invoking the legacy of the suffragettes, Nelson Mandela and pro-democracy campaigners in repressive regimes. Is there not a fundamental difference between our liberal democracy—there have been some heinous attacks on individuals and institutions, and we speak of its strength when it is attacked—and those protestors who felt that they had to take disruptive means because they did not have the agency that we have the privilege to be able to have in this country: the right to decide our fate in the ballot and through peaceful process?

I am going to listen carefully to what the Minister says. Certainly, if the characterisation of these measures that have been put forward just now, and in previous iterations of this debate, were true, in that it is effectively sweeping away the right to peaceful protest and to make your voice heard through demonstrating, as a child of protesters myself and someone who has been on many protests—as have many noble Lords in this Chamber—I would, of course, oppose it too. But I have not yet heard a sufficient case that the measures that have been put forward would do that level of damage to the right to protest; rather, they are designed to protect the primacy of our democracy. We can agree or disagree that some of them go too far, but I have real problems with the way much of this has been framed through the discussion of the Bill.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Walney. Noble Lords will recall—if they were present in Committee—that, in supporting the Bill, I did none the less raise some mild questions about noise. It is a shame the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, is not here, because I thought he was very compelling in the arguments he made, as a former police chief, as to why these measures around noise were manageable and relevant.

I will listen very closely to what my noble friend the Minister says on this, but I feel pleased that the Government have come forward with the clarifications that they have. I would add—to build on what the noble Lord, Lord Walney, said—that when I think about the Bill and the reason why I support the measures within it in principle, I start from the summer of 2019. I did mention this before, at an earlier stage of the passage of this Bill. This was a point at which there were new forms of protest and demonstration through the summer, and a lot of people who, unlike noble Lords, do not go on protests, were rather concerned about the way that things such as blocking Waterloo Bridge and bringing Oxford Circus to a complete standstill—and this went on for days—were supported by Members of Parliament and very senior high-profile people.

That kind of behaviour was so alien to the way in which people in this country normally protest. It was very alarming to people and we have to remember that we cannot argue in favour of that aspect of our democracy in terms of protest, without also reminding ourselves that some people who were alarmed at the support for that kind of behaviour also looked at Parliament in real concern when we did not respect democracy in the years before that in the way that we ignored the change that some people wanted to make by using the ballot box. I do think we have to see this in the bigger picture.

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood Portrait Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we are at Report stage—although it would be very easy to misrecognise it as Second Reading. I have been supporting the Government this afternoon—but not at this stage and probably not for most of the rest of the debate.

The fact is that this amendment—and most that follow—to my mind, we must support. I entirely accept that it is nonsensical to suggest that by Clause 56, and most of those that follow, the Government is intent on repression. They are not trying consciously to suppress our hallowed rights of protest, of demonstration and of assembly. That is not the position. But I suggest strongly that that is the public perception—that is what the public believe—and understandably so, because it is such an overreaction to anything that has happened.

I too excoriate Insulate Britain: they behaved outrageously and undemocratically, so flatly contrary to the rule of law and wider interests, that we must amend to ensure that they are arrestable and imprisonable without going through the process of contempt of court proceedings in future. But these provisions, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, simply lack all common sense, they lack all balance and measure, and they are counterproductive.

The noble Baroness behind me suggested that we all, and the wider public, protest things such as stopping the Tube trains, but I would remind your Lordships—I think I have just read—that those who committed that apparent offence were resoundingly acquitted. The fact is that if we pass laws such as this law, that is going to be the reaction: the Government are going to be regarded as tyrants and the public will not play.