All 12 Baroness Williams of Trafford contributions to the Policing and Crime Act 2017

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Wed 26th Oct 2016
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Policing and Crime Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - part one): House of Lords
Wednesday 26th October 2016

(7 years, 8 months ago)

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Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-II(b) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the second marshalled list (PDF, 62KB) - (26 Oct 2016)
Earl of Erroll Portrait The Earl of Erroll (CB)
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My Lords, I know nothing about this but a question suddenly occurred to me. If this is a statutory duty that these services are undertaking, will this help them secure funding to do it properly?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I recognise the sterling work and professionalism of the fire and rescue authorities in providing a brilliant service to the various communities during the significant number of flooding incidents, especially in December and January. The noble Lord talked about the Greater Manchester FRA, to which I pay full tribute. When I visited some of the affected areas, such as Rochdale, Salford and Bury over the new-year period, there was clearly effort from not just the community and police but the fire and rescue service. It provided fantastic input into what was a very successful operation in clearing up various areas.

It is clearly important that a timely and co-ordinated response is provided at these critical incidents. A number of agencies are involved generally in rescuing people from floods, particularly in coastal areas, including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, as well as fire and rescue authorities and the local charitable organisations that play a vital part in many communities. However, direction rests with local resilience forums for local responders to work out the arrangements that work best in their area. Often, this will be the fire and rescue authority but there may be many valid reasons—as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, outlined—why they might choose a different responder in different circumstances and if that works locally. We do not want to reduce this flexibility with a one-size-fits-all approach as there may be good reasons why, in some areas and on some occasions, it makes more sense for a different responder to take the lead. The fact that two noble Lords have slightly different views on how that might be is proof of that.

I will give an example. During and in the direct aftermath of serious flooding, it has been vital for other agencies including voluntary groups to provide services to protect people from serious harm and to distribute clean water to those affected. Depending on the extent of the incident, it may be necessary for the Royal Air Force to take a major role, as with the flooding in 2007 when it deployed Sea King helicopters from as far afield as Cornwall, Anglesey and Yorkshire for the rescue of 120 people. There are advantages to a permissive, multi-agency regime where responders have broad powers and local discretion rather than a prescriptive duty for flooding or indeed any other type of critical incident we can identify. There is no question that fire and rescue authorities have the power they need to respond to floods. They have responded to all major flooding events and usually provide the most resources.

I welcome the scrutiny that this amendment provided of the arrangements for the emergency services’ response to flooding. To answer the brief question from the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, in terms of something being on a statutory footing, yes, it would necessitate a funding stream. However, for the reasons I have given and from the experiences I have had, I believe that the existing regime with broad, permissive powers gives both fire and rescue authorities and local resilience forums the flexibility they all need. On that note, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank noble Lords who contributed to this short debate, and the Minister for her response. I think she said that the fire and rescue services did respond to all major flooding events, which is certainly my understanding of the situation.

It seems a little odd that even if there may be objections to the precise wording of our amendment, there is no willingness to write in a statutory duty and function in respect of flooding for our fire and rescue services. We know that they play a key role. If I understood the Minister correctly she indicated that, if this was on a statutory footing, the fire and rescue services would of course have to be provided with the resources to carry out that activity. Bearing in mind the issues that fire and rescue services face over resources, one has a suspicion that one reason for the reluctance of government to go down this road may be that it would require that commitment of resources, even though the Government have acknowledged that the fire and rescue services do respond to all major flooding events. Obviously, I am disappointed with the Government’s reply but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and Parliament’s only living breathing PCC, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for an insight into their views and the opportunity for your Lordships’ Committee to debate the provisions in the Bill that seek to give more responsibilities for handling complaints to local policing bodies.

The Government are committed to reforming the police complaints system so that complaints made against the police are responded to in a way that restores trust, builds public confidence and allows lessons to be learned. The reforms also increase the independence and accountability of the complaints system by enhancing the role of police and crime commissioners and their equivalents in London. The Bill seeks to strengthen local accountability by giving PCCs explicit responsibility for the performance of the complaints system locally and the responsibility for those appeals currently heard internally by forces.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has tried to tease out of the Government, Clause 12 gives PCCs the ability to choose to take on the additional complaints functions of handling low-level customer services issues, the initial recording of complaints and communicating with the complainant throughout the process. Amendment 124 to Clause 12 would remove this ability to choose, instead giving PCCs the mandatory responsibility for all these complaints functions. However, the Government’s intention is to ensure that PCCs can choose the model that would work best for them in their local area. As the noble Lord says, this will look different across the country in future as that local choice is made.

PCCs are very well placed to listen to the concerns of their constituents. The reforms will provide PCCs and forces with the flexibility to deliver a complaints service that responds to the needs of their local area rather than trying to operate within some sort of rigid system that does not reflect operational or community differences. For example, a PCC might wish to give his or her force the ability to deliver a more customer- focused complaints handling system before making a judgment on taking on additional responsibilities. However, the Government have acknowledged the concerns raised with regard to different models operating across the country. This is why the Bill enables PCCs to choose to take on only specific duties within a reformed and streamlined framework. Responsibility for the formal handling of complaints will remain with forces or, in the more serious and sensitive cases, with the IPCC.

Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach
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I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. I should have mentioned this and asked her the question in my earlier remarks. A lot of police and crime commissioners want to know, if they decide to extend their powers—I know they will be extended to some extent anyway, but if they are fully extended—whether resources will follow. That is quite an important issue for them, and I wonder whether the Minister can help us.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I will correct this if I am wrong. While I am not guessing, I am assuming that, particularly where you have the model with a mayoral PCC as well, the mayoral precept will enable some of those mayoral functions. On the additional resources, I would like to write to the noble Lord before Report as I would not want to say something to the Committee now that simply was not true.

Amendment 127 to Clause 22 relates to the ability of PCCs to delegate their complaints-related function. The amendment seeks to clarify the difference in language in the subsections of the clause, and I am happy to do that.

The reason for the difference in language between the subsections is that it aims to replicate the language already used in the corresponding Acts. Although subsection (1) uses different language to that in subsections (2) to (4), the policy intention and result is the same. Local policing authorities should and will be able to delegate their complaints-related functions. Regardless of whether any complaints-related functions have been delegated, the local policing body will retain ultimate responsibility for the complaints performance in its area. This follows the same model as chief constables delegating their complaints responsibilities to more junior ranks, where the chief constable is still ultimately responsible for the outcome.

I hope that those comments have reassured noble Lords and that the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation on Amendment 127, which is a probing amendment. I am not as enthusiastic about her response to Amendment 124, and I am grateful that we have the noble Lord, Lord Bach, here as a living, breathing police and crime commissioner who can bring his experience to this. I have to say that, bringing my experience as a police officer, I believe that there would be great benefit if there was one system that members of the public knew and could rely on. For example, it would be of great benefit to the public if the decision on whether complaints were investigated was taken out of the hands of the police.

The Minister said that the purpose of the new provision was to restore trust. If the purpose is to restore trust and a PCC decides not to take up the offer, what are the constituents in a PCC’s area to think about that? However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, Amendment 125 is tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I shall speak also to Amendment 126. In Schedule 5, Part 1 of Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2000 is amended after sub–paragraph (6) by inserting a new sub-paragraph (6A) in relation to when a complaint against police must be recorded. It states that a complaint must be recorded if,

“at any time the complainant indicates a wish for the complaint to be recorded”.

Our amendment adds a requirement that the complainant must be asked whether he wishes the complaint to be recorded and states that unless he positively indicates that he does not wish the complaint to be recorded, it must be recorded.

From a wealth of personal experience in this area, I know that it is very easy for a complainant to be misled, albeit unintentionally, about whether his complaint will be formally recorded or even to be dissuaded from having a legitimate complaint recorded. The current wording gives the police or the local policing body, if it takes over responsibility, the ability not to record a complaint unless the complainant specifically asks that it be recorded. If the police inspector at the front counter tells the complainant not to worry but to leave it to him as he will have a word with the officer concerned and there is no specific request that the complaint be recorded, it could result in a complaint not being recorded when the complainant believes that it has been. This amendment is designed to reduce the chance of that happening.

Amendment 126 relates to a different issue: the conduct of chief officers of police. Part 3 of Schedule 5 is intended to require the referral of all complaints and matters concerning the conduct of chief officers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission by inserting new paragraphs into Part 3 of Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002. They provide new powers to enable the Secretary of State to specify in regulations that the IPCC must independently investigate all complaints, recordable conduct matters, and deaths and serious injury matters which relate to the conduct of a chief officer or the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Assistant commissioners of the Metropolitan Police wear the same badge of rank as, and are considered to be at least the equivalent of, chief constables or chief officers. In fact, they are paid at the highest rate of chief officer, with the exception of the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Met, a salary equivalent to that of the chief constables of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Police Scotland, the West Midlands Police and Greater Manchester Police. The assistant commissioner of the City of London Police wears the insignia of, and is considered equivalent to, a deputy chief officer and is outside the scope of this provision and the amendment. Will the Minister explain why assistant commissioners of the Metropolitan Police are not included with the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as officers complaints about whom must be referred to the IPCC? Our amendments would add assistant commissioners of the Metropolitan Police to the list of compulsory referrals. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for explaining the purpose of the two amendments. The handling of complaints about the police must be customer-focused, simple to understand and transparent throughout. It is widely accepted that the current system is confusing, complicated and, in many cases, unclear. Through the reforms made in the Bill, we are ensuring that cases are dealt with quickly and effectively, for the benefit not just of the public but of officers who have done nothing wrong. Many forces already currently operate customer service teams through which all complaints about the force are filtered and whereby they try to resolve quality-of-service issues as soon as possible. The reforms in the Bill explicitly provide for that sort of model and try to make it as bureaucracy free and straightforward as appropriate.

The evidence is that this approach works. In Derbyshire in 2014-15, for example, 47% of issues raised about the force were handled outside of the formal complaints system. In Northumbria, where the triage team sits in the office of the police and crime commissioner, 36% of issues raised about the force in the first six months of 2014 were handled in this manner, with 92% of complainants happy with how their issue was handled—and this is increasing. The Government want to encourage forces and local policing bodies such as PCCs to adopt this more customer-focused approach and to resolve as many complaints as possible quickly, simply and to the complainant’s satisfaction through this route. Amendment 125 would require complainants explicitly to confirm that they were content for the force or PCC to seek a customer service solution to their issue outside of the formal complaints system. I put it to the noble Lord that this approach risks limiting what forces can achieve through informal resolution.

The Government believe that this confirmation process would lead to fewer issues being dealt with in this way and, contrary to the policy intent, increase the number dealt with in the formal system. We think it right that, unless the complainant has offered an alternative view or the complaint falls into one of the categories outlined in the legislation for why this form of resolution is inappropriate—I shall discuss the safeguards shortly—the force or PCC should first have the opportunity to draw on their experience to seek to resolve the matter through its own customer service processes. I reassure the noble Lord that the Bill includes extensive provisions to ensure the complainant is in control in this process and that forces can resolve issues outside of the complaints system only when it is appropriate to do so.

There is a clear expectation on PCCs, with their new explicit responsibility for oversight of the complaints system locally, as provided for in Clause 21, to ensure clear communication is provided to complainants about their rights when they make a complaint and how the process will work. This includes explaining that, if at any point a complainant wants his or her complaint to be recorded, it will be recorded. If the force pursues a customer service solution that falls short of the complainant’s view on what constitutes a satisfactory resolution, they can request that the complaint be recorded and handled formally. There is a statutory duty at the outset of a complaint to contact the complainant to understand how the complaint might be best resolved. Statutory guidance will also make clear that, 10 days after receipt of a complaint, it should be formally recorded, even if a customer service approach may have been proportionate. This is to ensure that this form of resolution is limited to only those issues that can be resolved quickly. Beyond that, if there is any indication that the complaint might result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings, or might meet the criteria for mandatory referral to the IPCC, it must be recorded.

Finally, there will also be a requirement on forces, to be detailed in regulations or secondary legislation, to keep some information on the issues they resolve outside of the formal complaints system—the name of the complainant, the issue, and how it was resolved. This will allow PCCs locally to scrutinise those data and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to inspect the robustness of the decision-making of forces in deciding what is suitable for an informal resolution. Given these safeguards, we are satisfied that there is no need for an explicit requirement that the complainant must agree at the outset to an issue being resolved informally. Ultimately, the priority for most complainants is that their complaint is dealt with to their satisfaction and as quickly as possible.

I turn to Amendment 126. The complaints and discipline system is designed on the premise that, unless matters are of exceptional seriousness and sensitivity and are therefore referred to the IPCC, they should be dealt with—in accordance with the legislation—within the force’s chain of command. The exception is where there is no ultimate senior officer, such as would arise where a complaint is made against a chief constable. In these cases, most complaints are investigated by the IPCC but some may end up being investigated by chief constables of other forces. In his independent review of the police disciplinary system in England and Wales, Chip Chapman recommended that all such investigations should be undertaken by an independent body. The Government agree with this recommendation and that is why the Bill introduces a new regulation-making power that will require complaints regarding the conduct of chief officers to be referred to the IPCC to determine whether it should conduct an independent investigation or direct an investigation. However, although the rank of Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service is one of the highest ranks in England and Wales, there is no need to include it in the proposed measure because it can be reasonably expected that the commissioner or deputy commissioner will oversee any investigation. I hope that this clarifies the matter and that, on the basis of my explanation, the noble Lord will feel free to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. As far as Amendment 125 is concerned, I have no issue with a complainant being offered the option of informal resolution or a “customer service solution”—I never heard of that when I was in the police service; it shows how things have moved on—or a formal complaint. The problem we keep encountering in this House is the Government saying, “Well, it’s going to be be in statutory guidance and of course, in practice, if it’s a serious complaint or something that should be recorded, it will be recorded”. Unfortunately, the real world is not quite as ideal as the Minister makes out.

As far as Amendment 126 is concerned, I was with the noble Baroness until she said that matters needed to be referred to the IPCC where there was no ultimate senior officer. Quite clearly, in the case of the Deputy Commissioner of the Met, which is a specific rank for which any complaints have to be referred to the IPCC, there clearly is an ultimate senior officer: the Commissioner of the Met. Unfortunately, the explanation given by the noble Baroness does not help me to understand why the Deputy Commissioner of the Met is specifically mentioned.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Perhaps I can explain a bit further. While new paragraph 5(1)(a) of Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002, inserted by Schedule 5 to the Bill, does cover the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, this is because, in the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012, the deputy commissioner is treated in the same way as the commissioner. The Secretary of State is responsible for appointing the investigator of any conduct matter relating to both the commissioner and deputy commissioner. There is no mechanism to allow investigations into the deputy commissioner to be conducted internally. I hope that I have not confused the noble Lord further; I am just seeking to clarify the position.

Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach
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I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for asking the noble Baroness about something that she said in her summing up a little while ago about the position of chief constables. She said that any complaint against them would automatically go to the IPCC. There is a view that says that this is slightly harsh and is not necessary and will mean more work for the IPCC in some cases than is necessary. What is the view of the IPCC on that proposal? It seems to some of us that the IPCC is overburdened and overworked. Does it really want the most trivial complaint against a chief constable—they do exist, it has to be said—to have to go to the IPCC without investigation? Is that not too extreme a measure?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I think I said in my summing-up—if I missed it, I apologise—that most complaints are investigated by the IPCC but some may end up being investigated by chief constables from other forces. I am guessing that those will be the more low-level investigations. Therefore, not absolutely everything has to go to the IPCC. I do not know the IPCC’s view on this but Chip Chapman has recommended that all investigations should be undertaken by an independent body.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 126A, which is also in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, I will speak to Amendment 165A in this group.

Clause 18 deals with sensitive information received by the IPCC and restrictions on disclosing that information. It amends Part 2 of the Police Reform Act 2002 by inserting new Clause 21A, subsection (3) of which defines sensitive information as including,

“information obtained from a government department which, at the time it is provided to the Commission or the paragraph 18 investigator, is identified by the department as information the disclosure of which may, in the opinion of the relevant authority … cause damage to national security, international relations or the economic interests of the United Kingdom or any part of the United Kingdom”.

When this House recently considered the Investigatory Powers Bill, where matters were considered to be related to the economic interests of the United Kingdom it was made explicit that these were only where the economic interests were directly linked to national security. Amendment 126A would insert the wording,

“so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”,

to make it explicit in this Bill as well as in the Investigatory Powers Bill. Amendment 165A makes a similar change to the term “economic interests” in Clause 35, which amends Schedule 4A to the Police Act 1996 in relation to the restriction on disclosure of sensitive information acquired by Her Majesty’s inspectors of constabulary. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, Clause 18 increases the protections afforded to any sensitive information that is obtained by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in the course of its investigations or by a police or National Crime Agency investigator conducting an investigation under the direction of the IPCC. Clause 18 ensures that where the IPCC or investigator receives “sensitive information” it must not disclose that information without the consent of the “relevant authority”, as defined in the clause. To assist the IPCC or investigator in fulfilling this requirement, Clause 18 places a duty on the person providing the information to make the IPCC or investigator aware that the information is sensitive and to provide enough detail to permit the identification of the appropriate “relevant authority”. Clause 35 does likewise in respect of sensitive information received by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

“Sensitive information” in this context means: first, that provided by or that which relates to the security and intelligence services; secondly, information derived from interception; and thirdly, information provided by a government department which may, if disclosed, cause damage to national security, international relations or the economic interests of the country or any part of it. In such instances, the government department must identify it as such when it provides the information to the IPCC or investigator. Amendments 126A and 165A seek to narrow the third part of this definition by carving out information which may cause damage to the economic interests of the UK or part of the UK, unless there is a national security link. In effect, this would mean that the IPCC, investigator or HMIC would not need the relevant authority’s consent to disclose certain economically sensitive information that could, if disclosed or handled inappropriately, have a negative economic impact on the country. The drafting approach taken in the Bill in relation to the definition of “sensitive information” is not new. The drafting simply replicates the existing definition in paragraph 19ZD of Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002, which these provisions replace.

I stress that the primary purpose of Clauses 18 and 35 is not to prevent sensitive information being provided for legitimate reasons, such as to the CPS in the event of criminal proceedings, but, rather, to protect that information and ensure that it is handled appropriately. Simply because a piece of information falls under the definition of “sensitive information” in Clauses 18 or 35, the relevant authority cannot unreasonably withhold its consent to its disclosure; it is a matter of public law that decisions made by the relevant authorities must be both reasonable and rational. The Government are simply closing a gap to provide additional certainty and reassurance around the handling of sensitive information, not to prevent any greater disclosure than is absolutely necessary.

I hope that that has clarified the matter for the noble Lord and that he is content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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I am very grateful to the Minister for that lengthy explanation, but it does not answer the question that I asked. The drafting may not be new but my understanding is that it is inconsistent with the Investigatory Powers Bill. We sought clarification and the Government agreed to put it on the face of the Bill that economic interests meant economic interests that are likely to impact on national security. It may be consistent with previous legislation but my understanding is that it is not consistent with the most recent legislation. That is the question that I hoped she would answer. I understand and accept everything that she has said; it is what is missing that is key.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Perhaps I can provide further clarification, although I am not sure that it will clarify matters much better. Clause 18 talks about,

“the economic interests of the United Kingdom or any part of the United Kingdom”.

Clause 62 of the Investigatory Powers Bill says,

“in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”.

There is a variation in the drafting of the two Bills because the provisions serve entirely different purposes. It is right that where authority is being sought to obtain communications data or to issue warrants for the purpose of the economic well-being of the UK, it should be done only where it is also relevant to the interests of national security. In Clause 18 of this Bill, the definition of “sensitive information” is intended to provide a safeguard to ensure that, whenever the IPCC handles particular types of information that originate from the security services or from government departments, it checks with the relevant authority before disclosing that information. The noble Lord does not look convinced but I hope that that has provided further clarification.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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I need to improve my poker face skills. I am very grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I will read it to see whether I can get the answer to my question from what she has said, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, I, too, support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Rosser. I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I very much support the police. They do a fantastic job for us and put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.

The noble Lord is right when he talks about the need for an appropriate relationship between the media and the police, and how important that is. Equally, as my noble friend Lord Rosser said, there are obviously times when things go wrong. Clearly what happened at Hillsborough was an absolute tragedy. Can you imagine losing a loved one on that day and then having to endure the abuse in the media which has clearly now been shown not to be true? We should pay tribute to the steely determination of the Hillsborough families to get justice for their loved ones. They not only lost them but saw their names dragged through the mud.

It is important that we get to the point where the Government can clarify that they will proceed with the second stage of Leveson. There are some nuances between the statement we had from the previous Prime Minister and what we had from this Dispatch Box more recently. That difference might just be a few words which mean nothing at all, but we need to be clear that this should go ahead and that the Government are determined that any prosecution dealing with this will proceed.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this debate. I join the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, in paying tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, which took place not far from where I live.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, explained, this amendment would require the Prime Minister to establish what is colloquially referred to as the Leveson 2 inquiry into the relationships between the police and the media. It is worth noting that the drafting of this amendment goes beyond the terms of reference of the Leveson inquiry. Part 1 examined the culture, practices and ethics of the media; if it goes ahead, Part 2 is to examine wrongdoing in the press and the police, including the failure of the first police investigations into phone hacking and the implications for police and press relations.

This amendment would, for example, extend the remit of Leveson 2 to cover how the police investigated any complaints about their dealings with people connected to the media, and to the conduct of the CPS where complaints led to criminal investigations. This is well outside the scope of the current inquiry terms of Leveson 2. The Government are of the view that it is not necessary to legislate to require Leveson 2 as it is already set up under the Inquiries Act 2005. As the noble Lord will be aware, there are still ongoing criminal cases relevant to the subject matter of the Leveson inquiry. I welcome the fact that subsection (3) of the proposed new clause recognises the importance of not prejudicing those outstanding criminal proceedings. We have always been clear that these cases, including any appeals, must conclude before we consider part 2 of the inquiry. Given this, and the fact that we already have an appropriate legal framework in the Inquiries Act, it is not an appropriate matter for further legislation. There is an established process in place for taking this matter forward. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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The Minister referred to subsection (3) in the amendment, which states:

“The inquiry may only start once the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would not prejudice any relevant ongoing legal cases”.

She also made reference to Leveson 2. Is it the Government’s position that once ongoing cases have been determined, the second stage of Leveson will take place, or—as I think the Minister said on behalf of the Government—that once outstanding cases have been resolved, the Government will only consider whether to proceed with the second stage of Leveson? Can the Minister clarify what she said? Are the Government saying that once outstanding cases have been resolved, Leveson 2 will take place, or is the Minister simply confirming what now appears to be the Government’s stance—unlike the promise that was given—that they will only consider whether to move to the second stage of Leveson?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is the latter. We will make a decision on Leveson 2 once the outstanding cases have been concluded.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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Can the Minister say why the position has changed from the very clear and specific commitment given by the previous Prime Minister that the second stage of Leveson would take place?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, both the current Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister were very clear that all the cases of Leveson 1 should be concluded before Leveson 2 is considered.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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Is the Minister saying on behalf of the Government that the previous Prime Minister did not give a commitment that the second stage of Leveson would take place? Is she really saying on behalf of the Government that the previous Prime Minister gave a commitment only to consider whether the second stage of Leveson should take place?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I would have to look at the exact words that the previous Prime Minister used before I contradicted the noble Lord. I certainly do not want to contradict the noble Lord. In terms of the process, both the current Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister were clear that Leveson 2 could not proceed until Leveson 1 was concluded.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I find the Government’s response most unsatisfactory but at least the Minister has confirmed that there has been a complete shift in the Government’s stance. I will say what I think: the Government have now gone back on the very clear undertaking that was given by the previous Prime Minister that the second stage of Leveson would take place.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I hope I did not make it clear that we have gone back on the decision but we will make a decision on Leveson 2 once those outstanding cases have been concluded, which is rather different from going back on what was said.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The promise that was given was that there would be a second stage of Leveson. If the Government are now saying that once the outstanding cases are concluded they will only consider whether they should move to a second stage of Leveson, that is going back on the promise that was given. It is no longer specific. Does the Minister not agree?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I think we are going to have to agree to differ that we have not gone back but we will consider it once those cases have concluded.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I accept that the Committee will not want me to continue with an argument over the difference in wording, but I will simply restate my stance that for the Government now to say that they will only be considering a second stage of Leveson is not what the previous Prime Minister said in the promise he gave to the victims of press intrusion. I strongly regret the answer that we have received from the Government today, but nevertheless beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
138: Clause 28, page 45, line 42, leave out from beginning to end of line 10 on page 46 and insert—
“(c) condition A, B or C is satisfied in relation to the person. (3AA) Condition A is that the person ceases to be a member of a police force after the allegation first comes to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (3A)(a).(3AB) Condition B is that the person had ceased to be a member of a police force before the allegation first came to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) but the period between the person having ceased to be a member of a police force and the allegation first coming to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) does not exceed the period specified in regulations under this section.(3AC) Condition C is that—(a) the person had ceased to be a member of a police force before the allegation first came to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (3A)(a),(b) the period between the person having ceased to be a member of a police force and the allegation first coming to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (3A)(a) exceeds the period specified for the purposes of condition B, and(c) the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness is such that, if proved, the person could have been dealt with by dismissal if the person had still been a member of a police force.(3AD) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (3A) as they apply in a case where condition C is satisfied in relation to a person must provide that disciplinary proceedings may be taken against the person in respect of the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness only if the Independent Police Complaints Commission determines that taking such proceedings would be reasonable and proportionate having regard to—(a) the seriousness of the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness,(b) the impact of the allegation on public confidence in the police, and(c) the public interest.(3AE) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (3A) may make provision about matters to be taken into account by the Independent Police Complaints Commission for the purposes of subsection (3AD)(a) to (c).”
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the important amendments in this group relate to the circumstances in which disciplinary action may be taken against former police officers and former special constables.

Clause 28 will allow for the extension of the disciplinary regime to former officers where an allegation arose before they resigned or retired, or arose within a period of time following their resignation or retirement. The relevant period will be specified in regulations and we have made it clear that we intend to specify 12 months. On Report in the Commons, the then Policing Minister undertook to bring forward amendments which would set aside the 12-month time limit in exceptional circumstances. The government amendments in this group make good on that commitment.

I start by recognising, as the whole House does, that the vast majority of police officers and special constables conduct themselves with absolute integrity. They serve our communities with distinction and loyalty throughout their careers and, in doing so, demonstrate the values set out in the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics on standards of professional behaviour. Nevertheless, and regrettably, a small minority do not meet the high standards of professionalism that the public rightly expect. The public also expect those suspected of serious misconduct to be subject to formal disciplinary proceedings and that, where officers are in the wrong, they are held to account for their actions. Indeed, that is what both the public, and the majority of decent, dedicated and hard-working police officers in this country deserve.

The Bill already contains significant reforms to increase the accountability of former police officers. As I have indicated, the provisions in Clause 28, and the accompanying regulations, will ensure that where an allegation that could have led to dismissal had the officer still been serving comes to the attention of a force within 12 months of an officer’s resignation or retirement, or where an individual resigns while an investigation is ongoing, this can be investigated or continue to be investigated and that, where appropriate, disciplinary action can be taken to hold the officer to account for serious wrongdoing. Where a case is proven, the new police barred list will ensure that the individual concerned is prevented from future service in policing.

These are important steps, but we need to go further, particularly in the wake of high-profile cases where there is a perception that retired officers suspected of committing the most serious acts of gross misconduct have not been held to account where such acts cause serious harm to public trust and confidence in policing. In these cases, which can emerge long after individuals have left policing, there is more to be done to prevent the perception that officers who have left policing are able to evade accountability. We recognise the strength of feeling in relation to such cases and, in particular, the public concern that police officers who commit the most serious acts of wrongdoing should be held to account for their actions. The Government also recognise the importance of ensuring that the measures introduced are proportionate for policing as a whole and fair for individual officers.

The amendments that stand in my name achieve this important principle of accountability and do so in a way that is robust, fair and proportionate. In effect, these create the new exceptional circumstances test, which will be applied by the IPCC and, in due course, by the director general of the Office for Police Conduct, following the reforms to the IPCC. In our view it is right that the decision as to whether the exceptional circumstances test is met is taken by an organisation independent of government and free from any politicised decision-making. The IPCC carries out its role and functions in a way that is well established within the sector as the independent watchdog for policing.

It would be only in those cases where this test is met and the IPCC has determined that it would be reasonable and proportionate to do so that disciplinary proceedings could be instigated. In deciding whether the exceptional circumstances test is met, the IPCC will have to have regard to the seriousness of the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness, the impact of the allegation on public confidence in the police and the public interest. We will set out in regulations the matters to be taken into account by the IPCC in making such a determination.

This will mean that disciplinary proceedings can be brought in relation to the most serious matters which are considered of an exceptional nature where serious and lasting harm has been caused to public confidence in policing as a result of the wrongdoing. As with the original provisions set out in Clause 28, the exceptional circumstances test will not operate retrospectively. As such, these provisions will apply only to those officers who are serving on or after the date that they come into force. Where there is a finding that the former officer would have been dismissed at a subsequent misconduct hearing, the individual will be barred from future service in police and other law-enforcement agencies.

Amendment 138 gives effect to these changes in respect of former police officers, Amendment 140 in respect of former special constables and Amendment 144 in respect of former MoD police officers. Amendments 139, 141 and 145 clarify that, in cases where the investigation or disciplinary proceedings concerning the former officer, special constable or member of the Ministry of Defence Police arise from a decision to reinvestigate a matter previously closed, this can lead to disciplinary proceedings only in cases which either meet the exceptional circumstances test or where the reinvestigation commences within the specified time limit. Amendments 160, 161 and 162 are consequential on the main amendments and the changes to the governance of the IPCC. They provide that, in future, these determinations will be made by the director general of the Office for Police Conduct.

Amendments 149, 150 and 151 clarify the operation of the police advisory list. The amendment makes it clear that the duty on chief officers and others to report officers to the College of Policing applies only in the case of officers who at the time of leaving the force are under active investigation. The amendments will mean that in circumstances where an officer was previously under investigation while serving but the investigation concluded with no disciplinary proceedings being brought and subsequently the officer leaves the force, the duty to report the officer to the college shall not apply. This eliminates potential ambiguity in the legislation and makes it clear that reports are required only when an individual is subject to an ongoing investigation.

Amendments 142 and 143, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, are directed at the same end as the key government amendments in this group. I hope that, having heard my explanation of the government amendments, the noble Lord is satisfied that they deliver a similar outcome. I commend the government amendments to the Committee and I beg to move Amendment 138.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we broadly welcome the government amendments in this group and, subject to what the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, has to say on the Labour amendments, they seem to cover similar ground.

I have some questions, but I agree with the Minister that the overwhelming majority of police officers are honest, decent people who want only to do their best to protect and serve the public. However, if an officer has left the service and, within 12 months, an investigation takes place which, if the officer was still serving, could have resulted in that officer being sacked, what sanctions would be available against such an officer, other than their name being added to the banned list?

I understand that “exceptional circumstances”, in terms of the most serious acts of wrongdoing, needs to be defined by an independent body. We will come later on in our considerations to talk about the Independent Police Complaints Commission and whether it is truly independent. It is slightly concerning that one criterion that the IPCC would have to look at, in deciding what action to take, is the impact on public trust and confidence in the police, because it could take the decision that the impact of exposing serious misconduct through an investigation would have such a detrimental impact on that trust and confidence that it would use it as a reason not to investigate rather than an obligation to do so. So we have to be very careful about the grounds on which the IPCC should or should not consider something to be exceptional wrongdoing.

Clearly, many members of the public will be very concerned, or disappointed, that the legislation will not be retrospective, particularly with regard to those involved in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. The concern is not with the rank and file officers in that case; the concern is with what happened in the aftermath, and the leadership exercised at Hillsborough. However, as I say, we are generally supportive of the government amendments.

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Lord Blair of Boughton Portrait Lord Blair of Boughton
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My Lords, I also apologise for not joining this particular part of the debate earlier. I absolutely agree with and amplify what my noble friend Lord Condon has said. Part of the difficulty for some of the most senior officers in the system, which my noble friend and I and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, obviously are—we therefore have to declare interests to your Lordships—is that you end up during your period of service, particularly the period of top command, with cases that are headlines for years and which are investigated and investigated. It would mislead the House to say that my noble friend Lord Condon and I have not spoken about it—we have, although not in the Chamber. I urge those putting forward Amendment 142, the Government and the Opposition, to keep the words “necessary and proportionate” in mind, otherwise there is no end to some of these cases. This is a matter that our legislature needs to think about as it brings forward this kind of amendment. I agree absolutely with my noble friend, and I am sure that I speak for other noble Lords who have been senior police officers, that this is the right way forward.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have responded to both the government amendments and the other amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about the ultimate sanction for someone who had retired. The ultimate sanction is that the officer is found to have committed gross misconduct at a public misconduct hearing, with the panel finding that the officer would have been dismissed, and, therefore, as a consequence, should be added to the police barred list. Inclusion on the police barred list would see the officer banned from any future service in policing and added to the published list for a period of five years. Perhaps the noble Lord was referring to a police officer in this situation who had retired anyway and had no intention of going back into the police. However, if I had served 40 years in an organisation, such a judgment would be a pretty awful outcome for my career. Therefore, although there would be no actual effect on the person’s life, the ultimate judgment of misconduct in public office would fulfil that purpose.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way but my understanding is that, in the past at least, it has been possible in exceptional circumstances for a disciplinary authority to reduce the pension, for example, of somebody who is dismissed or forced to resign from the police service. Will the noble Baroness write to me explaining whether that sort of sanction might be available?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I will certainly write to the noble Lord. I can envisage such a situation where somebody was sanctioned before they retired. In fact, I have the answer—the cavalry arrived in the nick of time. The measure will not directly impact an officer’s pension. However, if criminal activity is identified following an investigation and the officer is convicted, it will be open to the force, as now, to apply for some of the officer’s pension to be forfeited.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, was disappointed that the measure was not retrospective in circumstances such as Hillsborough. I think that most noble Lords would share that disappointment. However, we make laws in line with established principles. It is in line with established principles that new laws generally should not be retrospective. They will apply only to officers who are serving when the relevant provisions are commenced. These matters do not in any way affect criminal investigations and prosecutions which, as now, can be pursued at any stage. So, yes, it is disappointing, but it is in line with established practice.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked about the exceptional circumstances. I repeat that the IPCC will have regard to the seriousness of the alleged misconduct, the inefficiency or the ineffectiveness, the impact of the allegation on public confidence in the police and the public interest. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Blair and Lord Condon, for making the very important point about the necessity and proportionality of these measures.

Amendment 138 agreed.
Moved by
139: Clause 28, page 46, leave out line 15 and insert “result from a re-investigation of the allegation (whether carried out under regulations under this section or under the Police Reform Act 2002) that begins within the period specified in the regulations.
The period specified”
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Moved by
144: Schedule 7, page 262, line 23, leave out from beginning to end of line 34 and insert—
“(c) condition A, B or C is satisfied in relation to the person. (1BA) Condition A is that the person ceases to be a member of the Ministry of Defence Police after the allegation first comes to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (1B)(a).(1BB) Condition B is that the person had ceased to be a member of the Ministry of Defence Police before the allegation first came to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (1B)(a) but the period between the person having ceased to be a member of the Ministry of Defence Police and the allegation first coming to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (1B)(a) does not exceed the period specified in regulations under this section.(1BC) Condition C is that—(a) the person had ceased to be a member of the Ministry of Defence Police before the allegation first came to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (1B)(a),(b) the period between the person having ceased to be a member of the Ministry of Defence Police and the allegation first coming to the attention of a person mentioned in subsection (1B)(a) exceeds the period specified for the purposes of condition B, and(c) the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness is such that, if proved, the person could have been dealt with by dismissal if the person had still been a member of the Ministry of Defence Police.(1BD) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (1B) as they apply in a case where condition C is satisfied in relation to a person must provide that disciplinary proceedings may be taken against the person in respect of the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness only if the Independent Police Complaints Commission determines that taking such proceedings would be reasonable and proportionate having regard to—(a) the seriousness of the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness,(b) the impact of the allegation on public confidence in the police, and(c) the public interest.(1BE) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (1B) may make provision about matters to be taken into account by the Independent Police Complaints Commission for the purposes of subsection (1BD)(a) to (c).”
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Moved by
147: Clause 29, page 48, line 38, after “by” insert “or under”
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Moved by
148: Schedule 8, page 267, line 31, leave out from “(5)(e)” to end of line 32 and insert “may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
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Moved by
151: Schedule 8, page 271, leave out lines 32 to 40
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Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach
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My Lords, surely this is just a matter of common sense. Can we not cut through everything that has been said? I absolutely support what my noble friend Lord Rosser, and the noble Lords, Lord Condon, and Lord Paddick, have said—it is just a matter of common sense. Anyone who has been in government knows that sometimes Governments hold up the most obvious and common-sense approach for no apparent reason at all—we did it, and I fear this may be an example of the Minister’s Government doing it. It is quite clear that the word “independent” should be included. It would make it much clearer to the general public. Surely this is something that the noble Baroness can take away and consider, and perhaps come back and agree that it is just pure common sense.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank the noble Lords who have spoken so clearly on this amendment, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Bach. I will outline why the Government want to change the name. The aim is to ensure that the organisation has a corporate structure and governance arrangements that enable it to carry out efficiently and effectively its expanded role in the police complaints and discipline systems.

My noble friend Lord Attlee pointed out that not every independent body has the word “independent” in its title—he mentioned Ofgem and Ofcom, and Ofsted is another example.

I understand that the body’s constitution alone does not guarantee public trust in its independence, but neither necessarily does incorporating the word “independent” in its title. That said, I understand the contrary argument, put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Condon, that adding the word “independent” to the name might change some people’s perceptions and encourage them to come forward if they have concerns about police conduct. Therefore, although I remain to be persuaded of the case for the amendments, I will reflect between now and Report on the points that noble Lords made so well in this short debate. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her response and thank all noble Lords who participated in this short debate. I note that the Minister, on behalf of the Government, is not committing herself to agree to the change, but she agreed to reflect on the matter and on what has been said this afternoon and perhaps come back to it on Report. I thank her for that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, the underlying thinking here ties in quite closely with the debate on the previous group, and I am not sure that anyone said then that losing the word “Independent” from the title was particularly significant because of the very fact that it will be a change—more significant than if one was creating a new organisation and not having the word in its title from the start. That thought is part of the reason for our Amendment 158A in this group, which in fact the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has explained to the Committee. It would also mark a change so that all the members of the body, if I can use a neutral term, could not be appointed from those who are—summarising around a third of a page—cops or ex-cops. That change would be a significant one, and again it is about the perception of independence as well as actual independence. We may hear that there are some practical reasons, or reasons of experience, that has caused the Government to move in this direction in their decisions on the structure and this part of the body’s governance, but I do not think that it is a good direction to go in.

As regards Amendments 157 and 158, in our view it would be wise to have a geographic spread, but if there is going to be a truly independent “Office”, it should be allowed to sort out its own arrangements, although anyone with any sense in the organisation would want to be sure that the regions of England, as well as the nation of Wales, are heard loudly and clearly.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the Bill provides for the existing commission to be replaced by a single executive head, the director-general, and for corporate governance to be provided by a unitary board with a majority of non-executives. These reforms address the recognised weaknesses of the existing commission model, under which most of the commissioners are engaged in operational activity and in the governance of the organisation. This has resulted in blurred lines of accountability. The commission itself recognises the need for change and there was clear support for the new director-general model in the response to the public consultation on the proposed reforms.

As the single executive head, the director-general will be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of the reformed organisation. That is why the legislation provides the director-general with the flexibility to determine the executive structure of the organisation, including the composition of his or her senior team. The director-general needs the freedom to shape the organisation in the way they see best to deliver high-quality, timely and independent investigations into police conduct, a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Amendment 157 would tie the hands of the director-general as it would require the corporate structure of the Office for Police Conduct to include a minimum of four regional directors plus a national director for Wales.

The Government expect the Office for Police Conduct to have a regional presence, as the IPCC does, but as with the IPCC now and since its creation more than a decade ago, the Government do not see the need to legislate for a regional structure. A requirement for a specified minimum number of regional and national director posts would limit the director-general’s future flexibility to respond to the changing needs and circumstances of the organisation. In addition, this particular amendment would put regional directors on the board. That would undermine the core strengths of the new governance model and risk replicating the blurred lines of accountability within the existing commission structure.

I turn now to Amendments 158 and 158A, which relate to positions in the Office for Police Conduct that should not be open to those who have worked for the police. The Government recognise that public confidence in the independence of the organisation relies on certain key decision-making roles not being open to those with a police background. That is why there will be an absolute bar on the director-general from ever having worked for the police. We do not think that there should be statutory restrictions on those who are members of the office—in effect, the board of the reformed organisation. The core functions of the office are set out clearly in the Bill and include ensuring the good governance and financial management of the organisation. These functions are quite distinct from the functions of the director-general. The director-general, as the single executive head, will be solely accountable for all casework and investigation decisions, not the board. It is not right that a suitably qualified individual could not be appointed to a corporate governance role as a member of the board simply because he or she once worked as a police civilian, perhaps for just a short period many years previously.

With regard to employee roles, the Bill provides the director-general with an express power to designate functions and roles that are restricted, including senior operational and public-facing positions. The power means that the director-general will be able to ensure that the OPC has the right mix of staff, including those with valuable policing experience, while also having the power to place restrictions to help bolster public confidence in the OPC’s impartiality and independence. However, as I said, it is important that the director-general can secure public confidence in the work of the Office for Police Conduct. The Bill recognises the need for transparency in the director-general’s decision-making and places a requirement on the director-general to publish a statement of policy on the exercise of these particular powers of recruitment.

To conclude, we believe the provisions in the Bill strike the right balance by placing core aspects of the OPC’s governance in the legislation while ensuring that there is flexibility and transparency in appointments. On that note, I hope the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, are reassured of the Government’s intentions and that they will be content not to press their amendments.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I ask the Minister whether the Government accept that, under the Bill’s terms, as far as the public face of the organisation and its very senior decision-makers are concerned, we could end up with a situation where only one, namely the director-general, has not previously worked for the police?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I think what I outlined in my speech to noble Lords was that the director-general would need to outline how he proposes the board will work and his position in it. The Bill recognises the need for transparency, as the noble Lord pointed out. It places a requirement on the director-general to publish a statement of policy on the exercise of these particular powers of recruitment. I imagine that if he decided to have a board full of former police officers he would want to explain why, in his particular case, this was necessary.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Would the Minister accept that the bit the public will be aware of—like the change from an organisation with the term “independent” in its title—is the change from a board structure where there is a bar on all members of the board having been police officers or involved with the police service to a situation where there need not be, not the detail of the report of the director-general explaining the fine detail of their thinking? It is a much broader issue than the Government are acknowledging.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate, and the Minister for her response setting out what the Government’s position is and the thinking behind the Government’s wording in the Bill. Issues have been highlighted in the debate about the potential implications and the extent to which one could end up in a situation where very few people indeed in the public face of the organisation and its senior decision-makers had not worked for the police, since the terms of the Bill do not preclude that happening. It precludes it only as far as the director-general is concerned.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

I profusely apologise for intervening, but I thought I would give the noble Lord the full information I have before me. There is a backstop power for the Secretary of State to set out in regulations restrictions on which posts can be held by former police. Perhaps that is a conversation to be had. It would be very unusual for the director-general to pack his or her board full of ex-police officers, but there is this backstop power for the Secretary of State. I apologise for intervening on the noble Lord.

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Moved by
164: Clause 35, page 56, line 38, after “occupied” insert “(wholly or partly)”
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendment 164A is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I will also speak to the other amendment in the group, Amendment 164B. Clause 35 addresses the powers of inspectors—that is, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary—to obtain information, to secure access to police premises, and other matters by substituting paragraphs 6A and 6B in Schedule 4A to the Police Act 1996. New paragraph 6B talks about the powers of inspectors to obtain access to police premises and paragraph 6B(1)(a)(iii) talks about who can be served with a notice requiring them to allow access to premises, including,

“a person providing services, in pursuance of contractual arrangements (but without being employed by a chief officer of police of the police force or its local policing body)”.

The amendment deletes “but” and replaces it with “with or”, so it would cover a person who is employed by the police, as well as someone who is not. Amendment 164B makes a similar change to who can appeal against such a notice. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the amendment presumably aims to ensure that inspectors have comprehensive access to premises used for policing purposes, and that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is able to inspect the totality of policing in a landscape where functions are increasingly delivered by multiple agencies. The noble Lord nods; I thought that was probably the aim. The Government wholeheartedly agree with that aim, which is the purpose of this Bill’s inspection provisions.

The amendment does not actually further that aim. The current wording already ensures that inspectors have access to any premises used in the delivery of policing functions, whether they are occupied by the force itself, the local policing body, another emergency service acting in collaboration with the force or a private company carrying out the activities of a force under a contract. I put it to the noble Lord that these amendments would not, in practice, extend the categories of premises to which an inspector had access. Any premises occupied for the purposes of a police force by persons employed under contract by the chief officer are already captured in these provisions. That being the case, I think the noble Lord would agree that the amendments were unnecessary. I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. Clearly the amendment is not designed to extend the category of premises that HMIC would be able to access. It is about extending the category of person upon which a notice could be served. It appears to us that the wording in the Bill is restrictive and needs to be broadened. We are trying to broaden the category of person on which the notice can be served.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

It might be helpful to the noble Lord to hear that this is covered by government Amendment 166, which ensures that any other person who is,

“by virtue of any enactment … carrying out the activities of”,

a police force is subject to inspection.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for that second explanation and will consider it carefully. In the interim, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
165: Clause 35, page 58, line 4, at end insert—
“(g) any other person who is, by virtue of any enactment, carrying out any of the activities of a police force.”
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Moved by
166: Clause 36, page 60, line 25, at end insert—
“(d) any other persons if, or to the extent that, they are engaged by virtue of any enactment in carrying out the activities of the police force.”
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Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has been a very useful discussion. I find myself slightly closer to the Government’s position than that of the noble Lord who spoke from the other side, but I have considerable sympathy with his argument.

There is a terribly difficult problem, which I hope my noble friend will address, of confusion about who these people are, who is in which category, and the like. I happen to have a close relative who sought to be a special constable and discovered that the difficulties of becoming a special constable are really quite considerable. I hope that my noble friend can help me by explaining that this is not a way of getting out of the difficulties of the one by producing something different, which would mean that we are not facing up to some really fundamental issues about how people become special constables and whether we are making it easy for people who would like to make this contribution.

What the debate has really raised are perfectly genuine concerns that this may not quite have been thought through in the way we would like it to be. As it is such a delicate issue, I hope it could be taken rather more widely than in the actual amendment, by thinking a bit about the way in which the public will understand the distinction between these categories. This bit of additional power given to people who decide to volunteer shines a light on the problem and on the confusion which I am not sure has actually been overcome in the debates that we have had so far.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. It is of course very difficult not to stray into other amendments when talking about something in the round. I thank my noble friend Lady Redfern for laying out her experience of using volunteer police officers in Lincolnshire. It must be one of the first areas in the country to do that, so it was very useful to have that information in the round. In thinking about my noble friend Lord Deben’s point about the importance of the public knowing the difference between a volunteer and a special police constable, or indeed a fully trained officer, I asked myself whether I wondered, when my children were at school, what the difference was between the teaching assistant and the fully trained teacher. In fact, as long as they both contributed to my child’s education, I was not that much bothered—but it may be an issue for some people and I recognise the point that my noble friend makes.

Amendment 167 returns to an issue that was debated at length in the House of Commons: namely, whether it is ever right for designated members of police staff, or the new category of designated volunteers, to carry these particular sprays for defensive purposes. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has also given notice that he intends to oppose the question that Clause 38 should stand part of the Bill.

I hope that I can assist the Committee by first explaining what Clause 38 seeks to achieve. It makes necessary consequential amendments to the Firearms Act 1968 to ensure that police volunteers come within the definition of “civilian officers” for the purposes of that Act. The effect of this is that they do not then need a firearms certificate or authorisation under either Section 1 or Section 5 of the 1968 Act in order to carry a defensive spray. The clause simply puts community support volunteers and policing support volunteers in the same position in relation to defensive sprays that police officers and police civilian staff are currently in.

Clause 37(6) makes it clear that police staff and volunteers cannot use other weapons within the meaning of the Firearms Act 1968 unless the Secretary of State makes regulations under new Section 38(9B)(b) of the Police Reform Act 2002. Any such regulations would be subject to the affirmative procedure.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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To clarify what the noble Baroness has just said, could the Secretary of State, by regulations, authorise police volunteers to carry guns, if they were so minded?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I will repeat that Clause 37(6) makes it clear that police staff and volunteers cannot use other weapons within the meaning of the Firearms Act 1968 unless the Secretary of State makes regulations under new Section 38(9B)(b). Yes, it does read like that—but, as the law currently covers this, it is only trained police officers within London who can be armed.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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Yes, but I think the Minister has just agreed with me that, through regulations, the Secretary of State could allow police volunteers to be given guns without the need for a firearms certificate. That is slightly worrying.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am pretty much as certain as I ever can be about anything that it is not the intention of the Bill to allow volunteers to carry guns—but I suspect that I need to provide some further clarification, and hopefully I will do that.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, perhaps I can help my noble friend. It may be that the provision is to allow different types of, say, pepper spray, because the legislation itself is quite specific about which chemicals can be used. There may be future developments in chemicals, and I suspect that the provision in the Bill allows the Secretary of State to specify them. It would be helpful if my noble friend could constrain the Secretary of State by saying that they will never authorise civilian volunteers to have firearms—except perhaps to move them around in police premises.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is pretty much on the tip of my tongue to say that, but I think that noble Lords know exactly what the Government’s intentions are.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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I think the Minister has unfortunately raised a large red herring, which will certainly prove to be one if she gets the clarification that she wants on it. However, although the intent may not be to allow this, the current wording suggests that it might be used in that way. The specific issue is that a very clear line is being crossed by saying that volunteers can be authorised to use sprays—pepper sprays or whatever else—and that is the distinction. Although the clause may or may not give the Secretary of State powers to increase the list—the Minister way be about to get the answer—or even to specify particular pepper sprays, the concern is about the use of the spray in the first place and whether it is right that a volunteer, despite not having gone through all the other training which is necessary, is able to do that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Yes, I totally take the noble Lord’s point, and I am hoping the clarification will arrive from my left in the next five minutes.

As we have made clear in our delegated powers memorandum, this is intended as a future-proofing provision to cover any self-defence equipment not yet invented—and I am not talking about guns. We are also taking the opportunity to make it explicit in the 1968 Act that special constables are members of a police force for the purposes of that Act, and therefore similarly do not require a certificate or authorisation under the 1968 Act when equipped with a defensive spray. This will avoid any doubt being created by the insertion of a specific reference to policing support and community support volunteers within the meaning of “Crown servant” in the Firearms Act.

I turn next to the various points that have been raised in relation to equipping staff.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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I did not quite understand the bit about things that have not yet been invented. The reason I did not understand is that I am not sure that I would be very happy about giving powers to give permission for the use of something that has not been invented, because I do not know whether what has not been invented would be something that I would like to give people the powers to use, if you see what I mean. This is a very dangerous route down which to go.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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I do not want to prolong the agony, but another aspect of this is that members of the public should be reasonably sure about what level of force they are going to encounter from whom. As I say, special constables now are virtually indistinguishable from regular police officers; if a special constable decides to use a defensive spray, that will not come as a shock to the member of the public. In terms of the way that the member of the public interacts with a police officer or special constable, they may or may not use force against that individual on the basis of what they anticipate the reaction of that person to be, or the ability of the person to respond to it. When it comes to a volunteer police community support officer, who does all the wonderful things that the Minister said earlier, I think it is going to be a bit of a shock, and an unreasonable one, to expect such a volunteer to respond with an incapacitant spray.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, may I perhaps make a bit of progress on what I was already outlining? Much of what I am going to say answers the questions that noble Lords are asking.

The argument has been put forward that issuing PCSOs with defensive equipment is somehow incompatible with those officers’ primary role, which is to engage with members of the public in their communities. If we examine the way in which different forces equip their PCSOs, we can see that there are different approaches. Some forces equip their PCSOs with body armour and some do not, and the same is true of handcuffs, yet all forces use their PCSOs as the key point of engagement with their local communities. I was one of the people who was very sceptical about PCSOs, but they now have a lot of respect in communities across the country. If the prevailing security situation were such that a particular chief officer considered it necessary to issue their PCSOs with defensive sprays—I emphasise to noble Lords that none has to date—the Government consider that they should be able to, subject of course to the test of suitability, capability and training already set out in the Police Reform Act 2002.

It has also been argued that it is impractical to train volunteers in the use of defensive sprays, to which our response has two limbs. First, if an officer or volunteer has not been properly trained in the use of any power, the law simply does not allow a chief officer to designate that officer or volunteer with the power in question. Section 38(4) of the Police Reform Act 2002, as amended by Clause 37 of the Bill, already states that a chief officer cannot designate the person with a power unless they are satisfied that they are both suitable and capable of exercising the power and that they have received adequate training in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties to be conferred.

However, we do not consider that it is impractical to train volunteers in the use of defensive sprays. On 31 March this year, there were over 16,000 special constables in the 43 police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police, all of whom have the full powers of a police officer, performed on a volunteer basis for at least 12 hours per month.

I was grateful to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, at Second Reading, on his strong support for members of the special constabulary, with whom he will definitely have worked during his career policing. As he said, special constables receive extensive training and have all the powers of a regular constable. Many of those specials patrol on a regular basis with their full-time colleagues and they carry identical equipment, including body armour, batons and defensive sprays—again, in exactly the way as their full-time colleagues. It is therefore patently not the case that it is impractical to train volunteers in the use of such equipment. Any volunteer who did not want to carry such a spray, could not undertake the training or was not suitable would not be designated by their chief to carry and use it, even if others in their force were so designated.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Can I just finish?

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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But we might drift off the point. Could the Minister clarify why, rather than encouraging more people to go through the special constable route where they take the affirmation about their role and everything else, the Government are suggesting instead that there be a volunteer category that would not be the same as special constables but would have exactly the same access to equipment?

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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On a very similar point, the Minister just said that while chief constables have the power to issue incapacitant spray to PCSOs, no chief constable has done so to date. Why do the Government now feel it necessary to give chief constables the power to give incapacitant spray to volunteer community support officers?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is simply to give chief officers the flexibility to use their workforce and their volunteer force to the best end in fighting crime and reassuring communities. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asks why, for example, a volunteer cannot simply become a special constable. There are many reasons why you might want to be a volunteer rather than a special constable. We are focused today on the deployment of PAVA and CS spray, but actually a volunteer could be a police volunteer. They could be a retired accountant, for example, or a retired lawyer, and may want to bring their skills to the police but may not want to volunteer for any more than that, or indeed become a special constable.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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Why do they need pepper spray?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am talking about the powers that volunteers may have in the round. There may be myriad different powers, not just the one that we are focusing on.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about policing on the cheap. I remember that when PCSOs were introduced, I said, “Oh, it’s only policing on the cheap”, but actually I have seen the really good benefit that they have brought. As my noble friend Lady Redfern says, they are not a replacement for the police force but a really valuable extra on the streets of Lincolnshire, providing crime fighting for the police.

On that very lengthy note, and thanking all noble Lords for their interventions, I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, would like to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, this has been an interesting debate—quite an extraordinary debate really, has it not? We talked about helpful PCSOs and the work they do helping communities; we got on to CS spray and other sprays. They may be issued with guns—we are not quite sure. We were then told that the Government also want to take a power in case things are invented in future. I am pleased I tabled the amendment: it has certainly dragged a few things out from the Government for us. I think we will have to come back to these issues on Report. I hope that the Government will look at our debate, because there are one or two loose ends hanging there.

The most important contribution came from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Condon. Both of them have been very senior police officers, and if they are expressing concerns, the House should listen very carefully. It is important when we grant any new powers that we make sure that people are trained properly to use them. As we heard, these sprays can kill people, which is really serious. We must worry about putting anything in someone’s hands that can do that.

I also want to pay tribute to volunteer PCSOs, who do a fantastic job as the noble Baroness, Lady Redfern, outlined. I will leave it there, but I am sure we will come back to these issues on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Policing and Crime Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - part two): House of Lords
Wednesday 26th October 2016

(7 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-II(b) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the second marshalled list (PDF, 62KB) - (26 Oct 2016)
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, this clause introduces additional flexibility into the way that the police can deploy their staff by extending the powers of chief officers to designate their staff with powers and by introducing, for the first time, a power to designate volunteers with powers. At this point, I should repeat what I said in the previous debate—that, just as PCSOs are not policing on the cheap, volunteers are not policing on the cheap, either. They all contribute to the force that is the police and all have their different parts to play. This clause, together with the other changes in Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the Bill, will give chief officers the flexibility they need to best shape their workforce to local circumstances.

Volunteers have much to offer policing, including those with specialist skills, for example, in IT or forensic accountancy, which we talked about before, and not just in the use of PAVA spray and CS spray. Special constables are volunteers with all the powers of a constable, but it makes no sense that volunteers who do not want to become specials because they do not want to have powers at all times—this has been previously discussed—or to undertake the physical demands of personal safety training cannot be conferred with a narrower set of powers relating to a particular role. Currently the law also puts unnecessary restrictions on a chief officer who wishes to maximise the operational effectiveness of police staff. These provisions remove those barriers.

Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Police Reform Act 2002 enables chief police officers to confer some or all listed powers on their civilian staff by designating them to undertake specific functions in one or more of four categories: police community support officers, known as PCSOs; investigating officers; detention officers; and escort officers. Clause 37 amends the 2002 Act to amalgamate the categories of investigating officers, detention officers and escort officers into the single category of “policing support officers”, who would then be designated with the necessary powers to carry out their particular roles. The clause also enables a chief officer to designate a police volunteer as either a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer.

Subsection (3) repeals the list of standard powers of PCSOs. In future, the powers that PCSOs and community support volunteers have will be a decision for each chief officer. Subsection (4) introduces for the first time a list, set out in Schedule 10, of core powers that can be exercised only by a sworn constable. The list includes powers of arrest and stop and search, and those under terrorism legislation—for example, the power to apply for a search warrant under Schedule 5 to the Terrorism Act 2000 as part of a terrorism investigation. It also includes two powers that were previously available to investigating and detention officers—namely, the power to make a fresh arrest and the power to conduct an intimate search when a medical professional is not available. Following the public consultation last year, we judged these powers to be particularly intrusive and that their use should therefore be restricted to police officers.

Noble Lords may wonder why the list of core powers does not include the power to make entry to premises by force, which was also consulted on as a power that should be restricted to constables only. The 2002 Act currently provides that designated individuals can exercise a power to force entry only in the company and under the supervision of a constable, or for the purpose of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property. Therefore, even with the extended designation possible under these provisions, no designated staff member or volunteer would be able to force entry except in the two circumstances described. However, importantly, they would be able to assist or accompany an officer executing a search, or to exercise a power to enter where force was not necessary—for example, as part of an alcohol licensing inspection.

The changes also provide the Secretary of State, in practice the Home Secretary, with a power to make regulations to add to the list of core powers and duties of constables: that is, those powers that may not be designated to staff or volunteers. Any such regulations would be subject to the affirmative procedure, so they will require the scrutiny and approval of both Houses.

The clause provides that, where the person is designated as a PCSO or a community support volunteer, they may be given any of the powers or duties set out in Schedule 8, which are powers currently available to PCSOs in lieu of police officer powers—specifically, the power to make an arrest. These powers include requiring a suspect’s name and address, or detaining a suspect to await the arrival of a police officer, which PCSOs can use in circumstances where a police officer might make an arrest.

Subsection (5) enables a chief officer to limit the extent of, or impose conditions on, use of the powers of his or her designated staff and volunteers. For example, if a volunteer were based in a particular locality, their designation could be restricted to that locality and its surrounding area. Subsection (6) also prevents designated staff and volunteers being authorised to use a firearm or Taser in carrying out their designated role. As we have discussed in relation to Amendment 167, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, there is one exception to this rule. PCSOs and other designated police staff, and their new volunteer counterparts, can continue to carry and, where necessary, use CS or PAVA spray, which are classified as prohibited firearms. The clause also includes a future-proofing provision to allow the Secretary of State to make regulations, subject to the affirmative procedure, bringing new self-defence devices within the scope of this exemption.

These are important changes that will give significant additional flexibility to chief officers in the way that they deploy their workforce and volunteers. I hope that noble Lords will not press their opposition to Clause 37 standing part of the Bill.

Clause 37 agreed.
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Moved by
169: Schedule 11, page 300, leave out lines 22 to 24
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Moved by
172: Clause 40, page 65, line 26, at end insert—
“( ) In Schedule 6 to the Police Act 1996 (appeals to Police Appeals Tribunals), in paragraph 10(aa) (as inserted by section (Appeals to Police Appeals Tribunals)), after paragraph (iii) insert—“(iiia) a person designated as a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer under section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002,”.”
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Moved by
173: Schedule 12, page 310, line 32, at end insert—
“(g) in that subsection, in the definition of “relevant section 38 designation”—(i) for “designated civilian employee” substitute “designated person”;(ii) for “employee” substitute “person”.”
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)
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Amendment 174, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and my noble friend Lady Henig, is in the clause dealing with police ranks. It amends Clause 46 to require the rank of superintendent as well as that of constable to be retained. We heard from both the noble Baroness and my noble friend who put their names to the amendment about the important role that the officers holding this rank play. That was confirmed by the noble Lords, Lord Blair and Lord Paddick, in their contributions.

I very much agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, when she spoke about the holders of these ranks being senior officers taking senior operational roles. They are held by people with the ability to undertake those important strategic roles and it is accepted that they have departmental and functional responsibilities.

My noble friend Lady Henig also spoke about the importance of the role these officers play across the piece in all departments. I also recall the Sheehy report, and the abolition of chief superintendents being very controversial at the time. As my noble friend said, they were then quietly brought back a few years later. We have heard from a number of speakers who are former serving officers as well as Members of this House who served as chairs of police organisations, and know much more than I do about police operations. They have all reached the same conclusion, so I suggest that the Minister should reflect on what has been said. I hope that she will give a very warm response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, for this amendment, which gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to our police superintendents. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about constables but I think he meant superintendents.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is late at night and I am just making sure we are on the same page. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, called them the “filling in the sandwich”.

In the current policing structure, superintendents play an incredibly important role. They set strategy, they are responsible for day-to-day operational policy and in difficult situations they have to show leadership, manage serious risks and make critical decisions during ongoing operations. These are crucial functions that will continue to be a feature of senior ranks in policing. However, there is a lack of flexibility—a word we have used a lot tonight; the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, just used it—in the way that ranks are effectively stipulated in primary legislation. That is why Clause 46 will allow the College of Policing to recommend a new rank structure to the Home Secretary to be set out in regulations.

In June last year, the College of Policing published the findings of its leadership review, which included a recommendation to review the rank and grading structures in policing. In its report, the college said that flatter structures can enable organisations to be more responsive and communicate more effectively. The police-led review of the rank structure is being developed by the chief constable of Thames Valley Police, Francis Habgood, working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure that proposals will be effective for all forces. The intention is to support policing based on greater levels of practitioner autonomy and expertise. Francis Habgood has developed a proposal for a five management level-model that will sit on top of the existing rank structure and will be based on competence, contribution and skills.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I do not know whether I should have been declaring an interest throughout today’s proceedings but it is a bit of a shock to find that throughout them I have been clutching a pen on which is written: “Metropolitan Police Forensics—New Scotland Yard”, so I had better declare it now.

This has been an illuminating debate for me on some of the issues that confront the police over training, appointments and leadership under the present arrangements and organisational structure. If the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, wishes to discuss his amendment, I will be more than happy to do so. I can say only that I thought that we would find a significant conflict between the two sets of amendments, but now that I have listened to the debate, that does not appear to be the case. Perhaps the ideal would be if the noble Lords, Lord Dear, Lord Blair of Boughton and Lord Condon, produced an amendment with which all three of them could associate themselves if they wish to pursue the matter through to the next stage. Obviously, they will want to hear the Government’s response before seeking to make any decisions on that point. However I will leave it at that, and I certainly await with interest what the Minister has to say on behalf of the Government.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I almost hesitate to stand up given that I am surrounded by experts in this field—and I did not go to Oxbridge either. All noble Lords have said in different ways this evening that choosing our police leaders is of the utmost importance for the future of policing, and as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, said, we need to think about it now. We fully support initiatives to ensure that police leaders are drawn from different backgrounds. That is why the Government asked the College of Policing to carry out a leadership review for policing in 2014. We wanted to look at how we could open up policing to fresh perspectives, including by expanding external recruitment to the senior ranks in policing. The review also examined how we could encourage officers to gain experience outside policing before returning later in life and how we could open up senior ranks to candidates from different backgrounds.

The review, which was published in June 2015, was a landmark for policing, setting the agenda for change and for police workforce reform. Its impact is already being felt across policing, from the new qualifications and apprenticeships for those at the start of their careers to opening up police leadership through direct entry and senior secondments, as some noble Lords pointed out.

The review recommended that national standards for recruitment and promotion into all roles, ranks and grades should be established and that all vacancies are advertised nationally. Building on the qualities for professional policing which have been defined in the College of Policing’s new competency and values framework will help to ensure that there are clear and consistent standards for each rank. Advertising roles nationally will open recruitment and make it easier for officers and staff to apply for roles in other force areas—noble Lords mentioned that that does not happen as much as it should. The college has statutory powers to recommend that the Home Secretary makes regulations on a range of issues, including the qualifications for appointment and the promotion of police officers, thus ensuring that these are implemented across England and Wales.

As part of implementing the leadership review, the college is exploring how to improve the diversity of top teams by increasing the pool of candidates for chief officer posts and supporting police and crime commissioners in their selection processes and recruitment campaigns. They are also identifying development packages for those who are appointed from overseas or, as a result of the provisions in Part 1 of the Bill, from the fire service. To support this work, the college has led for policing by undertaking a survey of PCCs, as well as of chief constables and other senior police officers, to understand the issues around senior appointments and developing the talent pool.

It should be the norm that police leaders have a breadth of experience and that they have access to other professions and fields to harness new skills that they can apply in policing. We strongly believe that it is possible to learn from policing overseas, and that is why we have already given the College of Policing the power to approve overseas police forces from which senior police officers are eligible to be appointed as a chief constable in England and Wales or as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. These are set out in the Appointment of Chief Officers of Police (Overseas Police Forces) Regulations 2014 and include forces from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

We support the work of Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on international policing, in establishing the Joint International Policing Hub to act as the single, recognised gateway for international policing assistance for domestic and global partners.

The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Attlee seek to open up recruitment to the senior ranks in policing. As I have set out, the Government are very supportive of initiatives to achieve this. However, we believe that this should be led by the College of Policing, as the professional body for policing, and that it already has the necessary powers to achieve this.

We deploy police officers overseas to pursue matters of interest to the UK and share our expertise. For example, we sent officers to France to work alongside the French police in dealing with football fans at the Euros.

The noble Lord, Lord Blair, clearly comes at this issue from a different perspective. Amendment 178A in his name seeks to enshrine in statute a presumption that all those who are appointed to chief officer rank must previously have served as a senior officer in a UK police force.

When we introduced police and crime commissioners in 2012, we wanted people to have a say in policing in their local community. We gave PCCs the power to appoint the chief constable because we recognised that this appointment was crucial to implementing the PCC’s policing and crime plan. PCCs understand what the local issues are and are best placed to understand the leadership requirements of their force. It should not be for the Home Secretary to give prior approval as to who is eligible to apply for each and every chief officer post that is advertised. That would not be practical or desirable. However, today I gave the noble Lord, Lord Blair, an undertaking—and I offer it to other noble Lords; I have such a field of expertise around me that I shall open it up—to have further discussions on this area. I would welcome them and would be very happy for them to take place before Report.

The College of Policing has the power to set standards for all police ranks and can introduce new measures as recruitment at senior ranks is opened up further. It has shown how successful it is at this with the introduction of the direct entry programme and the fact that talented people from other sectors are now working in policing. The college is now working to compare the skills, abilities and knowledge needed to be a chief constable with those of chief fire officers to develop a rigorous assessment and development package for those who are interested in the top jobs in policing as a result of the reforms in Part 1 of the Bill.

As I have indicated, the Government want the best people leading policing. We believe the best way to achieve that is to have open recruitment from a wide talent pool, national standards set by the professional body and local decision-making that reflects the needs of the force and the local community. I realise that we have gone past 10 pm, but I hope that the noble Earl will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, this debate has exceeded all my expectations. There have been few times in your Lordships’ House when I have tabled an amendment that has been as effective. I will read what my noble friend the Minister has said with great care, but I suspect that I will not be surprised.

On one condition, I will not only withdraw my amendment but will not return to the issue—although other noble Lords may want to return to their issues. The condition is this: the Minister has an excellent Bill team manager—I know that because he has worked with me and with the Chief Whip—and I would like him to cut out this debate from Hansard and put it in the Policing Minister’s red box and the Home Secretary’s red box. The speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Dear, Lord Blair, and Lord Condon, were very serious and said that we are going in the wrong direction on this problem—that will come to bite us eventually. I believe that the Home Secretary needs to do something about this, and to listen to the warnings from the noble Lord, Lord Dear. I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this debate and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for her explanation of this amendment to Clause 48, which amends the 1996 Act to require the Police Federation, in fulfilling its core purpose, to protect the public interest and maintain high standards of conduct and of transparency —as the noble Baroness said. There was a discussion the other day about what the public interest is. I understood that, in a different context, it was not what the public were interested in but something quite different.

In the spring of 2013, the Police Federation commissioned a review to consider whether any changes were required to its operation or structure to ensure that it continued to promote the public good as well as the interests and welfare of its members. The panel’s final report, Police Federation Independent Review, known widely as the Normington review, was published in January 2014 and made 36 recommendations to improve trust, accountability, professionalism and member services. Recommendation 1 was the adoption of a revised core purpose that reflects the Police Federation’s commitment to act in the public interest. The Police Federation accepted the review’s recommendations in their entirety and has already publicly adopted a revised core purpose on a non-statutory basis. The Normington review was clear that a reformed federation would act in the interests of both its members and the public.

Clause 48 focuses on how the Police Federation discharges its representative role—namely by considering the public interest in its actions, in the same way that the police uphold the public interest in all their actions, whether that is fighting crime on the front line or representing colleagues as a member of the federation. The clause does not conflict with the Police Federation’s representative purpose and will not, for example, require it to act against the interests of its members. The ambition here is to ensure that the federation does not operate against the public interest. Indeed, the Police Federation itself, acting in line with the recommendations of Sir David Normington and his review, asked the Government to enshrine its revised core purposes in legislation. That is exactly what this clause achieves.

Sadly, as the Normington review highlighted, a culture of “narrow self-interest” has permeated the federation in recent years—one of “distrust and division”, as he described it. The Government wish to support the federation in proving that it can serve its members and respect the public interest in providing a representative voice for police officers, with professionalism and integrity.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made a point about changing the purpose of the Police Federation as set out in the Police Act 1996. Clause 48, as worded, is clear that the federation must protect the public interest and maintain high standards of conduct and transparency in fulfilling that purpose. The Police Act 1996 sets out what the federation should do and Clause 48 sets out how it must deliver that.

The noble Lord also asked what happens when the public interest and the interests of the police diverge. The Normington review was clear that a reformed federation would act in the interests of both its members and the public. Section 59 of the Police Act 1996 provides that the purpose of the Police Federation is to represent members of the police forces in England and Wales in all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency.

Could the federation be challenged in the courts? It could, on the basis that it was not fulfilling its purpose as set out in Section 9(1) of the Police Act 1996 in a way that protected the public interest, but it may already be challenged on the basis that it was not fulfilling its existing purpose.

I hope I have provided some explanation and that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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I do not think the Minister answered my question about what the clause adds over and above what is within the Nolan principles.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The Nolan principles underpin every single aspect of involvement in public life. Obviously, this is specific to the police in a certain context, but I think the two should go hand in hand. Obviously, there are different aspects to the police compared with other public professions, but anyone who is in public office needs to sign up to the Nolan principles. This is an aspect that applies to the police.

Baroness Henig Portrait Baroness Henig
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken at this late hour. Although it is late, this is an important debate. I listened very carefully to the Minister but she did not actually answer the question. She did not tell the Committee what the words actually mean. I have to say again that if it is not clear what a phrase means, it is not going to be good law and it is going to lead to an awful lot of disagreement in years to come. If four lawyers in a room cannot agree what “protect the public interest” means, that is a recipe for problems. The Minister did not explain what it meant. There was a lot of vagueness and phraseology but nothing clear or precise.

Obviously, at this point in the evening I will withdraw the amendment but I want to think about this a bit more. Some of us might want to return to this at a later stage because it really is not in the public interest to put something in a Bill the meaning of which people cannot agree on. That cannot be a good thing to do. But at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Policing and Crime Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - part one): House of Lords
Wednesday 2nd November 2016

(7 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-III(a) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the third marshalled list (PDF, 64KB) - (1 Nov 2016)
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, as we discussed at Second Reading, the purpose of the Government’s reforms to pre-charge bail is to end up with fewer people on bail for shorter periods of time. Part of the way we will do that is to raise the initial decision to impose bail from the custody officer who currently makes that decision—a sergeant—and to require an inspector to make it. At present, the College of Policing’s guidance suggests that an inspector should make a decision to extend bail beyond the initial period. The Bill would instead require a superintendent to make that decision.

The clear implication of these amendments is that the authorisation for pre-charge bail that the Government seek to set is too high, and that instead the current levels are in fact adequate and appropriate. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said when she described these reforms as Home Secretary at Second Reading in the House of Commons,

“it is apparent that a significant number of individuals have spent an inordinate amount of time on bail only to end up not being charged or, if charged, found not guilty. Of course, the police and prosecution need time to assemble and test the evidence, particularly in complex cases, before coming to a charging decision, but we need to recognise the stress caused when people are under investigation for prolonged periods, and the disruption to their lives where they are subject to onerous bail conditions … To address the legitimate concerns that have been raised about the current arrangements, the Bill introduces a number of safeguards”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/16; col. 45.]

As well as setting clear times for the review of pre-charge bail, which we will debate shortly, the increased levels of accountability set out in the Bill, which these amendments seek to reverse, are an important safeguard against the misuse of pre-charge bail. The measures in the Bill significantly enhance the human rights protections for those accused of an offence, including setting a presumption that release pre-charge should be without bail and that bail should be considered regularly by the police—and after three months, by the courts—to ensure that bail is necessary and proportionate and that the investigation is progressed with appropriate speed and urgency.

In proposing these amendments, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, on her behalf suggest that requiring the involvement of inspectors and superintendents is disproportionate, and that there is insufficient capacity within police forces for these officers to carry out their existing duties and to make the bail authorisation decisions required by the Bill. We do not consider that the evidence supports this argument.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, Amendment 181 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, would insert a new clause into the Bill concerning the procedures to be followed where a suspect is released without charge or informed after being questioned under caution that no further action will be taken against them. In considering the noble Lord’s amendment, I wanted to listen carefully to his reasoning for this proposed new clause, and I think that he has made a compelling case today. The noble Lords, Lord Dear and Lord Paddick, have extensive experience as senior police officers and the House should also take note of their support. I am not sure whether this should be addressed through an amendment to the Bill—I accept that point. There may be some other mechanism to address it, but the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has made a compelling case and I thank him for that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, Amendment 181, tabled by my noble friend Lord Marlesford would require a custody officer to do two things once a decision has been made that no further action is to be taken against a suspect because the test for mounting a prosecution, set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, has not been met. First, the custody officer would need to notify the person in writing that no further action is to be taken. Secondly, the written notice must use the phrase “lack of evidence” to describe the reasoning behind the decision.

The Government agree with my noble friend that written notification should be given in all cases. We consulted on this in late 2014 and Clauses 65 and 66 would require a written notification to be given to any person arrested on suspicion of a criminal offence, where the police or Crown Prosecution Service subsequently decide not to charge. This applies whether or not the person is on bail following the reforms set out in Part 4 of the Bill. My noble friend’s amendment would go one stage further and require the written notification of no further action in those cases where a person is interviewed under caution on suspicion of an offence but not arrested. We know from anecdotal evidence that, since the amendment of PACE Code G in 2012, more cases are being dealt with by the police without arresting the suspect, which may have created a gap in police practice that my noble friend’s amendment identifies. In order to give this issue appropriate consideration, I would like to take it away and consider it further before Report.

The second limb of my noble friend’s amendment would require that the written notice and any other record used the phrase “lack of evidence”, rather than the customary “insufficient evidence” used at present. It may assist the Committee if I remind noble Lords of the evidential test required by the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Paragraph 4.4 of the code states:

“Prosecutors must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each suspect on each charge. They must consider what the defence case may be, and how it is likely to affect the prospects of conviction. A case which does not pass the evidential stage must not proceed, no matter how serious or sensitive it may be”.

The absence of “sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” could easily be characterised as a “lack of evidence” or as the presence of “insufficient evidence”. We could debate for some time the precise difference between the two phrases, which must be very small.

Noble Lords have said that there has been some comment in the media, in the light of recent high-profile cases, that the dropping of cases due to “insufficient evidence” could leave an outside observer thinking that there must have been something there. This reflects the reality of policing: that there has to be sufficient evidence to justify an arrest—that is, reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed. However, the investigative process in such cases will often end up with insufficient evidence, or, to use my noble friend’s phrase, a “lack of evidence”, that could still mean there was some evidence, but not sufficient to charge.

The Code for Crown Prosecutors is issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions under Section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The current version, dating from January 2013, is the seventh edition of the code, and every version since 1986 has stated essentially the same requirement for,

“sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.

I say to my noble friend and other noble Lords that “insufficient evidence” seems to reflect the wording of the code test rather better and that it is the opinion of the Crown Prosecution Service that the current phrasing has been used for more than 30 years and works well in practice.

While I recognise that the amendment would not change the test itself, to change the way that decisions made under the code are communicated, even to the small degree proposed by my noble friend, could create confusion, as there would be a tendency to ask which test should now be applied and whether it means the same thing. It could also invite doubt in the minds of prosecutors, judges, defence lawyers and others as to the reliability of decisions made against different tests.

I also point out to noble Lords that there are two tests in the Code for Crown Prosecutors that must be met before charges are brought. It is perfectly possible for there to be sufficient evidence to meet the first test, but for it none the less to be contrary to the public interest to charge, for example, where a case is to be disposed of out of court by way of a conditional caution.

While Clauses 65 and 66 set a requirement to notify a suspect that they will not be charged, that notice would need to be given in both scenarios; that is, where there was insufficient evidence and where the evidence was sufficient but charges were not in the public interest. However, under my noble friend’s amendment, a suspect would need to be told in all cases that they were not being charged due to a lack of evidence, even though there must be sufficient evidence to charge to get to the point of considering the public interest test.

I can say to my noble friend that the Government are sympathetic to his aim of giving greater certainty to those who are investigated but against whom charges are not brought. We are minded to achieve this by non-statutory means so that prosecutors retain the necessary flexibility in cases where a decision is taken on public interest grounds.

On the issue of written notification of a decision not to charge, the Government consider that Clauses 65 and 66 already require such notification in all cases where an arrest has taken place. However, I would like to give further consideration to the issue of those interviewed under caution without being arrested. I hope that my noble friend will recognise that the precise wording of that notification is an issue best dealt with by non-statutory means and that, having heard my statement, he will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Marlesford Portrait Lord Marlesford
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My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed with knowledge and experience far greater than mine. I was very gratified that there was so much support for what I had to say. I thank the Minister for what she said. She has gone a long way to accepting what I intend. I am happy to leave it to her to come back to us and tell us exactly what it is proposed to do.

The rather Socratic justification which she gave for the terminology is okay in esoteric circles, but we are concerned with what the people as a whole see, and we are back to the old cliché that justice must be seen to be done. When she says that the difference between my phrase and “insufficient evidence” is very small, I remind her that it was said that at one moment Christendom was divided by an iota.

Having said all that, I am most grateful to my noble friend for her sympathetic approach to what I have said, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, this group of amendments would greatly reduce the effect of the Government’s reforms to pre-charge bail by increasing the length of the initial period of bail from 28 to 56 days. As I have said, the purpose of these reforms is to end up with fewer people on bail for shorter periods of time, and thereby significantly enhance the human rights protections of those who have not even been charged with an offence, let alone convicted. As such, requiring each and every person granted bail to be given bail for eight whole weeks would significantly dilute the reforms—reforms that the Liberal Democrats supported strongly when they were proposed by the coalition Government.

The noble Lord said that the intention behind these amendments is to reduce the administrative burden on the police in operating the reformed pre-charge bail system. Although I do not deny that the new system will cause additional work for the police compared to the current position, this is inevitable given that we are reforming a system currently lacking appropriate safeguards. I would also say that the Government do not look at the extra work required as an administrative burden; we see it as requiring an appropriate level of intrusive supervision to ensure that pre-charge bail is used appropriately and that investigations are progressed diligently and swiftly. That goes to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, about people having to return time and again to police stations.

I would also say that the figure of 28 days set out in the Bill was not arrived at by chance; we considered carefully the initial period of bail in drawing up our proposals, seeking to balance the administrative burden on the police with the need to put an end to the practice of people being bailed for months or even years at a time with no external scrutiny.

When we consulted publicly in December 2014 on the proposals, with the full agreement of the Liberal Democrats, who formed part of the coalition Government at the time, we received some 300 responses, two-thirds of which favoured the tightening of pre-charge bail and introduction of judicial oversight. Of the 135 respondents who expressed a preference, 58% favoured the model set out in the Bill, with an initial bail period of 28 days, extendable to three months by a senior officer. There was also strong support for an initial bail period of 28 days from groups as disparate as the Society of Editors, the Birmingham Law Society and the Magistrates’ Association. The Committee might also be interested to know that the Howard League for Penal Reform, a well-respected group of campaigners in this area, argued that pre-charge bail should be limited to a single period of 14 days without conditions.

I also draw the Committee’s attention to the bail principles published by the College of Policing in October 2013, which stated that:

“In the first instance, unless there are exceptional circumstances, the bail period should be no more than 28 days”.

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, there is clearly backing for the human rights improvements that would be brought about by a 28-day initial bail period from across the spectrum of public and professional opinion.

I also point out that, as set out in the impact assessment accompanying the Bill, almost one-third of bail cases—29%—are currently resolved within 28 days. We cannot therefore see how it would be either sensible or appropriate in those cases for the police to have a choice of either keeping those individuals on bail for a further four weeks or having to issue paperwork to terminate suspects’ bail and call them in for charging.

I also draw the Committee’s attention to the other major change these reforms will make: that there will be a presumption in favour of release without bail, with bail being used only where it is both necessary and proportionate. This change in particular will allow the police to release many suspects without the administrative overhead that bail entails. It would also remove much of the stigma and inconvenience of bail from those released in this way. Because of this change, the police resources tied up administering straightforward cases will be freed up to concentrate on those cases where bail is truly necessary.

I have set out why the Government consider that the 28-day initial bail period is an appropriate first period, during which a significant proportion of cases will be resolved. The Government consider it crucial that the unfairness of keeping a person under investigation in “legal limbo” is addressed, as it cannot be right that they can spend months or even years on pre-charge bail with no judicial oversight, as happens at present.

As set out in the coalition Government’s response to the consultation, published in March 2015, the negative effects for individuals on bail and their families include emotional or mental trauma and financial implications. I also draw to your Lordships’ attention to the fact that, at the end of the coalition, in their 2015 general election manifesto, the Liberal Democrats included a proposal to place limits on the duration and conditions of pre-charge bail. Therefore, it strikes me as odd to hear the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asking to extend the initial bail period from 28 to 56 days. I recognise his laudable aim to reduce the administrative burden on the police, but extending the initial period to 56 days will, as I have said, either leave a large number of suspects on bail for no reason or require the police to do further work to call them in. For that reason, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she comment on some of the academic research around this, which both I and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred to? I think that we are all in agreement that no one wants anybody to go on bail for a day longer than absolutely necessary but it seems a bit odd that, if all the services that the police need to investigate their cases are taking more than 28 days—maybe up to six weeks—we have bail for 28 days. They could bring people back into the police station just to send them away again because the necessary information is not available.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I draw the noble Lord’s attention to the comments that I made about the presumption against pre-charge bail, which I think is compelling in the Government’s attempt to reform the system. There will be presumption in favour of release without bail—in other words, do not bail someone unless there is a good reason to put them on bail, which in many ways would free up the system. Bail should be used only where it is both necessary and proportionate. The fact that almost one-third of people are released within 28 days anyway is, I think, compelling evidence for the arguments that the Government are making.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, I am very grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, on this matter. As he just said, there is agreement on all sides that we need to protect the human rights of those people arrested and bailed by the police. But there needs to be a balance between the protection of human rights and the practical impact on the police, particularly in the light of the significant cuts in police numbers, the even greater cuts in the number of detectives, who would be mainly involved in investigating these matters—and trying to do so within a 28-day limit—and the reduction in the number of police superintendents, who would have to authorise a further extension. The noble Baroness said that 28 days was not arrived at by chance and that people should not be on bail for years. The amendment suggests 56 days, not years. It is just a proportionate increase to the maximum limit proposed in the Bill.

It is unfortunate that the noble Baroness appears to be trying to argue this on party lines, talking about what the Liberal Democrats did in coalition. Unlike other political parties, the Liberal Democrats like to base their decisions and legislation on the evidence. The evidence from academics that I put forward, which the noble Baroness has not addressed, points in the opposite direction to the Home Office impact assessment. The noble Baroness failed to answer when I asked why there was a difference between the Government’s view and the findings of academic research and representations from the Superintendents’ Association. She quoted from a 2013 College of Policing report. I quoted from a 2016 College of Policing report, which Professor Zander said backs up Professor Hucklesby’s conclusion that 60 days is a far more appropriate period and strikes the right balance between the human rights of those bailed and the practical issues facing the police. Clearly, we will return to this at other stages on the Bill but, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, Amendment 187A is very opportune and I hope that the Government will be pleased to see it. It stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Rosser and would insert a new clause in the Bill with regard to pre-charge bail. The new clause would place a requirement on police and crime plans to include an annual assessment of the capability of the police to investigate crimes within the 28-day period. Proposed new subsection (2) in the amendment states that the assessment must consider the points as listed, which are,

“changes to the number of suspects released without bail … resource constraints … safeguarding requirements … and … issues around multi agency work”.

This list is not exhaustive but all these sorts of things could come into play if the police were able to deal with people on bail within the 28-day period. An annual assessment is a valuable tool in helping to ensure that targets are met and in identifying problems.

The second amendment in this group would give a power to the Secretary of State to make by regulation a requirement for agencies,

“to cooperate promptly with police”.

As we said in a previous debate, in seeking to meet the 28-day target, the police need to be confident that other agencies are working to deliver information to them. The amendment would give the Secretary of State the power to require agencies by regulation to assist the police within the 28-day limit. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has explained, these amendments seek to test the ability of police forces to complete investigations within the initial 28-day pre-charge bail time limit.

Amendment 187ZA would require police and crime commissioners to make an annual assessment of their force’s capability of investigating crimes within this initial pre-charge bail time limit. The Government consider that requiring such an annual assessment will only add an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on PCCs and forces. First, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 requires PCCs to produce new police and crime plans only in the year of an election, so the amendment does not build on an existing process; it requires PCCs to produce something entirely new.

The Government acknowledge that the reforms to pre-charge bail will create a new system and that forces will need to build capacity at first and incorporate changes within their business processes. However, the changes will encourage and enable police forces to resolve cases within a time limit, resulting in a more efficient system for the long term.

Although bail will be limited initially to a period of 28 days, it is important to remember that the Bill’s provisions will enable an extension to a total of three months, which can be authorised by a senior police officer in complex cases. Furthermore, the police will also be able to apply to the courts for an extension beyond three months, which will have to be approved by a magistrate. While the police will, of course, aim to resolve cases in fewer than 28 days, they will be able to extend the bail period where it is necessary to do so. The requirement for senior scrutiny of extensions will avoid the issue of the past, where bail has been extended for months, or even years, without scrutiny outside the investigation team.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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Before the noble Baroness sits down, in her response to Amendment 187ZA she talked about external scrutiny of the police. Can she say a bit more about that? Is she saying that she expects that external scrutiny to look specifically at the issues here in a broad-brush review? If so, where will they get the data from? I assume that they will be collected by the police.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, there will be a number of sources of data within the police, and the annual monitoring by HMIC’s PEEL inspection programme, which considers all the police’s effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy, will form part of that external scrutiny.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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The noble Baroness can check this and come back to me, but I would expect then that the data would actually be collected.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As the noble Lord says, I will go away and give him more detail on that, either before Report or on Report.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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I thank the noble Baroness for that response, and at this time I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I hope that this amendment can be dealt with very quickly. It takes us to the provisions for live links with people in detention and, in particular, the definition of a “vulnerable adult”. When I read the definition, I was unsure whether the phrase,

“may have difficulty understanding the purpose of an authorisation”,

extended to understanding its implications or outcome. It seemed to me that the word “understanding” was rather narrow.

I was asked yesterday by the Bill team whether I could explain what I was getting at. Once I had a look at the drafting, I realised that I had put the words in the wrong place, and I apologise to the Committee for that. However, I was assured that the wording in the Bill extends to understanding the implications or outcome of a decision, and I am moving the amendment simply in the hope that the Minister can confirm that from the Dispatch Box. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank the noble Baroness for her comments. Amendment 188A would amend Clause 73 to alter the definition of a “vulnerable adult” in new Section 45ZA of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. That new section would enable a superintendent to authorise the extension of pre-charge detention using a live link, rather than being physically present in the police station. In the case of a vulnerable adult, consent to the use of a live link must be given in the presence of an appropriate adult, and the amendment seeks to alter the definition of a vulnerable adult for those purposes.

I understand that the noble Baroness is seeking an assurance that the definition provided for in the Bill would include a person who had difficulty understanding the implications or outcome of a decision by a superintendent to authorise the extension of pre-charge detention from 24 to 36 hours. I am happy to provide such an assurance and, on that basis, I hope that she will be happy to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee
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Indeed, my Lords. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I start by thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Although there have been opposing views on the amendment, it has provided a very balanced set of points. This group of amendments includes two proposed new clauses about police use of Tasers. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, explained, her amendment seeks to bar the use by police officers of a Taser or other electroshock device in psychiatric wards.

Any use of force by police officers in psychiatric wards, or in any other setting, must be appropriate and proportionate—the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Dear, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and my noble friend Lord Attlee made that point and gave some very good examples this evening. The use of force must be necessary and conducted as safely as possible. Therefore, it is right that if police officers need to attend and use force, they should be expected to account for their actions, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said.

It remains the Government’s position that the deployment of police officers to mental health settings, and the tactics used, should remain an operational matter for the police force in question. Tasers are an important tactical option for police officers. Unfortunately, some of the most extreme behaviour can occur in mental health settings and can escalate to the point where it can be met only with force—as dictated by the high degree of urgency and grave threat to staff and other patients. I am talking about cases where other de-escalation tactics have probably been tried and have failed. Again, the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Dear, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, made those points.

A blanket ban on the use of Tasers on psychiatric wards, as proposed by this amendment, would remove this valuable police tactic and therefore potentially reduce the safety of officers, hospital staff and indeed patients. In some extreme cases, it could leave officers with no choice but to use another, potentially more dangerous option as the only means to resolve a violent situation and keep others safe. The same noble Lords made these points. Police officers themselves have made it clear that they would not want their options constrained by a blanket ban on Tasers. Officers have a range of tactics and equipment available, and a Taser is but one of them. In deciding which tactic to use, an officer will assess which is likely to be most effective and proportionate.

The Government accept that more can and should be done to ensure that all uses of force, including of Tasers, are necessary and proportionate. For this reason, the former Home Secretary asked former chief constable David Shaw to lead an in-depth review of the publication of use-of-force data, including data on where force is being used, such as in a hospital setting, to ensure that the use of these sensitive powers is transparent. With the agreement of fellow chief officers, Chief Constable Shaw recommended that every time the police use a significant level of force on an individual, such as the use of Tasers, a range of core data must be recorded. This includes ethnicity, age and location, so that we will be able to identify every time force is used in a hospital or mental health setting. The data will enable thorough scrutiny of proportionality and effectiveness.

That brings in the point that I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made about force seeming to be used more in some places than in others. All forces have worked to implement this new recording system, and I anticipate that the collected data will form part of the 2017-18 Home Office annual data return. I can tell noble Lords that in 2015 there were 10,329 uses of Tasers by police. Actual firings of the device—this is an important point—accounted for 17%. Non-discharges —where the Taser is drawn, aimed, arced or red-dotted—accounted for 81% of Taser use. Red-dotting accounted for 51%—the most common use.

All forces have worked to implement this new recording system and, as I said, it should be in force in 2017-18. The Government have also taken further steps to ensure greater scrutiny of the use of Tasers in mental health settings at local level, where operational decisions are made. Charles Walker MP raised some valuable points on this matter during consideration of the Bill in the House of Commons.

Both Home Office and Department of Health Ministers have in the past few days written to police and crime commissioners, chief constables and the chairs of local mental health crisis care concordat partnerships to ask them to work together to ensure that sufficient local joint scrutiny arrangements are in place. As local leaders with overall responsibility for policing and mental health crisis care, they have been tasked with ensuring that mechanisms are in place in their areas for the joint identification and scrutiny of any use of Tasers in a mental health setting.

I expect this additional scrutiny to lead to all relevant policing and health partners working closely to look at the full circumstances surrounding police officers being called to attend, the specific circumstances of any use of Tasers, and the lessons they can learn for the future.

As I have said, the Government and police believe that a blanket ban on the use of Tasers in psychiatric settings risks the safety of the police, hospital staff and patients. That said, I agree that more should be done to ensure that any use of Tasers in such circumstances is open to effective scrutiny. That is an important point.

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, goes rather wider in seeking a review of all police use of Tasers—not just in mental health settings. As I just explained, the Government are committed to ensuring that the police use their powers and tools proportionately and are keen that all use of force by the police—including Tasers—be recorded and published.

The benefits of the planned new data collection system will be to enable the police and others to review practice in certain locations, against certain groups, and so on. This will enable deeper examination of the reasons for the use of force and inform adjustments needed to guidance, policy and authorised professional practice, if any. We have asked the police and others to ensure that this happens and, on that basis, I hope the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and the noble Lords, Lord Ouseley and Lord Rosser, and my noble friend Lord Paddick for their support. I am sorry that I have been unable to take the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, or the noble Lords, Lord Dear and Lord Harris, along with me. I must say that I felt that in his enthusiasm in making his case, the noble Lord used somewhat unparliamentary language. In 16 years in your Lordships’ House, I have never been called silly before. The amendment was certainly not regarded as silly by the mental health patients who have approached us about the issue.

The noble Baroness mentioned that use should be appropriate, but we have had to move the amendment to highlight the issue today because it seems that “appropriate” has become a lot more frequent. We have heard some figures about the number of times that the police have been called in. At least the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was able at the end of his remarks to agree with me that part of the problem is undoubtedly the lack of sufficient properly trained staff in mental health wards, which needs to be addressed.

We will think carefully about what has been said on all sides of the argument between now and Report, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, Amendment 195, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and also in the name of my noble friend Lord Rosser and others, would ensure that child victims of sexual abuse receive the mental health support that they need and would address the fundamental problem that, as things stand, victims too often have poor access to the support that they need. The Bill makes welcome provisions in the area of mental health—including by ending the detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 of young people in police cells—but it could go further, in particular, in recognising the mental health needs of children who have been victims of child sexual exploitation.

NSPCC research shows that children who have been abused are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as self-harming and suicide. The cases of 30 children supported by the Children’s Society were analysed in its report Old Enough to Know Better?—a third of the cases noted that the young people needed mental health services because of concerns about their well-being, including self-harming episodes, suicide attempts or even episodes of psychosis that required in-patient admissions. The remaining cases also referred to the young people feeling low, depressed, anxious, fearful, or having flashbacks of their abuse. I think that the Government should accept this amendment from the noble Baroness this evening.

Amendment 221 in this group is in the name of my noble friend Lord Rosser. It would place in the Bill a duty for police forces to disclose information about children who are victims of sexual exploitation or other forms of abuse to the relevant health service commissioners. This is an important requirement to ensure that victims of exploitation can have access to the health services that they need.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for their explanation of the amendments. We appreciate that their intention is to ensure that the proper provision is made for vulnerable or traumatised children. We absolutely agree that we must ensure that such children never fall through the gaps between services, but I put it to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that the overriding determinant of referral for health services must be clinical need. Not all children and young people who have been abused or exploited will develop a mental health problem, and intervening unnecessarily or inappropriately can in itself be harmful.

All that said, it is essential that healthcare practitioners who work with abused children and young people should have the capacity and capability to provide evidence-based treatment where needed. This will be addressed through the emerging workforce strategy, which is being put in place to deliver the key proposals in the Department of Health report on children’s mental health. The Department of Health is also introducing routine procedures so that sensitive inquiries are made to establish whether a child undergoing a mental health assessment has experienced neglect, violence or abuse. This will be an important step towards establishing a child’s or young person’s need for support. The important thing is that children and young people get the right care at the right time, based on their needs, not on a non-clinician’s view of their potential needs based on their experiences.

On amendment 221, it is worth adding that individuals, including children where appropriate, need to consent to receive treatment. Where a person indicates that they would like to avail themselves of any referral, consent can be sought for relevant personal details to be passed to the health provider, which is the proper course of action. It would be likely to be inappropriate, and in breach of data protection, automatically to pass on personal details and potentially sensitive information, even to a health provider. It may be helpful for noble Lords to know that NHS England published a Commissioning Framework for Adult and Paediatric Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) Services in August 2015, which outlines the core services in SARCs and referral pathways to other services. They are now being rolled out throughout England.

On the basis of my remarks, I hope that the noble Baroness feels content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley
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My Lords, I thank the Minister, though I hardly know where to start. I know that I want to keep my remarks short, as those here for the dinner-hour debate are waiting.

The Minister suggested that not all young people who have been abused require therapeutic help. Bearing in mind the figures that I gave at the beginning of my speech, we will not really know which 10% will not develop mental health problems unless we get them properly assessed. I may have used the wrong word—“refer”—in my amendment, but the point I am trying to make is that the police must ensure that the appropriate mental health commissioners in the area are made aware that a child may need therapeutic help and that an assessment should be done by a qualified person to find out whether they do. That is absolutely essential.

The fact is, we know that it is not always happening and that is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, accepted, I felt it necessary to raise this, and I am not the only one. As I say, ChildLine also very much feels that this would be helpful.

Given the effect on the rest of the lives of these children, as my noble friend Lady Benjamin mentioned, a little bit of over-referral would not necessarily be a bad thing, because it will soon come out in the wash. If they do not need any help, it will soon be found out and the help will stop if it is not needed. The National Health Service is not going to give a whole lot of help to people who do not need it—it does not have the money. But the fact is that most of them do need it and it is not happening. After 16 years, I cannot believe that we are still here.

I will of course consider what the Minister has said and make further inquiries between now and Report stage in case it is not necessary, although I think it is. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Policing and Crime Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - part two): House of Lords
Wednesday 2nd November 2016

(7 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-III(a) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the third marshalled list (PDF, 64KB) - (1 Nov 2016)
Moved by
199: Clause 93, page 111, line 29, at end insert—
““designated NCA officer” means a National Crime Agency officer who is either or both of the following—(a) an officer designated under section 10 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 as having the powers and privileges of a constable;(b) an officer designated under that section as having the powers of a general customs official;”
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Moved by
200: Clause 94, page 113, line 26, leave out paragraph (d) and insert—
“( ) a designated NCA officer who is authorised by the Director General of the National Crime Agency (whether generally or specifically) to exercise the powers of a law enforcement officer under this Chapter, or”
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Moved by
201: Clause 104, page 118, line 23, at end insert—
““designated NCA officer” means a National Crime Agency officer who is either or both of the following—(a) an officer designated under section 10 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 as having the powers and privileges of a constable who is entitled to exercise the powers and privileges of a Scottish constable (see paragraph 11(3) to (5) of Schedule 5 to that Act);(b) an officer designated under that section as having the powers of a general customs official;”
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)
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I think the noble Earl raises an interesting point—I feel that I have learned something. I am not convinced that the amendment should be in the Bill; it is the sort of thing that should be sorted out in guidance or in a letter to the various police forces. If the noble Earl is right, it should be sorted out quite simply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I begin by declaring that I am not the owner of a tank-carrying vehicle and I therefore hope that I speak from a neutral point of view.

I am grateful to my noble friend for his explanation about abnormal loads and, in particular, the electronic service delivery for abnormal loads, or ESDAL. It is a government-funded portal built for this purpose and free to use. However, some hauliers prefer to use other methods of transmission, as he pointed out, such as fax, email, hard copy or proprietary software.

The decision on which methods to accept lies with individual chief constables. As my noble friend is aware, the provisions for use of abnormal loads are laid out in the Road Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) (General) Order 2003, to which he referred. Schedule 5 to the order, which deals with notices to police states:

“The Notice must be in a form acceptable to the recipient and should be agreed by both parties.”

Commercial software owners and hauliers may argue that a chief constable is not complying with the 2003 order if he or she limits the methods for accepting the notification and the haulier does not agree. However, the order makes it clear that the form of notification must be acceptable to the recipient and there is very good reason for that requirement. Obliging chief constables to accept notification in all the forms proposed in the amendment could have negative practical and resource implications for the police. Moreover, as a matter of principle, it would not be appropriate to intervene in operational matters in this way.

I also suggest to my noble friend that this is not an appropriate matter for primary legislation, given that the Secretary of State already has the power to amend the detailed provisions laid out in Schedule 5 to the 2003 order.

Notices to road and bridge authorities are covered separately in Schedule 9 to the 2003 order. Again, it does not specify the form the notice should or could take, but states that it must be acceptable to the authority to which it is to be given and should be agreed by both parties. So a bridge or highway authority would not be obliged to accept email notification generated by ESDAL if it was not reasonably acceptable to it.

My noble friend asks about the consequences of an operator notifying a police force by a means which is not accepted by the recipient. It is a condition of an operator obtaining authority to transport an abnormal load that it notifies the police in accordance with Schedule 5. If it provides notification in a form which it has been informed is not acceptable to the recipient, it would be difficult for it to claim to have met the conditions set out in the 2003 order.

If an operator has not met these conditions, it will not be authorised to use on the road a vehicle that does not,

“comply in all respects with the standard construction and use requirements”.

On that basis, if it were to proceed with an abnormal load movement on a road, it would be committing an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988. I know that my noble friend will have hoped for a rather different response, but I hope that, having had this opportunity to debate this issue, he will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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Before the noble Baroness sits down—and I should say that I am not the owner of a tank either—I do not see why it can be said that an electronic means of communication in the 21st century is an unreasonable way of giving this type of notice. Something like this cannot be beyond the wit of man to sort out. If we are just going to rely on the post it really is not a very efficient way of doing things.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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What I have said is that the order specifies that the notice must be in a form that is acceptable to the recipient. If the recipient—Merseyside Police, for example—insists that it is an online application, then that is the form in which it is acceptable. But it should be agreed by both parties—in other words, it is not “must” but “should”.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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Are we saying that it would be acceptable if they insisted on receiving only a letter? That seems ridiculous in the 21st century.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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No, an online application may be acceptable, an email may be acceptable, pigeon post may be acceptable—but it has to be acceptable to the recipient.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, my first question for my noble friend the Minister is, why is an email not acceptable?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, it has to be acceptable to the recipient—an email may not be acceptable to the recipient. The order says that it should be acceptable to the recipient.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, it rather seems as if my noble friend cannot explain to the Committee why it is acceptable for the police to say that they will not accept an email notification. It is an extremely reliable system of communication with a good audit record. I think some inspiration might be coming from the Front Bench so I shall sit down.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I think what is coming from my left is probably what I was going to say anyway, which is that it is entirely a matter for Merseyside Police, for example, on which method it accepts. It is an operational decision for the chief constable.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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I thank the Minister for that reply but she seems to be struggling on the point of why a police force can say that it will not take an email. I think that Ministers need to be rather careful about teasing noble Lords when they declare an interest; it is vital that we can declare an interest in an issue without being teased by Ministers. This is the second time on this Bill that I have been teased by Ministers regarding declaring an interest.

I want to make it clear to the Committee that I tried to avoid even tabling this amendment, because I knew that it would involve a lot of work within both the Department for Transport and the Home Office. Unfortunately, I could not encourage the Government to deal with this matter offline. That is why I had to table an amendment and speak to it in your Lordships’ House.

The Minister said that the police force can determine what the form should be—how the notification is laid out and whether the width and the weight are described. It does not say in the STGO what the means should be, only the form—what it looks like when it comes out of the fax machine or in the email—but not the means. I am not convinced that the system is watertight.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I apologise to my noble friend. I was attempting to be self-deprecating rather than teasing him. I hope that he did not get that impression.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
201B: Clause 105, page 121, line 14, leave out from “offence”” to “section” in line 15 and insert “has the meaning given by”
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, I did not intend to speak on this matter but the issues the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, raised, particularly around religious dress, need to be considered very carefully. I bear in mind the scenario that the noble Lord, Lord Dear, presented us with where constables on the street, faced with individuals who they interpret as deliberately trying to conceal their identity, are radioing an inspector for authority who is not at the scene and cannot make that assessment himself or herself. That is potentially difficult. I am not a lawyer and I may have misread it, but my reading of the existing legislation was that it allows for a scenario where written authority could be given contemporaneously with the actions of the officers on the ground. Can the Minister therefore help the House by saying whether the Government think that the amendment is necessary? However, I absolutely accept that flash mobs and spontaneous public disorder are becoming an increasing problem, as we saw in the riots in London only a few years ago, which were driven by social media.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is right that the permission in writing can be given after the event, but we now find that that is not an ideal situation. On what the noble Lord, Lord Dear, proposes, both national policing leads and others would welcome a clarification on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, answered the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for me, but I will repeat it, as it is important. With regard to removing face coverings for religious reasons, for example, the Act states that when an authorisation is in place, a constable can require a person to remove a face covering only if the constable reasonably believes that the person is wearing the item,

“wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his”,

or her “identity”. Of course, it is for individuals to ensure the fair and proportionate use of their powers.

If the noble Lord is content to withdraw his amendment—it sounds as though he is—I will give the matter further sympathetic consideration in advance of Report.

Lord Dear Portrait Lord Dear
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My Lords, at this late hour I am grateful for the contributions that have been made. I am encouraged by and grateful to the Minister for what she has said, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
201T: Before Schedule 15, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULE 14ASCHEDULE TO BE INSERTED AS SCHEDULE 7A TO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1994“OFFENCES SPECIFIED FOR THE PURPOSES OF SECTION 137APART 1OFFENCES UNDER THE LAW OF ENGLAND AND WALES1_ Any of the following offences at common law—(a) false imprisonment;(b) kidnapping;(c) indecent exposure; (d) cheating in relation to the public revenue. 2_ An offence under any of the following provisions of the Offences against the Person Act 1861—(a) section 20 (inflicting bodily injury);(b) section 24 (administering poison etc with intent);(c) section 27 (exposing child whereby life is endangered etc);(d) section 31 (setting spring-guns etc with intent);(e) section 37 (assaulting an officer etc on account of his preserving wreck);(f) section 47 (assault occasioning actual bodily harm).3_(1) An offence under any of the following provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 1956—(a) section 10 (incest by a man);(b) section 11 (incest by a woman);(c) section 30 (man living on the earnings of prostitution);(d) section 31 (woman exercising control over a prostitute);(e) section 33A (keeping a brothel used for prostitution)._(2) An offence under section 12 of that Act (buggery), other than an offence committed by a person where the other person involved in the conduct constituting the offence consented to it and was aged 16 or over._(3) An offence under section 13 of that Act (indecency between men), where the offence was committed by a man aged 21 or over and the other person involved in the conduct constituting the offence was under the age of 16.4_ An offence under section 4 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 (assisting offenders).5_ An offence under section 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 (living on the earnings of male prostitution).6_ An offence under any of the following provisions of the Firearms Act 1968—(a) section 1(1) (possession etc of firearms or ammunition without certificate);(b) section 2(1) (possession etc of shot gun without certificate);(c) section 3(1) (manufacturing, selling etc firearms or ammunition by way of trade or business without being registered as a firearms dealer).7_ An offence under section 106A of the Taxes Management Act 1970 (fraudulent evasion of income tax).8_(1) An offence under section 50(2) or (3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (improper importation of goods), other than an offence mentioned in subsection (5B) of that section._(2) An offence under section 68(2) of that Act (exportation of prohibited or restricted goods)._(3) An offence under section 170 of that Act (fraudulent evasion of duty etc), other than an offence mentioned in subsection (4B) of that section.9_ An offence under section 4 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 (offences in relation to certain dangerous articles).10_ An offence under section 127 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (ill-treatment of patients).11_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Child Abduction Act 1984—(a) section 1 (abduction of child by parent etc);(b) section 2 (abduction of child by other persons).12_ An offence under section 1 of the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 (prohibition of female circumcision).13_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Public Order Act 1986—(a) section 2 (violent disorder); (b) section 3 (affray). 14_ An offence under section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (possession of indecent photograph of a child).15_ An offence under section 2 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences).16_ An offence under section 72(1), (3) or (8) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (fraudulent evasion of VAT etc).17_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997—(a) section 4 (putting people in fear of violence);(b) section 4A (stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress).18_ An offence under section 29(1)(a) or (b) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (certain racially or religiously aggravated assaults).19_ An offence under section 38B of the Terrorism Act 2000 (information about acts of terrorism).20_ An offence under section 3 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 (sexual activity with a person aged under 18 in abuse of a position of trust).21_ An offence under section 35 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 (tax credit fraud).22_(1) An offence under any of the following provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003—(a) section 13 (child sex offences committed by children or young persons);(b) section 16 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity with a child);(c) section 17 (abuse of position of trust: causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity);(d) section 18 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity in the presence of a child);(e) section 19 (abuse of position of trust: causing a child to watch a sexual act);(f) section 40 (care workers: sexual activity in the presence of a person with a mental disorder);(g) section 41 (care workers: causing a person with a mental disorder to watch a sexual act);(h) section 52 (causing or inciting prostitution for gain);(i) section 53 (controlling prostitution for gain)._(2) An offence under section 25 or 26 of that Act (family child sex offences) where the offence is committed by a person under the age of 18._(3) An offence under section 47 of that Act (paying for sexual services of a child), where the offence is committed against a person aged 16 or over.23_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006—(a) section 1 (encouragement of terrorism);(b) section 2 (dissemination of terrorist publications).24_ An offence under section 45 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (participating in activities of organised crime group).25_ An offence under section 67 of the Policing and Crime Act 2016 (breach of pre-charge bail conditions relating to travel).PART 2OFFENCES UNDER THE LAW OF SCOTLAND26_ Any of the following offences at common law—(a) culpable homicide;(b) treason;(c) rape;(d) assault, where the assault results in serious injury or endangers life; (e) assault with intent to rape or ravish; (f) indecent assault;(g) abduction with intent to rape;(h) public indecency;(i) clandestine injury to women;(j) lewd, indecent or libidinous behaviour or practices;(k) sodomy, other than an offence committed by a person where the other person involved in the conduct constituting the offence consented to it and was aged 16 or over;(l) abduction;(m) mobbing;(n) fire-raising;(o) robbery;(p) fraud;(q) extortion;(r) embezzlement;(s) theft;(t) threats;(u) attempting to pervert the course of justice.27_ An offence under any of the following provisions of the Firearms Act 1968—(a) section 1(1) (possession etc of firearms or ammunition without certificate);(b) section 2(1) (possession etc of shot gun without certificate);(c) section 3(1) (manufacturing, selling etc firearms or ammunition by way of trade or business without being registered as a firearms dealer).28_ An offence under section 106A of the Taxes Management Act 1970 (fraudulent evasion of income tax).29_(1) An offence under section 50(2) or (3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (improper importation of goods), other than an offence mentioned in subsection (5B) of that section._(2) An offence under section 68(2) of that Act (exportation of prohibited or restricted goods)._(3) An offence under section 170 of that Act (fraudulent evasion of duty etc), other than an offence mentioned in subsection (4B) of that section.30_ An offence under section 4 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 (offences in relation to certain dangerous articles).31_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982—(a) section 51(2) (publication etc of obscene material);(b) section 52 (taking, distributing etc indecent photographs of children).32_ An offence under section 6 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 (parent etc. taking or sending a child out of the United Kingdom).33_ An offence under section 1 of the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 (prohibition of female circumcision).34_ An offence under section 2 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences).35_ An offence under section 72(1), (3) or (8) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (fraudulent evasion of VAT etc).36_ An offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995—(a) section 7 (procuring prostitution etc);(b) section 8(3) (unlawful detention of women and girls); (c) section 10 (parents etc encouraging girls under 16 to engage in prostitution etc); (d) section 11(1)(b) (males soliciting etc for immoral purposes).37_ An offence under section 38B of the Terrorism Act 2000 (information about acts of terrorism).38_ An offence under section 35 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 (tax credit fraud).39_ An offence under section 313 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 (persons providing care services: sexual offences).40_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006—(a) section 1 (encouragement of terrorism);(b) section 2 (dissemination of terrorist publications).41_ Any of the following offences under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009—(a) section 8 (sexual exposure);(b) section 9 (voyeurism);(c) section 11 (administering a substance for sexual purposes);(d) section 32 (causing an older child to be present during a sexual activity);(e) section 33 (causing an older child to look at a sexual image);(f) section 34(1) (communicating indecently with an older child);(g) section 34(2) (causing an older child to see or hear an indecent communication);(h) section 35 (sexual exposure to an older child);(i) section 36 (voyeurism towards an older child);(j) section 42 (sexual abuse of trust);(k) section 46 (sexual abuse of trust of a mentally disordered person).42_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010—(a) section 38 (threatening or abusive behaviour);(b) section 39 (stalking).43_ An offence under section 2 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 (disclosing etc an intimate photograph or film).PART 3OFFENCES UNDER THE LAW OF NORTHERN IRELAND44_ Any of the following offences at common law—(a) false imprisonment;(b) kidnapping;(c) riot;(d) affray;(e) indecent exposure;(f) cheating in relation to the public revenue.45_ An offence under any of the following provisions of the Offences against the Person Act 1861—(a) section 20 (inflicting bodily injury);(b) section 24 (administering poison etc with intent);(c) section 27 (exposing child whereby life is endangered etc);(d) section 31 (setting spring-guns etc with intent);(e) section 37 (assaulting an officer etc on account of his preserving wreck);(f) section 47 (assault occasioning actual bodily harm).46_ An offence under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (indecency between men), where the offence was committed by a man aged 21 or over and the other person involved in the conduct constituting the offence was under the age of 16. 47_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Punishment of Incest Act 1908—(a) section 1 (incest by a man);(b) section 2 (incest by a woman).48_ An offence under section 4 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 (assisting offenders).49_ An offence under section 106A of the Taxes Management Act 1970 (fraudulent evasion of income tax).50_(1) An offence under section 50(2) or (3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (improper importation of goods), other than an offence mentioned in subsection (5B) of that section._(2) An offence under section 68(2) of that Act (exportation of prohibited or restricted goods)._(3) An offence under section 170 of that Act (fraudulent evasion of duty etc), other than an offence mentioned in subsection (4B) of that section.51_ An offence under section 4 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 (offences in relation to certain dangerous articles).52_ An offence under Article 8 of the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 (S.I. 1982/1536 (N.I. 19)) (living on the earnings of male prostitution).53_ An offence under section 1 of the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 (prohibition of female circumcision).54_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Child Abduction (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (S.I. 1985/1638(N.I. 17))—(a) Article 3 (abduction of child by parent etc);(b) Article 4 (abduction of child by other persons).55_ An offence under Article 121 of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 (S.I. 1986/595 (N.I. 4)) (ill-treatment of patients).56_ An offence under Article 15 of the Criminal Justice (Evidence, Etc.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 (S.I. 1988/1847 (N.I. 17)) (possession of indecent photograph of a child).57_ An offence under section 2 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences).58_ An offence under section 72(1), (3) or (8) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (fraudulent evasion of VAT etc).59_ An offence under Article 6 of the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997/1180 (N.I. 9)) (putting people in fear of violence).60_ An offence under section 38B of the Terrorism Act 2000 (information about acts of terrorism).61_ An offence under section 3 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 (sexual activity with a person aged under 18 in abuse of a position of trust).62_ An offence under section 35 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 (tax credit fraud).63_ An offence under section 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (controlling prostitution for gain).64_ An offence under any of the following provisions of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 (S.I. 2004/702 (N.I.3))—(a) Article 3(1)(b) (possession etc of firearms other than handguns without certificate);(b) Article 3(2) (possession etc of ammunition without certificate); (c) Article 24(1) (manufacturing, selling etc firearms or ammunition by way of trade or business without being registered as a firearms dealer).65_ An offence under either of the following provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006— (a) section 1 (encouragement of terrorism);(b) section 2 (dissemination of terrorist publications).66_(1) An offence under any of the following provisions of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/1769 (N.I. 2))—(a) Article 20 (child sex offences committed by children or young persons);(b) Article 23 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity with a child);(c) Article 24 (abuse of position of trust: causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity);(d) Article 25 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity in the presence of a child);(e) Article 51 (care workers: sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder);(f) Article 53 (care workers: sexual activity in the presence of a person with a mental disorder);(g) Article 62 (causing or inciting prostitution for gain);(h) Article 63 (controlling prostitution for gain);(i) Article 64 (keeping a brothel used for prostitution)._(2) An offence under Article 32 or 33 of that Order (family child sex offences) where the offence is committed by a person under the age of 18._(3) An offence under Article 37 of that Order (paying for sexual services of a child), where the offence is committed against a person aged 16 or over.67_ An offence under section 67 of the Policing and Crime Act 2016 (breach of pre-charge bail conditions relating to travel).””
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Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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I do not intend to hold things up, nor am I necessarily expecting that the Minister will be able to respond—I had not given notice of this—but I hope that she might be able to respond well in advance of Report.

Clause 109 relates to the eligibility of deputy police and crime commissioners for election. Noble Lords may recall that on day 1 in Committee I raised the complexities of the position of the proposed deputy mayor for fire, but I then referred to the complexity of the position of the deputy mayor for policing and crime, it being a politically restricted post. As I understand it, deputy police and crime commissioners are politically restricted posts, yet here we have a very sensible clause which I believe creates an arrangement whereby deputy police and crime commissioners can stand for election. If deputy police and crime commissioners are politically restricted, we are now creating a situation that goes against that provision by saying that they can stand for election.

Between now and Report—perhaps in good time before Report—can the Minister tell us, first, what the rationale is for deputy police and crime commissioners, let alone deputy mayors for policing and crime, to be politically restricted under certain circumstances; and, secondly, whether this restriction is still necessary and, given that this clause assumes that it is possible for deputy police and crime commissioners to stand for election, whether the original idea that deputy police and crime commissioners should not be politically restricted can be adjusted? I think that this issue needs to be tidied up. It is certainly a matter that I intend to return to on Report unless we succeed in clarifying it before then.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, it seems like ages ago but I remember the debate and I remember what I thought at the time, although I cannot for the life of me think of an answer for the noble Lord at such a late hour. However, I said that we would reflect on the points that he raised because at the time—on day 1 of Committee, as the noble Lord said—they seemed very pertinent, and we will respond ahead of Report. I hope that he is happy with that.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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Will there be a response on that point?

Clause 109 agreed.
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Some years ago when I was the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, there was an extremely difficult death in custody case which, in the nature of these things, dragged on for many years. An inquest verdict was reached and as a result a challenge was mounted against it on behalf of some of the police officers involved. Because essentially their legal costs would ultimately be borne by the Metropolitan Police Service, the Metropolitan Police Authority, after some considerable deliberation, agreed that it was right and proper that the authority should fund the costs due to the representative of the family to try to resolve the issue, which was then going on to judicial review. So there are precedents, and I think that this is the right principle. There should be equity of funding to ensure appropriate access to representation for the bereaved families in these circumstances, and the right location for taking responsibility for this should lie with the police service or the agency concerned which was responsible for the person at the time of their death.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I believe that we all sympathise with the intention of the amendment. These new clauses draw on the experience of the Hillsborough families, and their fight for justice has been a long time coming. As noble Lords will be aware, the Hillsborough families received public funding for their legal costs at the fresh inquest. That was a bespoke scheme. We need to ensure that any similar action we take in the future is appropriate and proportionate. It is for these reasons that the former Home Secretary commissioned Bishop James Jones to compile a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families, and the Government believe that it is appropriate that we should wait for his report before considering these issues further.

In relation to the funding of former police officers, this was a decision taken by the police and crime commissioner taking into account relevant case law and guidance on this subject. Separately, the former Home Secretary took a decision to provide a special grant to the South Yorkshire PCC in order to assist with the legal costs incurred as a result of the former officers’ legal fees. In arriving at this decision, the former Home Secretary put the concerns and interests of the families at the forefront of her thinking, together with the principle of justice and the continuation of the inquests.

Additionally, in taking her decision on providing a special grant, the former Home Secretary was clear that it was important that justice should not only be done, but be seen to be done. It would have been wrong to leave police and other witnesses vulnerable to claims that justice had not been done because they lacked proper legal representation. The decision was taken specifically in the context of the Hillsborough inquests and should not be seen as setting a wider precedent.

In the light of these issues, it would be premature at this stage to commit to any further legislation, should it be required, before we have received Bishop Jones’s report and seen its recommendations. Without prejudice to our consideration of Bishop Jones’s conclusions and recommendations, it is important that I put on record that these amendments would place a significant financial burden on the Secretary of State or, in the case of Amendment 203, on PCCs. The cost of the legal representation for the 103 families at the fresh inquest into Hillsborough amounted to £63.6 million. Clearly, the Hillsborough inquests were an exceptional case, but it does at least provide an indication of the level of financial commitment these amendments imply. It is right that your Lordships’ House takes this into consideration fully. On Amendment 202, it is also unclear to me why a PCC has a role in making a recommendation to the Secretary of State when the financial implications of that decision fall solely on the Secretary of State.

There are other technical issues with these amendments. For example, how would a PCC be in a position to know the funding available to other interested persons, which can include other public bodies? A PCC has no powers to inquire into the legal costs of the ambulance service or a health trust, for example.

The reference in the amendments to “parity of funding” also requires careful consideration. There will be significant differences between the legal advice required by a police officer or former police officer who could potentially face criminal charges and the family of a victim who are seeking justice. Does parity mean the cost, or the number of solicitors and counsel, or the level of their qualifications, with, for example, both legal teams headed up by a QC?

On Amendment 203, it is not clear to me whether a PCC has discretion to consider the merits of the representations he or she receives, or whether the PCC is bound to provide funding by virtue of the fact that representations have been received.

I accept that these are all detail points, which, while they will need to be addressed, are secondary. As I have said, the Government are firmly of the view that we should wait for Bishop Jones’s report and then determine, in the light of it, the most appropriate way forward. On the understanding that this issue is firmly on the Government’s agenda, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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My Lords, before my noble friend responds, could we first have clarity as to the scope and terms of reference of Bishop Jones’s inquiry and whether it will look not at circumstances where large numbers of families are potentially involved, but at situations where there is one bereft family who are perhaps traumatised by what has happened and then face the full panoply of all this legal representation?

I note that the noble Baroness said very carefully that the former Home Secretary, in agreeing the funding in respect of the Hillsborough inquests, said that she was not setting a precedent. I appreciate that that is what one would do under such circumstances, but Hillsborough was a unique tragedy. I am not trying to gauge the size of tragedies and their impact, but the fact that for every person who died in Hillsborough their families were bereaved, shocked, appalled and in a terrible state does not alter the fact that individual families, perhaps whose 16 year-old son has died in a police cell or whatever else it might be, are suffering just as much as any of the Hillsborough families. Whether parity is the right word, as raised by the Minister, is a genuine question. It is quite complicated. However, what is important is the principle that it should be possible for families to seek representation of their choice and for it to be funded. I appreciate that they would be seeking to get to the bottom of what had happened, whereas police officers, who might be subject to criminal charges, would have a different set of objectives, but I hope that the Government, when they have fully considered this, will take on board the principle that those families should have the right to representation.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the Government will see and respond to Bishop Jones’s review in due course. He is considering the terms of reference for his review with the families and intends to publish them shortly.

The noble Lord spoke of the suffering. He is absolutely right: it is not just the suffering of one person but the suffering of everybody associated with them, so I do not undermine the noble Lord’s point at all; in fact, I share his view. Let us see what Bishop Jones says and the Government will respond in due course.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate and the Minister for her response. I shall not pretend that the response was a tremendous shock, since it was not dissimilar to those given previously. I am not quite sure how the report by the bishop will necessarily address the issue of what could happen at inquests generally where the police are represented, as opposed to the rather special circumstances of Hillsborough. The point that I was trying to make—obviously to no avail—is that this issue is not about Hillsborough; it goes way beyond that to looking at inquests generally where the police are represented, where there is a distinct inequality of arms and the consequences that arise from that. I was disappointed to hear again the issue of the money being raised as a key point. Some might think that if spending that amount of money enabled us at long last to get at the truth over Hillsborough then maybe it was not money badly spent, but clearly the Government have a different view about that.

On the arguments about the technicalities of the amendments and on whether the wording is appropriate or a bit vague in certain areas, if the Government wanted to be serious about doing something they would not put that argument forward. They would say that there were issues with the amendments that my noble friend Lord Harris and I had put down, but that they accepted the principle of what we were trying to achieve and would come back on Report with an amendment of their own, or alternatively that they would have discussions about the appropriate wording. But that has not been the Government’s response.

Although I do not want to pretend that I am somehow shocked at the Government’s reply, since it is consistent with what has been said previously, I am disappointed with it, since I have not heard any guarantees that the report from the bishop will address the wider issue of inquests generally where the police are represented as opposed to what happened at Hillsborough. There was nothing in the Minister’s response to indicate that it would do that. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Obviously, we will have to consider whether to bring it back on Report.

Policing and Crime Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - part one): House of Lords
Wednesday 9th November 2016

(7 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 263KB) - (7 Nov 2016)
Moved by
203B: Clause 112, page 129, line 3, leave out “(2A)” and insert “(2AA), (2AB) or (2AC)”
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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, when the Minister introduces Amendment 203K, which is about extending the period for considering an application for the renewal of a certificate, can she say whether this is being proposed because there are problems generally or in particular forces? In other words, are there just a few difficulties or is this a widespread issue, in that the police do not find eight weeks sufficient? I raise this because of the concern that 16 weeks might easily become the norm, given the opportunity to extend.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for outlining his amendments. As he suggests, I will first explain the government amendments in this group.

Amendments 203J and 203K respond to amendments tabled by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown at Commons Report stage. They seek to make two improvements in the operation of the licensing arrangements under the Firearms Act of 1968. Amendment 203J would remove some of the unnecessary administrative requirements that currently apply to the possession of expanding ammunition.

Expanding ammunition is designed to expand predictably on impact and was prohibited initially in relation to pistols in 1992. In 1997 the ban was extended to all such ammunition, even though it is in universal use for pest control and is required for deer-stalking under the Deer Act and Deer (Scotland) Act.

The current legislation does allow for expanding ammunition to be possessed, in order to carry out specific activities such as the lawful shooting of deer, estate management, the humane killing of animals or the shooting of animals for the protection of other animals or humans. However, the legislation also requires that the individual possess a suitably conditioned firearm certificate for these activities.

The amendment would allow for the possession, purchase, acquisition, sale or transfer of expanding ammunition for rifles where the individual is in possession of a valid firearm certificate or a visitors firearm permit. The effect is—and I hope this goes some way toward answering the noble Baroness’s question—that the police will no longer have to include additional conditions on a certificate or permit, thereby removing some of the administrative burden that the current regime places on them.

Amendment 203K is intended to address the issues that currently arise with an application for the renewal of a firearms certificate that has been made prior to the expiry of the certificate but has not been determined by the police in time. Police forces have developed two different approaches in these cases. The first is to allow the applicant to remain in possession of the firearm, shotgun or ammunition, which means the applicant is in breach of Section 1 or Section 2 of the 1968 Act until the application has been processed. The second is to issue a temporary permit using the power in Section 7 of the Act.

I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is not appropriate for certificate holders to be at risk of arrest and prosecution for an offence under Section 1 or Section 2 because the police have failed to process applications in time. Equally, it is not appropriate for the police to issue temporary permits to individuals whose substantive applications may subsequently be refused. The issuing of such permits also places an increased administrative burden on the police.

Amendment 203K will bring greater clarity in such circumstances by automatically extending the validity of firearm and shotgun certificates past their expiry date for a limited period of up to eight weeks. This will apply only where an application for renewal has been received by the police at least eight weeks prior to the date of expiry of the certificate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether the problems were widespread or localised to particular forces. There were different levels of performance across different forces, and performance varies across some forces, meaning that some are better that others—so this is force-led.

Amendments 234A and 234B are consequential amendments to the extent clause.

I trust the Committee will agree that the two new clauses make sensible changes to the firearms regime and in doing so reduce the administrative burdens on the police without compromising public safety.

As my noble friend explained, his amendments relate to Clause 114, which strengthens the controls on deactivated firearms and thereby enhances public protection. I was pleased to meet my noble friend to discuss his concerns about this clause and I know that he has had a useful follow-up meeting, as he explained, with officials and one of the proof houses.

My noble friend has pointed to some of the difficulties that have been identified with the EU deactivation standards. The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world and some of the most robust deactivation standards in Europe. The need for consistent, robust deactivation across member states has been the driving force for EU implementing regulation.

While the new EU deactivation specifications have been introduced, we have recognised that we need to strengthen deactivation measures for certain firearms. We now require additional measures that will align the EU standards with the exacting standards for deactivated weapons already in place in the UK. We have agreed this position with the European Commission. Moreover, the Commission has set up a small group of technical experts to help interpret and, if necessary, revise the standards, and the UK is represented on this group.

Some noble Lords may argue that, following the referendum result, we should drop this provision from the Bill. However, on leaving the EU we will still want to ensure that individuals comply with the relevant deactivation standards that we have in place. To that end, I am ready to explore future-proofing the definition of a defectively deactivated weapon as used in the clause.

I hope I have been able to reassure my noble friend that the offence in Clause 114 is necessary to strengthen our firearms controls, and that, having aired this important issue, he will be content to withdraw his amendment and support Clause 114 standing part of the Bill—and the Government’s amendments in this group.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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I should have said in my earlier contribution that of course we fully support the government amendments in this group. However, I saw that they will cover only England, Scotland and Wales, and not Northern Ireland. Is that because Northern Ireland already has other provisions? The other parts of the Bill will of course cover all parts of the United Kingdom.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I did know the answer to that but I have forgotten it. Rather than give the noble Lord the wrong answer, I will double-check that and write to him and the Committee in due course.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response, and in particular for her final words, when she agreed to have a look at how we future-proof the arrangements. I hope that that will mean that in due course a Government will future-proof it, and then we will be able to do what we want. In the meantime, we can comply with our EU obligations, which of course we have to comply with. Although Brexit means Brexit, we have to comply at the moment. We will get a good solution—we are in a good place on this, and of course there is no question that I will oppose Clause 114. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
203J: After Clause 114, insert the following new Clause—
“Controls on ammunition which expands on impact
(1) The Firearms Act 1968 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) and (3).(2) In section 5 (weapons subject to general prohibition), in subsection (1A), for paragraph (f) substitute—“(f) any ammunition which is designed to be used with a pistol and incorporates a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact;”.(3) In section 5A (exemptions from requirement of authority under section 5), in subsection (8)(a), after “which”, in the first place it occurs, insert “is designed to be used with a pistol and”.(4) In consequence of the amendment made by subsection (2), omit section 9 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997.”
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Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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Presumably the noble Earl pays VAT on those purchases.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the Government agree that fees for firearms licences should be set on a cost-recovery basis. We have already increased the fees for civilian firearms and shotgun certificates issued by the police in line with this objective. Clause 115 addresses firearms licences issued by the Home Office and the Scottish Government. They therefore concern fees for licences to possess non-civilian prohibited weapons, and for shooting clubs and museums. Currently, most of these types of licence do not attract a fee. Where a fee is charged, it is set at a level well below the cost of administering an application.

Amendments 204 to 206 would require the Government to set all fees at a level that would achieve full cost recovery. The administration of these licences, including assistance from the police, costs the taxpayer an estimated £700,000 a year. The Government agree that licence holders, not the taxpayer, should pay for this service. Clause 115 therefore provides a power for the Home Secretary to set fees for these licences. As the then policing Minister, Mike Penning, explained when similar amendments were debated in the House of Commons, we intend that the fees should be set at a level that will achieve full cost recovery. We will then set out the proposed fees in a public consultation, which we intend to publish shortly.

The consultation will invite views on the implementation of these measures and we welcome responses. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked when the Section 5 fees are planned to be introduced. It will be in April 2017, subject to the planned consultation. I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation. However, there might be good reasons not to set fees at full cost recovery levels, either for a transitional period or for certain categories of licence holder. We will consider the responses to the consultation on these matters before deciding on the level that should be set. In doing so, we will be guided by the principle to which I referred above: that the costs of licensing should fall to the licence holder rather than to the taxpayer.

Amendment 207 relates to the fees charged by the police for shotgun and civilian firearms certificates and for registered firearms dealer licences. In 2015, we increased fees for those certificates substantially. This was the first increase in the licence fee since 2001. The increase reflected the fact that the cost of the licences had fallen far below the cost to the police of their administration. Fees increased between 23% and 76%, depending on the type of certificate.

When we consulted on the fee levels for certificates issued by the police, we were clear that the cost of licences should reflect the full cost of licensing once a new online licensing system was in place. Work is under way to secure that system. In the meantime we are committed to undertaking an annual review of the fees. There will be a comprehensive review of police licensing fees in five years’ time. I hope that the noble Lord will be reassured that it is indeed this Government’s intention that firearms fees should reflect the full cost of licensing and that on this basis he will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick
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My Lords, what consultation was there before the Government implemented full cost recovery for immigration visas with those groups that represent immigrants or those who might be applying for visas?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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May I write to the noble Lord on that? I do not have the answer on timing to hand. I apologise.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I seek clarification of one or two points. Did the Minister say that as far as Home Office licence holders are concerned, they will be paying the full cost of licensing from April of next year? As far as the police are concerned, there was no real commitment at all. I asked when the new online system would be introduced. I do not think that I got an answer. I asked whether the full costs of licensing would be charged from the day the new online system came in. I do not think that I got an answer. I also asked by how much the Government considered the fees for police licences would have to be increased to cover the full costs of licensing. I believe that the Minister referred to a review of police licences and costs in five years’ time. Is this suggesting that the new online system will not be coming in for five years? If the Minister is unable to give me a firm date as to when that online system will be operational, can she give a commitment that in the meantime those fees will be raised to cover the full costs and that we shall not be in a situation in which the police, who are already short of money, are in fact subsidising gun ownership in this country with money desperately needed for main police activities? Could I please have some answers? If they are not available now, I shall as always accept a subsequent letter responding to these questions.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, in terms of the online system, the current fees are intended to cover the cost of the licencing once the online system is introduced. The police, supported by the Government, are currently developing the online system. An implementation date has not yet been determined. We plan to introduce the Section 5 fees and the increased fees for museums and clubs in April 2017, subject to the planned consultation. The level of fees will therefore be determined subject to that consultation. There is no suggestion that the new online system will take five years to implement. There will be an annual review of licence fees. I hope that I have not completely confused the noble Lord.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the noble Lord is right in that the taxpayer should not subsidise gun ownership. The new fees will be subject to consultation, although that was not the question he asked. He asked whether it will take five years to implement the online system. I will write to him on how long we think implementation of the online system will take, if that is okay.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for her response and other noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and my noble friend Lord Harris, who participated in this short debate. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that she will write to me on this, because the question of when the Government are gearing up to introduce the online system is crucial. I sense it will not be within the next few months—to put it bluntly, the Government do not know when it is coming in. They are not even prepared to give an estimate of the timescale, unless that will be in the letter that is to be sent. We will need to reflect further on this in the face, apparently, of a government stance that means they are quite happy, if the online system does not come in very shortly, to see the police subsidising gun ownership in this country, at a time when the police themselves are desperately short of financial resources. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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My Lords, part of the process of enacting this would be to make quite clear what qualifies as negligence. In my view, this should not apply if the gun owner has followed all the prescribed procedures, which should be quite onerous. In my understanding, gun owners are extremely careful, particularly about the storage of their weapons. I am concerned about guns that are left in the boot of a car, not necessarily in very adequate containers, or even on the back seat of a car or in circumstances where the gun owner has not locked them away in the approved fashion. Those are certainly cases where this should apply, and I hope that the threat of this action being taken would mean that all gun owners became much more responsible and acted in the way the noble Earl has suggested.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has explained, Amendment 208 would provide that:

“Any person who has through negligence lost a firearm or through negligence enabled a firearm to be stolen shall have all firearms certificates in their name revoked and shall be banned from holding a firearms certificate for the rest of their life”.

As the noble Lord indicated, this was one of the recommendations in his report for the Mayor of London on London’s preparedness to respond to a major terrorist incident, which was published last week.

It is clear that the loss or theft of firearms presents a potential risk to public safety. However, the number of firearms and shotguns that are lost remains extremely small. Any loss or theft is, of course, a cause for concern and it is right that we must take appropriate action in the case of owners who lose or enable the theft of a firearm or shotgun through negligence. I therefore considered carefully the noble Lord’s proposed amendment to the Firearms Act 1968.

When a firearm or shotgun certificate is issued, conditions are automatically included requiring the certificate holder to store their firearms securely to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, access to the firearms by an unauthorised person. The condition also applies in circumstances where the firearm or shotgun has been removed from secure storage for cleaning, repair or testing or during transit. In these circumstances, all reasonable precautions must be taken to ensure the safe custody of the firearm. A condition is also placed on the certificate requiring the holder to notify the police within seven days of the theft, loss or destruction of a firearm or shotgun. It is an offence not to comply with these conditions, and the maximum penalty for that offence can be up to six months in prison, a fine or both.

Section 38 of the 1968 Act provides for a firearm certificate to be revoked if the chief officer of police is satisfied that the holder is,

“otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm”,

or can no longer be permitted to have a firearm in their possession without danger to the public’s safety or to the peace. Section 30C makes similar provision for the revocation of shotgun certificates. In the year ending March 2016, the police revoked just under 400 firearms certificates and almost 1,350 shotgun certificates. I assure the noble Lord that when the loss or theft of a firearm or shotgun is reported to the police, the matter is taken very seriously. In such cases the chief officer should consider whether to prosecute the certificate holder for breach of a condition on their certificate, and whether the certificate should be revoked under Sections 30A or 30C of the 1968 Act.

Noble Lords may also be reassured to know that the police intend to set minimum standards in respect of the investigation of lost or stolen firearms. This will provide a consistent national approach to the call-taking, initial response, investigation, assessment of risk and consideration of firearms licensing issues such as revocation. If a person whose certificate has been revoked applies for a new certificate at a later date, the chief officer will consider all the circumstances of the application and, if the reasons for the previous revocation can be determined, in some circumstances a user certificate might be granted. In cases where a firearms offence has been committed, the courts will consider the sentencing options available under the 1968 Act. Depending on the sentence handed down by a court, a lifetime ban may automatically be imposed on a certificate holder. Generally, persons who are sentenced to three years or more are never allowed to possess a firearm again.

The 1968 Act provides for a five-year ban where someone has been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of three months or more but less than three years. Persons who are subject to a suspended sentence of three months or more are also not allowed to possess firearms, including antique firearms, for five years. The amendment could therefore lead to a situation whereby an individual who has been imprisoned for less than three years does not receive a lifetime ban while an individual whose firearm has been lost or stolen receives a ban for life. While I fully agree that we must have robust firearms laws to preserve and maintain public safety, including safeguards to help to prevent their misuse, I am sure noble Lords will agree that our laws must be proportionate.

The inclusion on certificates of conditions governing safe storage means that firearms and shotgun certificate holders understand their responsibilities in respect of keeping their weapons secure. I am also satisfied that police forces already have the powers they need to revoke firearms or shotgun certificates in cases where the owner has lost or enabled the theft of a weapon through negligence. I hope that, having aired this important issue, the noble Lord will feel that he can withdraw his amendment.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, I do not know if my noble friend the Minister has satisfied the noble Lord, Lord Harris—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I think he looks satisfied.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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He does look satisfied; he always does. If he chose to come back with this at a later stage, and I hope he does not, he would need to consider disassembly. In the case of a bolt-action hunting rifle for taking deer, for example, if someone lost the rifle but kept the bolt then the rifle would not be much use. He will have to pay a bit of attention to that issue if he wants to bring this back.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, Clause 117 amends the definition of alcohol in Section 191 of the Licensing Act 2003. The current definition of alcohol covers:

“Spirits, wine, beer, cider or any other fermented, distilled or spirituous liquor.”

The clause adds the words “in any state” to this definition. The purpose of this is to ensure that all alcohol, no matter in which form it is sold, is covered by the requirements of the 2003 Act.

In recent years novel products have appeared for sale in licensed premises, such as vaporised alcohol, which is designed to be inhaled either directly from the air or via an inhalation device. To our knowledge, those who have sold this form of alcohol have done so under a premises licence and there have not been problems.

However, in America there is a suggestion that a new product—powdered alcohol— may come on to the market in the near future. We wish to put it beyond doubt that alcohol, whatever form it takes, may be sold only in accordance with a licence under the 2003 Act. It is important that we make this legislative change before powdered alcohol comes on to the market. This clause will ensure that any form of alcohol sold to the public is properly regulated with relevant safeguards in place.

The current system of alcohol licensing, as provided for in the 2003 Act, seeks to promote four licensing objectives. These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. The 2003 Act also contains a number of criminal offences, including selling alcohol to a child under the age of 18 and selling alcohol without a licence.

This amendment to the definition of alcohol will ensure that the four licensing objectives continue to be met despite innovations in alcohol products, and that the public, especially children, continue to be protected from irresponsible sales of alcohol. The clause will mean that there is no legal ambiguity over whether new forms of alcohol are covered by the Act and need an alcohol licence to be sold.

I recognise the concerns of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. All we know about powdered alcohol is that it is alcohol in a powdered form. There is no evidence on whether it is more harmful than liquid alcohol, and we do not know whether it could be used in more harmful ways. The Government share the noble Lord’s concern that children may be attracted to this product. These are legitimate concerns. However, removing this clause from the Bill will expose an ambiguity in the law that could be exploited by those who seek to argue that these novel forms of alcohol may be sold without a licence. The Government have not sought to ban powdered alcohol because the licensing system contains safeguards to prevent the sale of alcohol to children and to protect the public from irresponsible sales of alcohol.

Powdered alcohol was authorised for sale in the USA in March 2015, although as far as the Government are aware, it is not yet on sale in the USA or elsewhere, including online. A number of states in the USA have banned powdered alcohol amid concerns about underage drinking. If powdered alcohol does come on to the market, the Government will monitor what happens in the USA and the UK, and keep our position under review. We are currently aware of only one company developing this product. It is designed to be mixed with water or a mixer such as orange juice or Coke to make a drink of the normal strength, for example, a single shot of vodka. While the licensed trade and licensing authorities are currently treating vaporised alcohol in the same way as liquid alcohol, the Government wish to ensure that there is no doubt about the legal position.

In considering this change to the definition of alcohol, the Home Office consulted key partners at two workshops held last summer. One included representatives from the Local Government Association, the Institute of Licensing, the police and PCCs, as well as licensing officers from seven licensing authorities. The second workshop included industry partners such as the British Beer and Pub Association, the Association of Convenience Stores, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers. In these workshops there was agreement that the legal position of new forms of alcohol should be put beyond doubt. The police and local authorities were keen that licensing and enforcement decisions should be clear, while the industry representatives were keen to see clarity in the law so that alcohol licences continue to operate effectively and efficiently. In conclusion, removing the clause from the Bill would have the opposite effect to the one the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, seeks.

He asked about prisons. It may be helpful to mention that the legislative change does not affect the use of alcohol in prisons, which is prohibited. He asked what consultation we have carried out with health authorities. Home Office officials have discussed powdered alcohol with the Department of Health and Public Health England. No one has raised specific concerns about the potential harm of powdered alcohol and there is no evidence to suggest that this form of alcohol is more harmful than liquid alcohol. However, we will keep this under review if the product enters the market.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
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Does the noble Baroness agree that the question is not whether the form of alcohol—that is, powder or liquid—is more dangerous; it is the quantity of the chemical C2H5OH that is the problem? The higher the concentration, the greater the harm, so an ordinary drink spiked with powdered alcohol will be much more harmful than the drink itself because it is a question of dose-related harms.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I cannot disagree with the noble Baroness’s comments about the powdered form of alcohol. However, this obviously depends on what one compares the powder to. Some fairly lethal drinks are available. I am thinking of things such as absinthe, which was banned for years in this country. Every form of alcohol has the potential to do harm. As the relevant product is not yet on the market in this country, we will keep the situation under review.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for her support. As noble Lords might expect, I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. Alcohol in its present form is very badly regulated in a number of areas. A Health Minister is present who knows about the major problems we experience with alcohol. We need to look constantly at the Licensing Act 2003 to try to improve the situation.

Alcohol will be presented in quite a different form from anything we have experienced previously. Make no mistake—it will come. The Home Office seems to be way behind on this all the time. There is a manufacturer of this form of alcohol in Japan, where it is available, and a Dutch producer. I believe that some has been produced in Germany as well, so it is coming on to the market. The existing Licensing Act will not be able to hinder this product’s portability. That is what has changed. You can hide it and move it anywhere, whereas beer in a bottle or glass is visible. That is the distinction and that is why this new form of alcohol is so different. When we see the difficulties in places such as prisons, and the steps we are taking to reduce violence in them and stop illicit drugs going into prisons, to say that the Government will meet what is primarily the drinks industry’s requirement to have the legal position clarified, in which it has a vested interest, is the wrong way to go.

There is a solution to this problem. My proposal would not legalise this product. We could ban it. We could also for the first time consider classifying it as a class C drug. That would frighten the drinks industry to death. We could also classify alcohol in this form under the Psychoactive Substances Act. I suggest that the Minister takes the measure away and reconsiders it in those terms.

Policing and Crime Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Cabinet Office

Policing and Crime Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - part two): House of Lords
Wednesday 9th November 2016

(7 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 55-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 263KB) - (7 Nov 2016)
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab)
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My Lords, we have moved on to another part of the Bill. I should declare that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I do not serve on the licensing committee of Lewisham Council; I have enough to do on the planning committee. However, many years ago, I was a member of the licensing committee of Southwark Council. In those days, we considered only music and dance licences. One still had to apply to the magistrates’ court for a late-night alcohol licence. That has all changed and these matters are now under the control of the licensing committee.

This has been an interesting debate on four important amendments, all of which I support. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and other noble Lords made very valid points in respect of licensing authorities’ compliance with the provisions of the Equality Act. This is an issue of enforcement, rather than advice and guidance. Being able to remind licence holders of their duty is not good enough because it has not worked as effectively as it should. We should force licensed premises to be able to be used by disabled people.

My noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe spoke about the need for a duty to promote health and well-being. Local authorities have such general duties but for there to be a specific requirement in respect of licensed premises is a new initiative. He made important points about the changes to availability of alcohol and consumption patterns. They have certainly changed. My noble friend was clear and we can all think back on how many pubs have closed while alcohol is more available in convenience stores and supermarkets. Things have changed in the past 20 years. He also made important points on the duty of authorities to look after young people and protect them from harm.

As regards the promotion of cultural activity and inclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has an impressive record in this House of standing up for live music and other cultural activities. He is right to stand up for grass-roots music venues, which have launched many a career in the entertainment industry. I agree with the noble Lord that music and other activities should be helped and supported where possible through the licensing system, rather than just regulated. I recall a debate on a different subject in the Moses Room, when we talked about a range of regulations that sometimes affect people going about their lawful business and allowing them to busk and so on. Decisions on this are being taken by officials of local authorities, rather than elected members, which is worrying. It is a slightly different but similar point. I also agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said about the industry.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 210, 211 and 214A in this group seek to add to the list of licensing objectives under the Licensing Act 2003. In answer to my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s question, there are currently four such objectives. These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. The promotion of the licensing objectives is of paramount importance when authorities make licensing decisions, and each one carries equal weight.

Amendment 210 seeks to add,

“compliance with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010”,

to the list of licensing objectives. As we have heard, the amendment flows from a recommendation made by the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Committee, which reported in March. I was pleased to be able to respond in our debate on that. All four noble Baronesses who put their name to this amendment served on that committee.

The committee recommended that the Licensing Act 2003 be amended to make failure to comply with the Equality Act 2010 a ground for refusing a licence. In their response published in July, the Government argued that, as employers and businesses were already under a duty to comply with the statutory obligations imposed by the Equality Act not to discriminate against staff or customers, the Act offered sufficient protection. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate for the 2003 Act to duplicate the requirements of the 2010 Act, just as it would be inappropriate to make express reference to other legislation—such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or the Noise Act 1996—all of which places requirements and responsibilities on licensing authorities and licensees.

Moreover, if we were to apply the logic of Amendment 122 more broadly, we should also be amending the Gambling Act, and indeed many other statutes, to place analogous obligations on those undertaking other forms of regulated activity. To single out the operators of businesses licensed under the 2003 Act could be taken as downgrading the obligations on all other businesses to similarly comply with the requirements of the Equality Act. I am sure that noble Lords would not wish to give that impression.

This is not to say that those running licensed premises should not be doing more to facilitate access by disabled people. Earlier this year the Minister for Disabled People held a round table event with disabled people and the hospitality industry to lead to a better understanding by service providers and businesses and a commitment from them to improve access and attitudes. Organisations represented at the round table made pledges to improve accessibility to their premises and improve their customer service for disabled people. For example, the British Beer and Pub Association pledged to update and promote its guidance on accessibility in pubs. This gives pubs advice on easy changes they can make to improve their service to disabled customers. These are very practical steps which will help to improve the day-to-day experiences of disabled people.

Amendment 211, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, seeks to add an additional licensing objective,

“to promote the health and wellbeing of the locality and local area”.

The Government are not unsympathetic to those who believe that there should be a greater role for public health within the licensing system, and we of course acknowledge the health harms attributable to alcohol. However, decisions under the Licensing Act have to be proportionate and made on a case-by-case basis. Unless it can be demonstrated that an application for a new licence is likely to undermine one or more of the licensing objectives, the licensing authority must grant the licence. The Government believe that any new licensing objective would need to be capable of standing alongside the existing objectives and function in the same way. Any new objective must therefore enable licensing authorities to determine whether it is appropriate to grant or refuse new applications, review licences and attach conditions or revoke licences.

Previous work has shown that it is difficult to establish direct causal links between alcohol-related health harms such as chronic liver disease and particular premises. Difficulties also remain with putting in place the necessary processes to enable the collection of such evidence—without which decisions based on health grounds would be unlikely to stand up to challenge. Work to date has established that the types of health data that are more readily accessible and most suited to use in a licensing context tend to relate to acute harms such as violent assaults and alcohol-related injuries. These harms, as well as most factors affecting well-being, such as crime levels and the welfare of children, can already be addressed through the existing licensing objectives, as demonstrated by the achievements of areas such as the Kensington area of Liverpool, Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

The Government will therefore continue working with Public Health England to facilitate access to local health data to inform decision-making within the current framework and to help public health teams play a role within licensing. Public Health England has also been testing a support package to assist with the development of local data collection and analysis based on lessons learned from the evidence-based work carried out in 2014-15. I assure the noble Lord that the Government continue to look at this matter seriously and will consider the findings of Public Health England.

Amendment 214A seeks to add,

“the promotion of cultural activity and inclusion”,

to the licensing objectives. This would require licensing authorities to consider the character of licensable activities, rather than purely protect against the potential harm caused by licensable activity. The existing licensing objectives seek to reduce harm that can be evidenced, and licence conditions which are intended to reduce the level of harm can be easily understood—for example, a requirement to restrict noise levels to prevent public nuisance.

It would be difficult to replicate this for “cultural activity and inclusion”, since this is quite a subjective matter and may be interpreted in different ways. For example, would a festival of Hindi films or Irish dance be considered good or bad in terms of cultural activity and inclusion? Making this a licensing objective could place licensing authorities in a censorious position, whereby licensees organising events might be obliged to explain what additional cultural value their entertainment might generate, and the licensing authorities would be required to evaluate that information.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment 212, seeks to add child protection bodies to the list of statutory consultees for statements of licensing policy. Each licensing authority is required to publish a statement of licensing policy and to revise it at least every five years. The statement sets out the general approach to making licensing decisions and managing the evening and night-time economy in the area.

Section 5(3) of the 2003 Act sets out a list of organisations and individuals who must be consulted when the statement is reviewed. The list includes the police, the fire and rescue authority and the public health body, but it is not intended to be exhaustive and therefore does not include all the responsible authorities. The 2003 Act does not prevent licensing authorities from consulting other bodies or persons as they see appropriate.

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Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones
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My Lords, I am not quite sure that the Minister has answered anything to do with Amendment 214A.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I did. It may be that it was so dull a response that the noble Lord did not catch it. Shall I put it in writing and send it to him?

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones
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I shall read her response, but it was very short.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, Amendment 214C, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, reduces the legal alcohol limits in England and Wales to match the limits introduced by the Scottish Government on 5 December 2014.

My noble friend Lord Harris made a particularly powerful point in respect of deaths caused through drink-driving. I am very supportive of this amendment, as I think we need tough laws on drinking and driving that are effectively enforced.

I also think that it would be quite good to have the same limit across the whole of Great Britain, and ideally the whole of the United Kingdom. This would make it much easier to understand for everyone concerned. I am also not against having a lower limit for commercial drivers and novices.

There is clear evidence that a reduction in the drink-drive limits would save lives. No one has said that is not the case. We have the highest limits in Europe. Only Malta has the same drink-drive limit we have in this country. The limit introduced by the Scottish Government is the same one that is in force in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Switzerland. So the case is powerful. In none of these countries is there a problem with the limit being effective.

The second amendment in the group, again in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and my noble friend Lord Brooke, seeks to create a lower limit for novice and professional drivers. Again, I think that this is something we should consider. Many countries have this. That is certainly the case in many of the countries I read out, including Ireland and North Ireland. I think that it is important, if you are a professional or a novice driver, to have a lower limit.

I passed my driving test 36 years ago. I remember getting my first car—you are let loose and you are in there on your own. If you think about it, you are not very experienced at that point. Therefore it would be a good to enforce a lower limit. The fact is that our limits are comparatively high. I hope the Minister will respond to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. It is very good, and I hope that we will get a positive response from the Government. If not, I hope that the noble Baroness will bring it back on Report. I assure her that if she wants to test the opinion of the House at that point, we will support her.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I know that these amendments relate to concerns around the Government’s approach to drink-driving limits, particularly in light of changes in the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and, more recently, with a proposed change in Malta to lower the drink-drive limit. First, I emphasise that tackling drink-driving is a priority for the Government and that, together with the police, we continue to take robust enforcement action against this reckless behaviour.

Other countries may have a lower alcohol limit, but they do not necessarily have a better record on reducing drink-drive casualties. While it is difficult to make direct comparisons, some stark contrasts clearly exist between ourselves and our European neighbours. Estonia, for example, with a population of 1.3 million, has a limit of 20 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood and carries out 10 times more breath tests than we do in Great Britain. Yet 160 people died there in 2014 as a result of drink-driving. That rate is 30 times greater per head than in Britain. Closer to home, we can look at France. With a similar population to us, it suffers nearly four times the drink-drive fatalities that we do. Even taking into account those cases that fall between its limit and ours, we perform significantly better.

In many of these countries a first drink-drive offence gets you a fine and some penalty points. Indeed, in Northern Ireland they intend to bring in a fixed penalty notice regime. They will hand out penalty points to those offenders found to be over the new limit but under the old one. There is no appetite amongst the public or road safety groups in England and Wales to reduce the penalties and not disqualify offenders who flout the law. Nor would we wish to create in the minds of potential offenders the thought that they might get only a fine and penalty points and so encourage them to drink and drive.

In England and Wales, the success we have had in tackling drink-driving has been down to the severe penalties, rigorously enforced and backed up with hard-hitting campaigns, which now make this behaviour utterly socially unacceptable. Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world because we crack down on those who break the law. Last year we made it a requirement for those convicted of drink-driving offences to undertake medical tests to ensure they are not still dependent on alcohol before they are allowed to drive again.

The same legislation, the Deregulation Act 2015, also made an important change to drink-driving laws by removing the so-called “statutory option”, which allowed drivers who provided a breath test that was slightly in excess of the prescribed limit to demand a blood or urine test back at the station. By removing this provision, individuals have been denied the chance to sober up and so drop below the prescribed limit while waiting for a blood or urine sample to be taken.

Yes, there is always more to be done, but harmonisation with other countries with a poorer record of tackling drink-driving is not a reason in itself to lower the limit.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In this debate no one has said that we want to lower the penalties—just to lower the limits. We have a good record in this country, and I give credit to our police service for that. The noble Baroness’s amendment is asking only to reduce the limits. She did not talk about penalties or enforcement, and, of course, as my noble friend Lord Harris said, if we looked at the number of deaths caused under the limit enforced now and above the proposed limit, we could save more lives.

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Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, I understand the argument but the difficulty is that those offences could just be caused by people making a stupid mistake and I am not sure that lowering the limit would solve the problem.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, can I intervene on myself? I totally understand what noble Lords are saying. I am not trying to compare us to other countries but to demonstrate that where there is a combination of factors, such as enforcement and type of penalty regime, different results are thrown up. It is not just the drink-drive limit that has an effect, albeit that we have, of course, reduced ours—our enforcement is also very strong. I hope I have made it clear that it is not just the limit that is important but other factors, too. I am now going to provide a bit more detail, which noble Lords will be relieved to hear.

The Department for Transport collects coroners’ data. Of drivers killed on the road, over 72% have little or no alcohol in their systems—and I am talking here about 0 to 9 milligrams of alcohol, which must be less than a sip of a glass of red wine. So, the vast majority of drivers killed on the road have no or little alcohol in their system; I will leave noble Lords to conclude why. Just over 3% have a blood alcohol content between 20 and 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, while a similar proportion, just under 3%, were found to have between 50 and 80 milligrams. However, the proportion of drivers killed jumps significantly to 17% for those with above 80 milligrams in their systems. This is the evidence that shows us where the risk lies and therefore where we should target our efforts. But I emphasise that statistic about drivers killed on the road who have virtually no alcohol in their system—perhaps their deaths are a result of being elderly or less able to react to what is happening around them, but noble Lords will reach their own conclusions.

We do not, however, tolerate drug-impaired driving, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about. That is why we introduced the new drug-driving offence in March 2015, setting specified limits for 17 drugs. The police are having success in taking these dangerous drivers off our roads and we are on target to convict over 7,000 drug drivers in 2016 compared to 879 in 2014. Indeed, 20% of drug-drivers convicted between 2009 and 2014 had previous drink-driving convictions. Our evaluation of the new drug-driving law has also highlighted just how dangerous these drivers are: 63% of those convicted in 2015 under the new Section 5A law had a previous conviction; 22% were serial offenders with more than 11 offences to their name. It means that we will be taking more than 1,500 drug- driving offenders who are also serial offenders off our roads this year.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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The Minister said that the statistics on what is happening in Scotland will be available shortly. Is she telling the Committee that the UK Government will evaluate them when they become available?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the UK Government will look at them with great interest. There may be compelling evidence that comes out of them. Basically, the Government will look at them when they come out.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee
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My Lords, it seems that we will have to wait a very long time for these statistics, until summer next year. It is possible that I am wrong in my position and that the statistics will tell us so. Is there nothing that can be done to speed up the production of the statistics? Perhaps the Minister would like to write to me on that point rather than answering straightaway.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, we do not really have any jurisdiction to tell Scotland what to do about getting the statistics. I hope that they will be ready as soon as possible.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, for putting their names to the amendment—and for noble Lords making the most of the generous rules in Committee for debating this issue. I agree with my noble friend the Minister that changing the law will not change anything if we do not then support it with a campaign to make people aware. Clearly, we now have a cross-border issue anyway. We need to make people aware that there is a difference in the law as they drive over the border from Cumbria or Northumberland into Scotland.

I agree with my noble friend that it is clear from the statistics that risk increases exponentially over the 80 milligram limit. However, that is not to say that under that limit there is not a risk with which we need to deal. To say that we are just targeting the most dangerous individuals does not give any reassurance to an affected family member. We need to look at this again.

My noble friend outlined the figures from coroners about drivers killed on the roads. Because of the complex factors that I outlined on the law, enforcement and the safety of vehicles, 60% of the people who are now injured or killed are not the driver of the vehicle concerned. People should be able to walk or cycle down the street and not be concerned that there are people with an amount of alcohol in their blood that affects their safety. That is why we do not look at the limit over which risk rises exponentially for train drivers and airline pilots. We say that they cannot drink. Why, then, do we have a different attitude on the roads? That is not sustainable.

As a lawyer, I do take into account the argument of my noble friend Lord Attlee who asks whether we can prove beyond reasonable doubt that taking this limit down from 80 to 50 will definitely save lives. I cannot prove this to an absolute certainty, but on at least the balance of probabilities. Reducing the limit from 80 to 50 in Switzerland—and the Swiss are known for being compliant people—produced evidence of a reduction in injuries and deaths. There is evidence out there to say that if we reduced the limit along with maintaining compliance, telling people and promoting messages, we would, with very little effort, stand an incredibly good chance of reducing the number of deaths on our roads.

This is an amendment for which the Police Federation are asking. The police are our enforcement. I commend their enforcement as well as the amazing medical care that is all part of this picture. However, we now need to play our role. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend the Minster will go away and reflect. Although the Chamber is not well populated and we have not heard from the often influential Cross-Benchers on this matter, the feeling in this Committee is that this is something that we could do and that at this stage we have enough evidence to change the law. Now is the right time of year.

I thank my noble friend the Minister. I hope that we shall hear of a change of position but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
214D: Before Schedule 16, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULE 15ALATE NIGHT LEVY REQUIREMENTS1 Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (late night levy) is amended as follows.2 (1) Section 126 (“relevant late night authorisation” and related definitions) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (2)—(a) for ““Relevant late night authorisation”” substitute ““Relevant late night alcohol authorisation”;(b) after “licensing authority” insert “, a late night levy requirement”;(c) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “(whether or not it also authorises the provision of late night refreshment at a time or times during such a period)”.(3) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) “Relevant late night refreshment authorisation”, in relation to a licensing authority, a late night levy requirement and a levy year, means a premises licence which— (a) is granted by the authority, (b) authorises the provision of late night refreshment at a time or times during the late night supply period on one or more days in the related payment year, and(c) does not also authorise the supply of alcohol at a time or times during any such period.”(4) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) Where a licensing authority decides under section 125(2) to apply a late night levy requirement in respect of both relevant late night alcohol authorisations and relevant late night refreshment authorisations, the licensing authority may determine under section 132(1)—(a) a single late night levy period that is to apply in respect of both kinds of authorisations, or(b) two late night levy periods, one of which to is to apply in respect of relevant late night alcohol authorisations and the other of which is to apply in respect of relevant late night refreshment authorisations.”(5) In subsection (5), for “The late night supply period” substitute “A late night supply period”.(6) In subsection (8)—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) omit “in its area”.3 (1) Section 127 (liability to pay late night levy) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)—(a) for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) after “the area” insert “or part of the area”;(c) for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which the requirement relates”.(3) In subsection (2), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which the requirement relates”.(4) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) In addition, if the requirement relates to a late night authorisation that is a relevant late night refreshment authorisation, the holder of the authorisation is not liable to pay the late night levy for a levy year if only hot drinks are supplied (or held out for supply) in reliance on the authorisation during the levy year.”(5) In subsection (3), for “in its area” substitute “in relation to the late night levy requirement”.4 (1) Section 128 (amount of late night levy) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1) after “For” insert “any levy requirement and”.(3) In subsection (2), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”.(4) In subsection (3)—(a) after “in relation to” insert “a late night levy requirement and”;(b) for “in its area” substitute “in relation to the late night levy requirement”.(5) In subsection (4)—(a) for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”;(b) after “the same” insert “, in respect of all late night levy requirements”; (c) for “the levy” substitute “a levy”;(d) omit “for the levy year”. 5 (1) Section 129 (payment and administration of the levy) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), in the closing words, for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”.(3) In subsection (2)—(a) for “the levy” substitute “a levy”;(b) for “relevant late night authorisations” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”.(4) In subsection (4)—(a) in paragraph (a), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”;(b) in paragraph (b), for “a relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a late night authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”;(c) in paragraph (c), for “the relevant late night authorisation” substitute “a relevant late night alcohol authorisation to which a late night levy requirement relates”;(d) in the closing words, for “the levy year” substitute “the levy year in question”.(5) In subsection (5), for “the late night levy” substitute “a late night levy”.(6) In subsection (6), in the closing words, for “the late night levy” (in both places where it occurs) substitute “a late night levy”.6 (1) Section 130 (net amount of levy payments) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), after “In this Chapter” insert “, in relation to a late night levy requirement,”.(3) In subsection (3), for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”.(4) In subsection (5), in the opening words, at the beginning insert “In relation to a late night levy requirement,”.7 (1) Section 131 (application of net amount of levy payments) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), at the beginning insert “In relation to a late night levy requirement,”.(3) After subsection (4) insert—“(4A) The licensing authority must publish information as to how it applies the remainder of the net amount mentioned in subsection (2)(b).(4B) The information must be published at least once in each calendar year during which any part of the remainder is applied.(4C) It is for the licensing authority to determine the manner in which the information is published.”(4) In subsection (6)(b), for “in respect of the levy” substitute “in respect of a levy”.8 (1) Section 132 (introduction of late night levy requirement) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)—(a) in the opening words, for “the late night levy requirement” substitute “a late night levy requirement”;(b) in those words, omit “in its area”;(c) in paragraph (b)—(i) in sub-paragraph (i), after “period” insert “or periods (as to which see section 126(3A))”;(ii) in sub-paragraph (ii), omit “in its area”; (iii) in sub-paragraph (iii), omit “in its area”.9 (1) Section 133 (amendment of late night levy requirement) is amended as follows. (2) In subsection (1)— (a) in the opening words, for the words from the beginning to “section 125,”