Most important of all, the agencies’ job now begins to look more possible. Even some members of the Intelligence and Security Committee have been critical of the agencies. The right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) criticised the agencies, saying that they seem unable to deal with the thousands of suspects that they have in front of them and to sift them in such a way that they can find the ones who are really dangerous. That is what happened in 7/7, 21/7 and in the terrible murder of Lee Rigby. This tool will give us a powerful anti-terrorism weapon and make the job easier to do. It will reduce the size of the target and, at the end of the day, deliver justice. I take the view that one of the most important things that we can do with would-be terrorists and actual terrorists is to convict them in a court of law so that their own communities understand what they have been planning and then punish them properly and take them out of circulation so that they are no longer a threat to the public. We need to take this matter incredibly seriously. Frankly, it is more important than most of the

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other issues in this Bill, except perhaps for Prevent. The Government should get a grip of this issue after 30 years of indecision.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) on his consistent approach to this matter. I wholeheartedly support new clause 3, and hope that he brings it back on Report. I still cannot comprehend why intercept evidence has not been used. I have never had a satisfactory response to that in all the debates we have had.

Let me turn now to amendments 8, 9 and 10, which stand in my name. I bring the Committee back to the debates we have been having throughout this Bill and that we had during the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. I am talking about the protection of professionals, journalists in particular, who have a duty of confidentiality and secrecy. Let me remind Members of the background to this. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has been used as a device to avoid the requirement in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 for judicial authority to undertake police investigations of the operation of journalists in particular, which also means collecting data on them.

There is currently a case before the courts involving six journalists. Despite frequent freedom of information requests, there has been a complete inability to find out how much RIPA has been used by the police to investigate journalists. That puts journalists at risk, undermines the relationship that they have with their sources and puts their sources at risk.

In addition to that concern, which is now being addressed by the courts, there is the issue with regard to the European Court of Justice, which struck down the EU data retention directive. That directive explicitly recognised the importance of data retention in preventing and detecting crime. It also stated that one of the 10 principles that a state must abide by is to

“provide exceptions for persons whose communications are subject to an obligation of professional secrecy.”

The Minister helpfully allowed me, National Union of Journalists representatives and its solicitor to meet officials to discuss his earlier indication that the data acquisition code of practice would be amended to ensure that where there are concerns relating to professions that handle privileged or confidential information, such as journalism, law enforcement should give additional consideration to the level of intrusion.

The Minister kindly published the guidance last week. It is now out for consultation, which I welcome. Paragraph 3.74 states that

“applicants, giving special consideration to necessity and proportionality, must draw attention to any such circumstances that might lead to an unusual degree of intrusion or infringement of privacy, and clearly note when an application is made for the communications data of a medical doctor, lawyer, journalist, Member of Parliament, or minister of religion. Particular care must be taken by designated persons when considering such applications.”

I think that is really helpful. It does not go as far as the NUJ and others wanted, which was judicial oversight or approval in some form, but at least it gives us the basis for special considerations being taken into account with regard to journalists and others.

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My amendments would simply strengthen the role of the privacy and civil liberties board, or whatever title we give it tonight as a result of various amendments. Amendment 8 would ensure that the Secretary of State publishes regulations under section (3) that include a provision requiring the board to undertake an inquiry into the retention of and access to data relating to professions that operate under a duty of confidentiality. That would allow the privacy and civil liberties board to look at how the new code of practice is operating and report on what impact it is having on the operation of journalists and those in the other professions.

Amendment 9 seeks to amend the regulations so that the membership of the board includes representatives of those professions that operate under a duty of confidentiality. In that way, we would ensure some overview of the new code of practice and of the implications for journalists and others. In addition, the voice of journalists and others in professions that operate under this duty of confidentiality would be represented and heard on the civil liberties board when it advises the Secretary of State on the overall operation of this legislation.

The amendments are in the spirit of trying to find, as we have done throughout our considerations of the Bill and the debate on DRIPA, a balance between ensuring that the authorities can investigate appropriate crime, including terrorism, and protecting those professions that work under this duty of confidentiality. It is a serious matter for journalists. There is a real concern that it might undermine their operation and put them at risk, but it would also undermine the ability of whistleblowers and others to come forward and put them at risk. As we have seen in recent cases, that might now be tested in the courts.

I do not intend to press my amendments to the vote. They put forward some points for debate. Hopefully we will get a positive response from the Minister on the inclusion of at least some review, but also perhaps representation on the board.

James Brokenshire: Let me first address that last point from the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). Obviously we touched on that during our previous consideration of the Bill with regard to the code of practice under DRIPA, which has now been published, and I welcome his comments on that. We look forward to receiving feedback from him and from the NUJ on their views about our proposals as part of the consultation exercise. I understand his desire to see further scrutiny and challenge. Indeed, that examination remains ongoing on a number of different fronts. The interception of communications commissioner is carrying out a review in that area, which he intends to complete by 31 January next year. I repeat that we will of course want to consider his recommendations when we come to finalising the code, along with any other comments received. This is an important area that we have already debated. As I made clear on that occasion and am happy to reiterate, the Government recognise the importance of a free press and are determined that nothing should be done that might jeopardise that.

It is notable that the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is examining the issue more broadly. The civil liberties and oversight panel is intended to support the independent reviewer in some of his work. The Home

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Affairs Committee has provided its thoughts in relation to this issue, and Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee is looking more broadly at privacy and liberty. We look forward to receiving its report in due course, which may well touch on some of the themes that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington brought to the Committee this afternoon. Although I think his amendment is not necessary in the context of the debate today, I can reassure him about the level of scrutiny and examination that is being given to these essential points. I look forward to continuing the discussion of the matter.

On clause 36 and the Opposition amendments, the privacy and civil liberties oversight board is intended to support the independent reviewer and in so doing will provide much-needed capacity to allow the reviewer to consider a wider range of subjects than it is currently possible for one individual to undertake. However, it is right that we ensure that the statutory functions and objectives of the board are in line with those of the role it is designed to support.

Clause 36 provides for regulations to be made that would set out the detail of the board, including provisions about its composition, functions and appointment. These regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure. Clearly, this is an important matter and any changes to existing oversight must be carefully considered—the point that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) rightly highlighted. That is why the Government will publish a full public consultation that invites comments on the proposals and provides an opportunity for all interested parties to influence key elements of the board, including its composition and appointment, some of the rights of access to documentation and the structure of the membership.

We will carefully consider the outcome of the consultation prior to bringing forward the regulations. We will invite comments on key elements relating to the organisation, membership, appointment and work programme of the board. Clause 36 already provides, subject to the outcome of the consultation exercise, that regulations may include provision about any number of the most important considerations relating to the board. That would allow the matters addressed in the amendments to be dealt with in the regulations, should it be appropriate to do so.

Lady Hermon: Even though part 5 does not extend to Northern Ireland, I would welcome a guarantee from the Minister that there will be at least one representative from every region of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has, unfortunately, a huge wealth of experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. A guarantee that there will be a member from Northern Ireland on the new board would be very helpful and reassuring indeed.

James Brokenshire: I recognise the knowledge and expertise that reside in Northern Ireland. The independent reviewer has made a number of visits to Northern Ireland to satisfy himself about the application of a number of items of terrorist legislation pertaining to Northern Ireland. In the support that the board provides to the independent reviewer, it will look at those functions.

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I have heard clearly the hon. Lady’s representation and when the consultation is launched, I encourage her to make representations for the appropriate changes.

The consultation will invite views on the important matter of the work programme—a point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North. The Bill provides that the privacy and civil liberties board will support the statutory functions of the independent review. Its remit is therefore in line with this aim. Should the statutory remit of the independent review change in the future, this would be reflected in the role of the board. The appointments will, of course, be undertaken in accordance with best practice, but until we have decided exactly how appointments are to be made, it would be premature to prescribe the process unduly.

I turn to some of the other amendments tabled by the hon. Lady. The name of the board properly respects privacy and civil liberties. The aspects she referred to, such as broadening its scope, relate to matters of privacy and civil liberty. We therefore judge that the name of the board properly reflects its process of independent scrutiny of counter-terrorism powers to ensure that the balance is right.

On the consequential amendments, amendment 19 addresses a point that we recognise in terms of how this may apply to other related matters, including the devolved matters that the hon. Lady highlighted. In practice, we would consult devolved Administrations. However, although Parliament and, in this case, the Secretary of State could still legislate, I can see the case for statutory consultation. Accordingly, I have some sympathy with what the amendment seeks to achieve, and I do not believe that we have a particular difference of view. Therefore, if she would be minded to withdraw her amendment, I would like to reflect on how we might best achieve the objective that I think we both share.

6.45 pm

On the ISC, the Justice and Security Act 2013 expanded the Committee’s role and remit, including formalising its role in overseeing the wider intelligence community. The budget has been doubled to £1.3 million per year, and that is reported on in more detail in the ISC’s annual report. This additional funding has strengthened the ISC, as is already being seen in the work it has undertaken in its scrutiny of the agencies through the new powers. As recently as 25 November, the ISC laid before Parliament a memorandum of understanding, which, in addition to addressing certain matters in the Justice and Security Act, sets out the overarching principles governing the relationship between the Committee and the parts of government that it oversees, including its remit and powers. It is important that we allow the new memorandum of understanding to bed down properly before we institute another review. Therefore, I am not currently minded to accept the hon. Lady’s amendments.

New clause 3 was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), who has had to step out of the Chamber. That is not intended to be any discourtesy to me in seeking to respond, and he has sent his apologies. I am grateful to him for tabling the new clause, which gives me the opportunity to debate an important issue that is recognised by many Members across the Committee. I think we all start from the same position that people who have

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committed a crime should be prosecuted and brought to justice. Anything that might make a successful prosecution less likely in cases where a person is guilty is clearly less than ideal and should be contemplated only where there is very good reason. The Government are committed to securing the maximum number of convictions in terrorism and serious crime cases. If a viable regime were identified, the introduction of intercept evidence might help us to do that. For that reason, the Government have sought to find a practical way to allow us to use intercept evidence in court.

A further review of the issue has been undertaken—the eighth in 21 years. It has been overseen by a cross-party group of Privy Counsellors, including the right hon. Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Mr Woodward) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), who is in the Chamber, as well as Sir John Chilcot and a former Home Secretary, the noble Lord Howard. I am sure that the whole Committee will recognise the breadth of experience and wisdom to be found in that group. The review will be published imminently. I hope that its findings will help further to inform consideration of this legally complex issue, which is crucially important for the UK’s national security. It is vital that all options are thoroughly explored and assessed. It would be wrong at this stage to seek to make the change that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden proposed, albeit that it was a probing amendment more than anything else.

This will probably be my last opportunity to speak in the Committee. I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their thoughtful and constructive contributions to our three days of discussions and debate on the Floor of the House, which have added to the Bill. I have very much enjoyed taking part, and I look forward to continuing a number of these debates when we return on Report.

Diana Johnson: I listened to what the Minister said, in particular, about the amendments on clause 36. While I will not press them to a vote, I am minded to reserve our position until we return after the Christmas break. I thank everybody for their contributions to the Bill’s Committee stage on the Floor of the House, and wish everybody a very merry Christmas. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 36 to 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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Clause 42


Amendment made: 12, page 25, line 3, at end insert—

“() section 18(10);”—(James Brokenshire.)

Clause 42, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill, as amended, reported.

Bill to be considered tomorrow.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I understand that references have been made during the course of today’s proceedings to the atrocities that have occurred in Pakistan. The latest information is that 141 have been murdered in Pakistan, of whom 132 were children aged between five and 14. As we would all agree, this has undoubtedly been an act of murderous inhumanity.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise this point of order not just to give the latest information, but to ask you whether there is any way in which the House can express its horror at and condemnation of what has occurred in Pakistan. It is an act of terror carried out —and recognised and admitted as such—by the Taliban. I hope that it will be possible for such condemnation to be expressed by the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am sure that he is aware that I am not strictly in a position to say precisely when or by what means the House will be given the opportunity to express, on behalf of the people of this country, its feelings about what has happened in Pakistan. However, I am quite certain that those on the Treasury Bench have listened to what he said. Indeed, Members referred to this matter during the debates on terrorism this afternoon.

May I on behalf of the House say that I am sure that every Member of the House, on behalf of the people whom we represent, would wish to express our absolute horror and enormous sadness at this terrible atrocity? We are used to seeing dreadful acts of terrorism, but rarely have we seen such an awful act of terrorism against children. I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing the matter to the attention of the House. I am quite sure that the House will, at some point in the very near future, have the opportunity to address this matter.

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Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill (Money)

Queen’s consent signified.

6.53 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Penny Mordaunt): I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.

May I associate myself with your remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker?

The Government are keen that the Bill should move forward, and the passing of the money resolution is an important step in that process. The costs to local authorities of implementing the new freedoms in the Bill—to include prayers as part of official business, and to facilitate and support activities with a religious dimension—are seen as a new head of expenditure to be met out of the grants that authorities already receive from central Government. The motion refers to payments under other Acts being increased as a result of the Bill because, technically, a new head of expenditure is a notional increase for the purposes of Commons financial procedure, even though it might not, in fact, give rise to an increase in expenditure.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) for his work on the Bill. The House last debated it on 21 November, when the Government’s support for the Bill was made clear. We support allowing the members of local authorities the freedom to pray if they wish to and making this a matter of local choice once again.

We consider the provisions in the Bill to be important. They right a wrong decision that was taken by the High Court when it ruled that councils had no power to carry on the centuries-old tradition of holding prayers at their meetings. The costs associated with the provisions are negligible. The Bill will not compel anyone to pray or any local authority to include prayers in their official business, nor does it define what constitutes prayer. The Bill will ensure that local authorities can support, facilitate and be represented at events with a religious element. Again, nothing in the Bill will compel a local authority to do anything that it cannot already do, such as organise a Remembrance Sunday event safely by closing a road for a short time. Rather, it protects local authorities from those with an axe to grind, who might wish to challenge such a decision. As far as local authorities are concerned, we expect any new expenditure to be negligible.

I commend the motion to the House.

6.56 pm

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): I shall speak briefly in support of the money resolution to my Bill. There was no opportunity to speak on Second Reading, so I want to put on the record my thanks to the Minister and her officials in the Box, and to colleagues across the House who have agreed to serve on the Public Bill Committee in the coming weeks and to support the Bill’s passage through the House.

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I believe that putting the freedom to pray on a statutory footing for all local authorities is an important issue for elected representatives who serve communities across the UK. I want to put on record my thanks to all councillors—from county councillors to parish councillors —for the work that they do in the community on our behalf.

Finally, I am delighted to be able to take the Bill through Parliament and to protect people’s freedom to pray, because it is an important issue. As we approach Christmas, the celebration of the birth of who I believe to be the Prince of Peace, all elected officials might like to reflect that there may be more power in prayer than in any stroke of a Minister’s pen or ruling from the Chair, and that this Bill, which seeks to protect people’s freedom to pray, will enable people of all religious beliefs to seek guidance in their deliberations in elected office.

6.58 pm

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): I rise to speak in support of the Bill. As we know, it came about owing to a successful challenge of Bideford town council’s practice of having religious prayers on its meeting agendas. The decision of the High Court in 2012 was that a local authority had no power to hold prayers as part of its formal business. The Bill will confirm unequivocally that prayers, religious observances or even philosophical observations may take place as part of the business of local authorities in England and Wales.

I welcome the fact that the Bill is not prescriptive. It will leave it to local communities to determine what, if any, observances are appropriate to them; where they should be placed on the agenda; and whether they should be faith-based or otherwise. We must see this as a matter of local choice. Religious observance is a matter where local choice should prevail and in respect of which the virtues of tolerance, sensitivity and community well-being should shine through.

This is a short, two-clause Bill with a simple intention that does not seem to conflict with the most liberal of expectations. It will enable local authorities of all types to include prayers if they wish to. It is not prescriptive, but enabling. I am content, on behalf of the Opposition, to wish the Bill and its purposes well.

Question put and agreed to.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Constitutional Law

That the draft Government of Wales Act 2006 (Amendment) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 5 November, be approved.—(Mel Stride.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Tribunals and Inquiries

That the draft Transfer of Tribunal Functions (Transport Tribunal) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 November, be approved.—(Mel Stride.)

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Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Corporation Tax

That the draft Changes in Accounting Standards (Loan Relationships and Derivative Contracts) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 17 November, be approved.—(Mel Stride.)

Question agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With the leave of the House we shall take motions 7 to 10 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Banks and Banking

That the draft Banking Act 2009, (Mandatory Compensation Arrangements Following Bail-in) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 24 November, be approved.

That the draft Banks and Building Societies (Depositor Preference and Priorities) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 24 November, be approved.

That the draft Banking Act 2009 (Restriction of Special Bail-in Provision, etc.) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 24 November, be approved.

That the draft Bank Recovery and Resolution Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 24 November, be approved.—(Mel Stride.)

Question agreed to.


Unsolicited phone calls and texts

7.1 pm

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): I present this petition having heard the concerns and personal examples of my constituents, particularly those from the areas of Southway, Estover and Budshead, who have been affected by persistent nuisance phone calls and—even worse—phone and text scams.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the Plymouth Moor View constituency and others,

Declares that the Petitioners would like the Government to provide additional powers to the Information Commissioner to stop the scourge of nuisance texts and phone calls; further declares that these calls are unsolicited but can result in the recipient being inconvenienced and charged when abroad.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review the current law on cold and marketing calls and texts.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Closure of Glenburn Sports College

7.2 pm

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): Parents, pupils and members of the wider Skelmersdale community are opposed to the possible closure of Glenburn sports college that is currently being consulted on by Lancashire county council. People have marched through the town

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in protest and signed petitions, and the message in their consultation submission is clear: pupils and parents do not believe that closing the school is in the best interests of pupils. Delivering high-quality education unlocks choice and opportunity for our children and young people, and we strive for the best quality education that we can get. To achieve that goal there needs to be a comprehensive review of education across the town, and a desire to invest in the futures of those young people. To that end, I bring a petition to the House of Commons from the residents of West Lancashire and others.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of West Lancashire,

Declares that there are plans to close Glenburn Sports College; further that the Petitioners do not support the closure of Glenburn Sports College but wish to keep it as the local school in the Skelmersdale area; further that the Petitioners deplore the high-handed way that Lancashire County Council decided to consult on the possible closure of the school; and further that a local petition on this matter was signed by 2,759 individuals.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Lancashire County Council to have a genuine consultation about the possible closure of Glenburn Sports College in order to listen to the pupils and parents of the school and to explain the decision-making process behind the plans to close the school; and further request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Lancashire County Council to give time and support to Glenburn Sports College to enable the school to improve its performance and financial position.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Treatment for Gastroparesis

7.4 pm

Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): I am presenting a petition on behalf of my constituent Lauren Dobbe who is 14 years old. After many tests, she has been diagnosed with a disease called gastroparesis. There is a treatment: a gastric stimulator, which acts like a pacemaker. It is not a cure, but it helps with the symptoms. Unfortunately NHS England, which is responsible for funding this procedure, is dragging its feet. In addition to this petition, there is an online petition with more than 1,149 signatures from residents in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park. I am asking for common sense and compassion, and that NHS England act on the advice of four specialists and fund the treatment to give Lauren the most precious gift at Christmas—a normal teenage life.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that Lauren Dobbe suffers from Gastroparesis which causes her to be sick and suffer pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and requires her to be tube fed which denies her a normal teenage life; further that NHS England is causing unnecessary suffering and misery to Lauren and her family by delaying the use of a proven medical intervention to treat her Gastroparesis; further that the Petitioners regret that NHS England has failed to properly assess the case for funding the fitting of a Gastric Stimulator which would act like a pacemaker helping to control symptoms and would allow Lauren to eat normally; and further that this has happened despite the recommendations of four specialists and the second opinion sought by NHS England confirming the recommendations of the specialists.

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The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons asks the Government to urge NHS England to review the application and make funding available for the fitting of a Gastric Stimulator for Lauren Dobbe and further request that the House of Commons asks the Government to urge NHS England to recognise that a failure to provide the procedure would condemn Lauren to a life being fed by tube, ignoring her wishes as well as those of her family and the independent and expert advice of clinical specialists.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. [P001414]

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Bombardment of the Hartlepools

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mel Stride.)

7.6 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): Exactly 100 years today, the towns of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool were attacked by German forces. This is probably the single most momentous day in my constituency’s history, a day which for ever altered civilian life and the way in which modern warfare is conducted. The bombardment of the Hartlepools has been remembered and commemorated ever since, none more so than today, its centenary. A beautiful and poignant ceremony took place in Hartlepool this morning, at the precise time when the shells starting raining down on the innocent people of the town. I particularly want to thank John, Mandy and Charlotte Southcott of the Heugh Gun Battery Trust for their tireless efforts, but there are countless others who made the commemoration events today so special. On behalf of the House, I thank them all.

It is a huge honour for me to be able to mark the centenary in this House and to ensure that Parliament has the chance to reflect on this important event in our country’s history. I am pleased that the Minister is in her place to respond to the debate, and I am particularly touched that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) is in his place on the Opposition Front Bench.

By the last weeks of 1914, the great war had been fought for four months. In that time it had descended into stalemate. From Calais to the Swiss border the allied forces and their German counterparts faced each other in dank, dangerous and rat-infested trenches. Countless attacks and raids had brought death and injury to thousands of soldiers, but had not been accompanied by any strategic breakthrough or military advance.

In the space of a few short weeks in that short-lived optimism of summer 1914, Lord Kitchener, the new Secretary of State for War and darling poster boy of the British empire, had been able to raise, from a standing start, the first 100,000 recruits for a land army. German high command feared that the additional substantial resources on the western front, once operational, had the potential to inflict disproportionate damage on the German army. High commands in London, Paris and Berlin were anxious and frustrated, and sought alternative strategies that might give them the upper hand.

In the very week of the bombardment of the Hartlepools, Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was considering a direct attack on Germany by the Royal Navy across the North sea. Rumours had gained ground in England that a German invasion of the south coast was imminent, and Berlin hoped that a bombardment of the north-east coast, using cruisers, might have the dual consequence both of ensuring that Kitchener’s forces would be kept away from the western front and in England to defend against possible invasion, and dispersing the land forces thinly across the coast from Berwick to Brighton, thereby keeping the option of invasion open to Germany.

Those were the origins of the bombardment. The objectives of the mission were clear: a desperate need for a breakthrough against the stalemate of the trenches;

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a wish to boost the morale of the German people, especially just before Christmas; and a desire to provoke the Royal Navy into a confrontation that might reduce the capacity of the British fleet against its German counterpart. In addition, Germany hoped to inflict damage on Britain’s ports and coastal defences; reduce her industrial capability by damaging capacity and infrastructure; and, in perhaps the first example of mass and dramatic propaganda in modern warfare, demonstrate to the British people in as vivid and horrific a fashion as possible that Germany had more than the means to wage war and, indeed, that it had the technology and guile to wage such war on Britain’s own homeland.

The Hartlepools were an obvious target. West Hartlepool was immensely important for munitions to the war. It had been a leading driver of the industrial revolution and in 1914 still possessed one of the busiest ports in the British Isles as well as significant engineering works used to supply the war effort. Despite their industrial importance, the Hartlepools were rather meekly defended. There were two batteries, one at the Heugh possessing two six-inch guns, and the other 100 yards to the south at the lighthouse, with only one six-inch gun. The authorities clearly never anticipated an attack on the homeland from the sea.

Wednesday 16 December 1914—nine days before Christmas—dawned with heavy mist and fog. It was cold, but without any wind. Visibility was low, giving the German cruisers effective cover to reach 4,000 yards off the coast without being detected. At precisely 8 o’clock, the fire commander at Fairy Cove, about 500 yards from the Heugh battery, received the following message from South Gare battery, about five miles down the coast: “dreadnoughts steaming south”. That was followed immediately by a message from the port war signal station: “Three warships coming in at great speed!” Those three warships were German cruisers: the Seydlitz, the Moltke and the Blücher. Between them they had twenty 11.2-inch guns, eight 8.2-inch guns, eighteen 5.9-inch guns and a whole host of other armaments.

At precisely 8.10 am, the German cruisers opened fire on the Heugh battery. The first round of shells fell beside a low wall that formed the boundary between the battery and the pathway leading to the promenade. The wall, or at least its successor, is still there: I walked past it this morning. The blast from the shell killed Private Theophilus Jones, of the 18th Battalion the Durham Light Infantry. Private Jones was 27 and a teacher at a Leicestershire school, but he was originally from Ashgrove avenue in West Hartlepool. He was on sentry duty that morning. He was the first solder killed on British soil by enemy action in the first world war. Indeed, he was the first soldier to be killed on British soil in warfare since the battle of Culloden in 1746. Almost immediately afterwards, three other men from the 18th DLI—Privates Liddle, Clark and Turner—were also killed.

Tactically, the German plan had been to concentrate the first phase of firepower on the batteries at the Heugh and the lighthouse, in order to put the battery guns out of action, then to switch to firing on industrial and infrastructure targets, such as West Hartlepool’s steelworks, docks, shipyards, gasworks and railway goods and passenger stations. However, the Heugh battery had erected a camouflage extension, giving its height a false impression. That, combined with a low tide, probably had tragic consequences: although the German cruisers

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failed in their objective of taking out the gun defence, it meant that if the German shells hit too low, hitting the rock of the headland, dangerous fragments of shrapnel ricocheted into the civilian population of old Hartlepool. Any shells that were fired too high sailed over the Heugh battery and into the densely populated area of West Hartlepool.

Shrapnel from the second round of shells struck Hilda Horsley—Horsley is such a strong Hartlepool name and it is still shared by many of my constituents—who was a 17-year-old tailoress on her way to work. She was the first civilian fatality of the bombardment. Shrapnel also struck the end house of Cliff terrace, immediately to the rear of the Heugh battery. Two sisters, Annie and Florence Kay, were killed instantly.

William street in old Hartlepool was one of the worst-affected areas, with eight fatalities, all of whom were children. The youngest was Selina Herbert, aged three, and the oldest was George Dixon, aged just 14. The Dixons lived at No. 30. At the start of the bombardment the family started to flee, hoping to seek refuge in the neighbouring countryside and the villages of Elwick and Hart. As they passed Church Close street, a shell exploded in front of them. Not only George but his eight-year-old sister Margaret Ellen and seven-year-old brother Albert were killed instantly.

Their mother Margaret was blown off her feet by the scale of the blast, losing one of her legs in the process, but her maternal instinct overtook any thoughts for her own safety and she still clutched in her arms the blood-soaked baby of the family, John, who was not yet one. Margaret was losing consciousness, but told her surviving children, 12-year-old Joseph and three-year-old Billy, to run for safety. Joseph had 17 separate pieces of shrapnel in his leg and was bleeding profusely, but he took John in his arms and ran for his and his remaining brothers’ lives. He collapsed from blood loss and was found by soldiers, close to Trinity church. Although they lost three of their family, Margaret, Joseph, Billy and John all thankfully survived and recovered.

Thirteen-year-old Bertie Young was at his home in Princes street, Middleton, with his face pressed to the glass window, watching the bombardment, when a stray piece of shrapnel hit the glass and killed him.

Shells flew above the Heugh battery into West Hartlepool, across Hartlepool United’s football ground and the neighbouring allotments into the Furness, Cameron and Belk area—those streets and houses still stand to this day—and the streets named Turnbull, Dyke, Gas, Water and Crimdon. Belk and Turnbull streets were the most badly affected. Five deaths occurred in Belk street, including the youngest victim to die during the bombardment, seven-month-old Benjamin Lofthouse, of No. 25; 11-year-old Henry Bell, of No. 31 Belk street, also died.

Henry’s brother was working at Gray’s shipyard and was still on shift when the bombardment started. He recalled:

“In a few seconds a shell hit the offices and blew nearly all of it in the air. At the same time railway wagons were being blown sky high”.

He started running down Middleton road. He goes on:

“A few yards further on I saw Barney Hodgson of Water Street, pinned up against the Swedish church wall bleeding very badly. I went to run towards him but he shouted, ‘Keep on running son, I’m done for.’ I think he was a brave man.”

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I think the House would agree.

In Turnbull street, nine deaths occurred, including three sets of brothers: Albert and Stanley Walker, aged nine and six, five-year-old William Peart and his two-year-old brother Charles, and Harold and Wilfred Cook, aged 10 and eight. It was the job of 12-year-old Alfred Claude, of 11 Gordon street, to walk each day to the dairy on Mulgrave road to get the family’s bread and milk. Alfred was killed on his way back from his errand when a shell exploded in Bright street.

Against disproportionate odds, and with great bravery and accuracy, the gun teams at the Heugh battery managed to return fire against the German attack. A total of 1,150 shells were fired by the German cruisers, but the bravery and professionalism of the men at the Heugh meant significant damage was inflicted on the ships and the bombardment—originally meant to last an hour—was curtailed to 42 minutes. The shortening of the attack, thanks to the bravery of the gun men, probably prevented further death, injury and damage.

Gunner Harry Tyson, of 17 Rowell street, was a member of the gun teams at the Heugh, and he recalled how something profoundly British took place—peace or war, there is nothing like a good, hot cup of tea—

“our cooks, Billy Sanderson and Arthur Hall…must have been making tea all the time we were in action. As soon as we stopped firing out came buckets of hot tea.”

In the space of 42 minutes, 119 people had been killed by the bombardment, including 37 children. Several deaths occurred in later weeks, bringing the total number of people killed as a result of the attack on our coast to 130, with over 500 people injured.

Writing after the bombardment, an officer of the Green Howards commended the people of the Hartlepools, stating:

“This account cannot be concluded without paying a tribute to the gallant behaviour of the civil population of the bombarded towns...Men, women and children following their daily tasks do not expect to be blown to pieces in the streets or to have the roofs of their houses come crashing in over their heads. Yet the inhabitants of the Hartlepools behaved like soldiers. There was no panic—no wild rush to safety. An hour after the firing ceased normal life was resumed just as if nothing had happened. This seems to show that these northern people still possess those sterling qualities which we associated with their ancestors, yet which many feared that modern luxury and modern comforts had sapped.”

In updating Parliament on the war on 6 January 1915, Lord Kitchener, as Secretary of State for War, paid tribute in the other place to the people of my constituency, stating:

“On our own coasts, on the morning of December 16, German battle-cruisers bombarded for half an hour Hartlepool, Scarborough, and Whitby. At Hartlepool a battery replied with some effect, though it was out-classed by the heavy guns of the cruisers. No military advantage was gained, or could possibly have been gained, by wanton attacks on undefended seaside resorts, which attacks had as their chief result fatal accidents to a certain number of civilians, among whom women and children figured pathetically. The people in the three towns bore themselves in this trying experience with perfect courage and coolness, and not the least trace of panic could be observed.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 6 January 1915; Vol. 18, c. 235.]

Unfortunately, most references to the bombardment of the Hartlepools in this House and the other place for most of the next decade or so were from right hon. and

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hon. Members pushing the Government of the day for compensation for those affected by the attack. It would not be until 1922, some eight years after the bombardment, that compensation was duly paid to the peoples of the Hartlepools.

The effect on the people of my constituency following the bombardment was astonishing. In the weeks and months after the attack, 22,000 men from the Hartlepools signed up for the war effort, something like one in two of the towns’ adult male population. The Hartlepools received the award for raising the most money per head of the population for the war effort of any place in the British empire, a modern equivalent, in a town of 100,000 people, of £545 million.

In 1914, the Hartlepools were a tough little town. Their people were plucky, patriotic and protective of their community. That was demonstrated exactly 100 years ago today in the bombardment and it was reiterated today by the people of the town in its commemoration. I and everybody in Hartlepool will never forget the sacrifices made by our ancestors—made by our own—in the Hartlepools during the bombardment of 16 December 1914.

7.22 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mrs Helen Grant): The raids by the imperial German navy on Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby 100 years ago today are justly remembered this evening for the devastating effect they had on normal people going about their daily business, so I begin by extending the sympathy and good wishes of the Government to the people of these northern seaside towns.

The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) has recounted most passionately and sensitively the events of that day, and I will not do so again, but the 16 December bombardment was a terrible demonstration of what being in the line of enemy fire means for ordinary members of the public. The attacks on Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby resulted in 137 fatalities and 592 casualties and, of course, there was public outrage towards the German navy for an attack against civilians. Given all that, some might ask why the Government are not hosting a commemoration. It is true that we have chosen to focus on commemorating the key military milestones of the war for Britain and her then empire, but that certainly does not mean that we are ignoring the dreadful things that happened much closer to home. We especially want young people to learn about the sacrifices of the 1914 to 1918 generation, some of them those plucky people from Hartlepool. We want people to be able to mark the centenary locally in ways that are meaningful to them. I would like to take the opportunity tonight to outline some of the events and activities that will commemorate the attacks on these very special seaside towns 100 years ago.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, which has so far given out nearly £64 million to first world war projects large and small has earmarked a significant part of the pot for local projects that increase understanding of the effects of the war up and down the country. It is good to see that a grant of £9,900 has gone to Hartlepool Headland local history group for the “Hartlepool Bombardment—Then and Now” project, which will show photographs of the town in 1914 compared with

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today. We also welcome the activities of organisations such as the museum of Hartlepool, Scarborough art gallery, Scarborough maritime heritage centre and Whitby museum in marking the anniversaries.

Hartlepool is the only official first world war battlefield site in the UK, in that the Heugh battery on the Headland is the only location in this country where our land forces engaged the enemy during the war, as Hartlepool tried to defend itself. Their brave stand is being honoured with a day of civic and community events organised by Hartlepool council in partnership with the Heugh gun battery trust. The highlight will be the unveiling of the new bombardment memorial near the Headland lighthouse by the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham.

I am very pleased to see that Arts Council England has provided a £400,000 grant to enable the period to be commemorated on Teesside. Hartlepool will, of course, benefit from this, too. One of the town’s most iconic paintings—James Clark’s “Bombardment of the Hartlepools” has recently been restored, and it has to be said that the “Scarborough Remembers” programme has something for everyone. An extensive exhibition at Scarborough art gallery is being complemented by stunning new paintings being created by the Woodend creative in collaboration with a local artist. The Western Front Association and Scarborough Museums Trust are holding a day conference exploring important war-time

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themes, and the Scarborough archaeological and historical society and Scarborough library are hosting extensive talks.

There has been a service of civil commemoration today at the exact time of the bombardment in an act of remembrance at Scarborough castle. In Whitby, the coastguard has laid lay a wreath in commemoration at the new Bombardment garden on the West cliff, and Whitby air cadets have organised an early evening candle-lit vigil followed by a music night at St. Hilda’s church. A 1914 exhibition is already on display at Whitby museum, which features the bombardment prominently.

All these various commemorations, large and small, allow us to come together to honour the past. In doing so, we can find ways of working together to build a better society—both nationally and within localities. We therefore sincerely wish the people of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby every success in their commemorative projects. May they be well attended and may they give rise to new friendships and co-operations so that these special towns continue to prosper for the next 100 years and beyond.

Question put and agreed to.

7.28 pm

House adjourned.