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The purpose of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is to write into this important Bill a constitutional safeguard, which, for example, in the American Bill of Rights, is contained in the Fourth Amendment: the prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure. Within the past three months, the American Supreme Court gave a judgment on that guarantee, referring to English doctrine against unreasonable search and seizure, which, of course, we in this country trace back in common law to the great case of Entick v Carrington. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is seeking to use not just the European Convention or the Human Rights Act but the statute itself to contain a general restriction against the abuse of powers of entry by the retention of unnecessary powers.
I perfectly appreciate that the Government have undertaken to carry out a two-year review of the detail, and that is highly desirable and has been welcomed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. However, I cannot see any objection to a general constitutional restriction against the retention or use of unnecessary powers of search or seizure. I shall listen carefully to how this is dealt with in reply, but at the moment, like others who have spoken so far, I have become much more sympathetic to this than I was on the previous occasion.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, I rise to speak, as I did on a previous occasion, in support of the general principles of which the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has spoken. In particular, he has done a service to this House, and indeed to the other place in enabling it to undergo an exercise of looking at and debating the whole matter of powers of entry. Nobody suggests that powers of entry are always justified; or that they are never justified. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has raised public safety and the House of Commons has raised it as a key factor to consider alongside whether powers of entry should exist.
As I see it, the difficulty is that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has wanted to clarify the law, of which one surely must be in favour. But he has also-I am afraid that it is still in his amendment before us today-picked on particular bodies, such as trading standards officers, and given them a blanket okay for their powers of entry. It so happens that I am an honorary vice-president of the Trading Standards Institute and I should declare an interest. The institute may wonder whose side I am on because I am saying that it is wrong for the law-it is a question of whether the law should be changed in the direction of the proposal in the name of the noble Lord, Lord
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Perhaps I may repeat myself here, but in, I think, the last debate, I asked, "What about environmental health officers who are concerned with public safety? Why are they not mentioned?". I noticed that Members of the other place referred to inspectors on behalf of gas companies going into premises to ensure that there will not be an explosion or, if there has been an explosion, to look at how to deal with it. What about firefighters? They have been mentioned but are not specifically mentioned in the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Some people may think that they should be.
I do not think that it is right to isolate or separate one group of officials from another and to take a preconceived view that one lot are always in the right and doing what is proper while others are not mentioned.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: I am puzzled by the principle that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, is enunciating. Is he not aware that throughout a whole swathe of legislation lines have to be drawn? Parliament is responsible for drawing the line where it thinks that it is right and sensible. His argument that you cannot draw any line at all and that, therefore, you should allow the bureaucracy to do what it wants untrammelled by Parliament seems slightly unconvincing.
Lord Borrie: I am most grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, because I entirely agree with what he said. I am concerned that this notion of picking out one group of officials has been made by a private Member of the House of Lords proposing this amendment without any examination of why that group should be supported and not others. As I understand it, the Home Office, over a period of months, intends that there should be a thorough review of the across-the-board powers of entry of numerous officials connected with various departments and that it should not be a question of suddenly determining that a particular group of officials should be specially mentioned in legislation and not others. That is my concern and I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, for bringing the matter out.
It is not suitable for us now without any review of across-the-board powers of entry to isolate one set of officials against another. The review emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, which was mentioned by Ministers in the debate in the other place, is vital before one starts getting into the detail of what powers of entry should be permitted and what should not.
Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, we should take this opportunity, which follows the vote on a previous occasion when the House by a majority voted in favour of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. We now have a revised and
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It is about time that something is done. There could be a two-year inquiry-that could be doubled or quadrupled -and no pending Bill in front of the House. We have a Bill. Let us take some action, follow the amendment, repeat what happened last time and send it back again to the other place.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Neill. With this very convenient amendment at this late stage, it seems to me that the time has come for the Government, if necessary, to come forward with a sensible amendment that could be produced extremely quickly. They absolutely do not need two or four years, as the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, said, to come up with a situation that is obviously not sensible.
I have come from a meeting of the Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments where we discussed an order on green bananas, which has a provision to deal with the rights of entry. As it happens, it does not deal with the criminal part of that but Regulation 6 says that there may be an application to a magistrate for a warrant. It does not refer to the circumstances but I assume that they are those in which force is required. At the moment, I cannot see why you have to have a right of entry for green bananas when you can perfectly well get a magistrate's warrant if it is absolutely necessary. What I am telling your Lordships' House is that it is going on now and that it is time to stop it.
Lord Elton: My noble friend is probably old enough -I certainly am-to remember the days when an Englishman's home was always referred to as his castle. Castles are besieged by mice. What worries me about this is that the officers who will have powers to enter my castle and your Lordships' castles-mine is a very small place-vastly outnumber the number of mice who are able to do so. The mice are undercontrolled and so, in present legislation, are very large numbers of these officials. I do not think that they should be and noble Lords probably do not think that they should be either.
My noble friend has suggested a simple and elegant way to control the situation. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, who shakes his head, happens to be a fellow honorary vice-president of the Trading Standards Institute. I was hearted by what he said, although he may not have intended that. He said that the removal of the powers suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, does not go far enough. I join others who think that the provision could be further improved with consideration by the other place. Some of us have been Ministers and have had legislation that we wanted passed. It is ludicrous to leave this legislation as it and to entrust
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Baroness Crawley: My Lords, perhaps I may make a brief and slightly croaky intervention-I go one up on my noble friend Lord Borrie-as president of the Trading Standards Institute. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for engaging so closely with trading standards over the past number of months since first introducing his amendment in February. Indeed, trading standards officers would rather have been included in his amendment than not and therefore I do not decry them for their enthusiasm. However, after much discussion with partners in the intervening months, I should inform the noble Lord that, on behalf of trading standards, I shall not be able to follow him into the Lobby on his amendment.
My reasons are twofold. First, following on from the point made by my noble friend Lord Borrie, the provision made to include trading standards in the list of exceptions does not give enough scope to ensure consumer protection from rogue traders, money launderers and scammers of all types across all sectors. In difficult economic times-and we certainly live in difficult economic times-consumers are more and more vulnerable to these crooks and opportunists. Therefore, the legislation we bring forward to protect consumers must be very carefully enacted and leave no gaps in that protection.
Secondly, Motion A1 allows for an exemption only if provided for by the Secretary of State through regulation. Trading standards officers are extremely concerned that if the Motion is carried they would lose their existing powers of entry-they have been protecting us, as consumers, for over 100 years-until such time as they may be reinstated by statutory instrument. That uncertainty is not in the best interests of today's vulnerable consumers.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate but one matter does strike me. In the eight years in which I was a Minister in the Administration of my noble friend Lady Thatcher, whenever a Minister said that something would take a particular period of time, she used to say, "Well, just think what was achieved in time of war during that kind of timescale". We have been told that this review will take two years. I do not understand why the Minister does not simply say to the Home Office, "You have got to do it in a year". Why will it take two years to carry out a review? If we were in a time of war, it would be dealt with much more quickly.
I put to the Minister exactly the retort of my noble friend Lady Thatcher. Set a timescale that is reasonable and achievable and, if the review is completed in the next year, there would be an opportunity for any necessary legislative change to take place within the present Parliament. As it is, I feel that we will get beyond 2015 and nothing will have been done.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, I share with many in the Chamber the deep concern about the erosion of our freedoms. If our forebears were listening today and
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I am comforted by the emollient words of the Minister, who says that what we are trying to do is helpful but he would rather leave it to his own officials to take two years to work out the position. I suggest that we put the clause the other way round and that he says to his officials, "I am going to accept the latest amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, and if you have not reviewed your position and come up with a satisfactory conclusion within two years, by default the noble Lord's amendment will stand". That would surely put a boot behind the consideration of these matters by the various departments and help achieve what we all want to achieve. Perhaps in his reply the Minister will say whether that idea has any grains of usefulness.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, picking up on the point of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, I think everyone's heart is in the right place on this matter but that we are struggling to articulate what is in our hearts in the right way. I am with those who, as the debate goes on, increasingly see complexity in this matter and a need for us to be very careful in the way we do what we are all trying to do.
We have reached a point in the procedure where what we agree to in the wording has got to be very precise and correct. Some noble Lords have said, "Send this back to the Commons and it can sort it out". However, we know that in practical terms that would be very difficult within what is now almost a matter of hours. To be rather boring, perhaps necessarily so, on the drafting, I said on the previous occasion that I find the term "demonstrate" very difficult. It is not one which I am accustomed to seeing in legislation and I do not know where it rests in the evidential hierarchy, if that is the right way of expressing it. I am worried about the possibility of judicial review around "demonstrate" within new subsection (3)(b)(i).
I am also quite puzzled. I think I am correct in saying that what the Government are proposing in Clause 40(1) is discretionary, and so could come within the review; that Clause 40(2) is not exclusive; and that we, as a House, would be asked to consider what is proposed in particular instances through the statutory instruments procedure. Sometimes, notwithstanding the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, of which I am a member-I was not there this afternoon but I read the green bananas order realising that it might have some application today-it is incumbent on all of us, as a House, to be very diligent with what is coming before us via statutory instruments. However, if there is discretion-I think the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, are not mandatory but discretionary-then, in a sense, what is proposed is something and nothing. However, we are talking about them as if they are mandatory.
As to noble Lord's reference that, essentially, future Parliaments may say, "Notwithstanding that a statute says X, Y, Z, it shall be something else", again that
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This brings me back to thinking that we need the review which has not only been promised but is required. I am entirely with those noble Lords who say that two years is too long given the demands that we are all making. It is easy to ridicule departmental inquiries. As I had understood it-I have never been in government -it is the departments that do all the work, with Ministers being advised by them. So we should not be too dismissive of the departments. However, the work needs to be done more quickly than under the timetable the Government are currently setting, and I for one would urge my noble friend on. If the Government can see their way to a quicker exercise, that might take the sting out of this.
I ought to say, finally, that I am vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. However, I have not been briefed by it, or even discussed it with it, and it has not been in my mind as in any way influencing what I have said.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I find myself in a very difficult position, having begun this subject in 1975 and taken three Private Members' Bills through the House. I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who has a much more aggressive and attacking attitude than I do, being a man who has journalistic abilities. I am a simple person who simply says that there is a logic here.
First, you have to find out how many powers of entry there are. We began by asking questions of Ministers, none of whom knew what their powers of entry were. We worked out together that there were 584 and then made a joint arrangement with the Home Office to conduct a review, which took 18 months. We got up to 800 and then to 1,100. Finally, with the support of the Home Office, we found there were 1,200. However, this was not enough, because individual Ministers still did not know what their powers of entry were. All powers of entry relate to individual ministries, whether to Defra or any other ministry. I suggested this to my noble friend in Committee but did not want to speak again because one says the same things again and again. Even though some of your Lordships have passed on and some have never heard what one has said, repetitive Peers are not good creatures.
I therefore suggested to my noble friend that he put the latest list of powers of entry in the Library. He was rather reluctant to do this and said that we could see them on the Home Office website. However, that is quite difficult to access. Fifty per cent of your Lordships are not what I would call electronified and therefore do not know how to access websites. My noble friend wrote to me the other day and said that it would be placed in the Library. I am on the Information Committee and it is not yet there. Perhaps it could get there quite quickly.
My objective today is not to suggest anything. The help that I had was from the party opposite, which in the beginning was slightly cynical about all this. However, it went out of its way to say that this was a non-party issue and that we needed first to define what those
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I am not saying that the Government are prevaricating in any way. I find this very difficult. Trying to be non-party on this, I should probably not vote for or against anything. However, the Minister should do what he can to reassure the House that this matter is under control. There is no need for another two-year review. I could get it done by the private sector pretty quickly.
I am very grateful to my noble friend for showing the attitude that he has. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, does not give up once he is on to something and does not lose the scent. I am very grateful to him for doing this today. I do not want to go against any party Whips, but I did say to my own party Whip that there might be an occasion when I could once more be a little bit independent for a short period. However, I urge him to take matters further.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has explained that his amendment seeks to address the objections that were raised by the Government to his original amendment, which was passed by your Lordships' House but did not find favour in the other place. As the noble Lord has said, the amendment seeks to address what he has described as the "blanket approach" criticism and has sought to meet points raised in the other place by including officers of the Serious Organised Crime Agency and members of the Security Service in the exceptions.
I wish to refer, as an example, to trading standards officers, who are one of the five persons specified in the noble Lord's amendment. Trading standards officers do not currently have, and have never had, a routine power of entry into premises used solely as a private dwelling place. If the trading standards officer is dependent on the first criterion-the power of entry without a warrant or the agreement of the occupier-the difficulty arises from the fact that the breadth of their work is considerable and there are many and varied reasons why such an officer may wish to visit a business.
The first criterion means that any time an officer entered a business without a warrant or without the agreement of the occupier of the premises because they believed that the use of that power of entry
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Unfortunately, the second criterion, which is new, would leave it up to the Secretary of State to decide whether to give trading standards officers and any other officials the right of power of entry without a warrant or the agreement of the occupier of the business premises, unlike the noble Lord's previous amendment, which gave such power full stop without being dependent on or waiting for the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State does not, by regulation, give that power-and no one knows which way a particular Secretary of State would jump-it would make it much more difficult than now for trading standards officers to carry out their role of protecting the public and local communities. It would also make it harder to resist a legal challenge under the first criterion, on the grounds that trading standards officers were seeking to exercise a power that the Secretary of State had declined to give them by regulation. My understanding is different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, on the position of the Trading Standards Institute on his amendment.
We understand the intentions and objectives behind the noble Lord's amendment and the safeguards in relation to powers of entry that he is seeking to achieve. For that reason, we will not oppose his amendment if it is taken to a vote. However, we do believe, for the reasons I have mentioned, that in some instances the noble Lord's new amendment may well make it more difficult for people such as trading standards officers to carry out their vital public protection role. For that reason, if his amendment is taken to a vote, we will abstain on it.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I start by saying to my noble friend Lord Marlesford and other noble Lords that I am grateful for the fact that he acknowledges that we are at least on the same side in that we seek to reduce the number of powers of entry and make sure that existing powers of entry have the appropriate safeguards where necessary.
I begin with a very brief history lesson. At the time when the noble Lord, Lord Butler, was Secretary to the Cabinet, I can remind him and the House that we had something of the order of 500 or 600 powers of entry. As my noble friend Lord Selsdon said, it was difficult to know exactly how many there were. Over the years, mainly after the noble Lord ceased to be Secretary to the Cabinet, we saw a rather dramatic
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It might be that Parliament nodded in its duty and did not provide the appropriate safeguards and checks and balances when considering all those powers of entry. Because of the dramatic growth that we saw over those 13 years, the new coalition Government in 2010 made a commitment that we would review all existing powers of entry and do what we could to reduce those that were unnecessary, bringing in appropriate safeguards-a warrant or consent-where necessary. That is why we brought forward the provisions in this Bill in Clauses 39 to 46.
I make it clear to the House that those proposals were in respect of the existing stock of the 1,300 or so powers of entry that we had. On top of that, there is always the danger-because Governments do this-that new powers might creep in. That is why we brought in the new gateway approach in the Home Office, to be adopted by all other departments, to look at any new powers of entry that might come in and make sure that they were properly scrutinised and that Parliament looked at them appropriately as they came through in Acts of Parliament. I am grateful that my noble friend Lord Marlesford at least commended that gateway approach to the new powers, but we are largely talking about the existing powers and how we want to look at the existing stock and do what we can to reduce it.
My noble friend brought forward his amendment before. It went to the Commons, where they looked at it-and I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Neill, that they did not look at it with a lack of respect. They gave it a very good hearing and debated it for some 45 minutes, and the fact that they did not divide on it was obviously a sign that they thought that there was sufficient agreement. It is not for the Government to decide whether matters are divided on. Certainly, considerable respect was shown to the amendment and it was debated in considerable detail in another place.
My noble friend in his amendment seeks to create a blanket approach to what should be dealt with and then accepts that that approach is wrong-and he admits it is wrong because he then brings in a blanket exemption, which surely contradicts the whole point of what he is trying to do. We are trying to conduct a review of the whole process, which will closely examine all the powers that we have and those that are necessary while adding further safeguards to others. That is the important thing. There might be some powers that we do not need-right, we will get rid of them. There might be some that we do need but which do not have the appropriate safeguards, and in that case we will look at them. We have made it clear that in conducting our review the default position will be that any powers that require entry to people's homes must require their consent or be by warrant only. This amendment provides only a blanket rule across the board, which we do not think is the right approach.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Can the Minister confirm that we are not in a vacuum while the review is taking place in that, if there were unnecessary and disproportionate searches or seizures, the Human Rights Act would require our legislation to be read properly to prevent them from being classified as unlawful searches or seizures?
Lord Henley: My noble friend is a great expert on the Human Rights Act and the House always defers to him when we discuss such matters. If there was a case of the sort that he implies, I am sure the courts would look at it in a manner that he thinks appropriate.
I am trying to make clear that we want to conduct a review over two years. I accept that there has been criticism from a number of colleagues, including my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who asked whether we could do it more quickly. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friend Lord Lawson also implied that we should do it more quickly. We will try to do it as quickly as possible but, as my honourable friend said in another place, we will also update Parliament on a six-monthly basis about how we are getting on. We think that this approach is the better one-to go through all the powers one by one, from department to department. Obviously, some departments will have a bigger workload than others. I understand that my old department, Defra, has rather a lot of powers. No doubt we will encourage them to work harder, and I and my colleagues in the Home Office will encourage them to do that. I think that is the better approach, and my noble friend's approach-to bring in a blanket approach, accept that it is wrong and then bring in blanket exemptions-is not the right way forward.
Lord Henley: I would hope that, as and when each power of entry is looked at, we will remove it as appropriate. I can assure my noble friend that we have already moved about 30 or so as part of the review. Most of those will require only secondary legislation to do that. It will be an ongoing process. As I made clear earlier, we will give a six-monthly update to Parliament on how we are doing this. At the end of that process I cannot give a commitment as to exactly what we will do. Certainly I am sure that my noble friend and others will hold us to account if we do not keep to that two-year programme. As I said, we want to do it more quickly if we can.
Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, I agree with a great deal of what the Minister has said, but would the Government's objectives not be better achieved if they proceeded on the basis that powers would lapse unless a positive case could be made for them, rather than that they should remain unless a case is made to remove them?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am a great fan of sunset clauses, and I would be more than happy to do that. It is a matter for Parliament; with any new power that comes in, Parliament must decide whether a sunset clause should be brought in. It is not within the scope of what we are debating now to bring in a sunset clause for all 1,300 powers of entry that exist. That is not the aim of my noble friend's amendment, and it is not an idea that has been put forward by anyone else. I am sympathetic to sunset clauses, and I know that the noble Lord is sympathetic, but let us consider that with new powers that come in. It is not something that we can debate at this stage.
With those assurances about what we are doing and with the assurance that we will continue to update Parliament on how we are getting on with this, I hope that my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. The House of Lords is always quite impressive, but the quality of the experience, knowledge and wisdom that have been shown by noble Lords speaking has been terrific. There has been a psychological thing that probably happens to all of us: there are those who want to do something and get on with it and those who say, "Well, let's wait". There is a place for both. However, on this question of how long it would take for a review, when my noble friend Lord Selsdon says that it took 18 months just to count the powers, I just wonder how far they will get in examining each of the 1,300 powers in 24 months.
I want to emphasise just one or two things. The first is that we are not aiming to remove any powers of entry. All we are saying is that we believe that the powers of entry, with certain exceptions, should be subject to agreement or to warrant as far as the occupier of the premises is concerned. The second-and this is where the amendment has changed-concerns what is found or felt about the provision before the powers have all been examined. My amendment does not interfere at all with the Bill's current provision for a review. That provision will continue and it will be good to have it-I wish it godspeed, and we shall look forward to getting the reports. In the meanwhile, however, we will have achieved something. We will also have given the Government an opportunity so that if it transpires that a power has been trammelled by being subject to agreement or warrant and that has been counterproductive or undesirable in the public interest, the Government will be able to come back ad interim with an order to correct it. That is what I mean in describing the way that I have removed the blanket imposition.
In view of the comments of people such as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I think that the general tenor is really such that the Government could do better. I would like to see whether the opinion of the House supports that approach.
"(2A) For the purposes of this section A ought to know that A's course of conduct will cause B serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on B's usual day-to-day activities if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct would cause B such alarm or distress."
Lord Henley: My Lords, I shall speak also to Commons Amendments 133A to 133C. The House will recall that at Third Reading in this House the Bill was amended to introduce two new specific offences of stalking and stalking involving fear of violence. These new offences are set out in new Sections 2A and 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. I acknowledged at the time that the new Section 4A offence needed better to reflect the psychological trauma experienced by victims. I indicated that the Government would bring forward further amendments to address this point when the Bill returned to the Commons to consider the Lords amendments.
These additional amendments were duly approved by the Commons on 15 March and it now falls to your Lordships' House to agree to them. The amendments made in the Commons to Amendment 51, which I brought forward at Third Reading, widen the new Section 4A offence so that a course of conduct amounting to stalking that causes serious alarm or distress, which has a substantial adverse effect on a victim's usual day-to-day activities, is also captured. These changes will mean that when a stalker's course of conduct causes their victim to, for example, change where they socialise or to ask their friends or family to pick up their children from school because they are afraid of running into their stalker, the Section 4A offence could be made out and therefore, on conviction, result in a sentence of imprisonment of up to five years. I am confident that through these changes we have further strengthened the protection of victims of stalking. We are also sending a clear message to perpetrators that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
I am convinced that we now have workable and effective laws to bring the perpetrators of stalking to justice. Elfyn Llwyd, who chaired the recent independent inquiry on stalking, said in the debate in the Commons that the new provisions,
Before bringing forward these amendments in the Commons, my officials discussed them with the National Association of Probation Officers and Protection Against Stalking. These organisations share the concerns raised here at Third Reading about the psychological impact that stalking has on victims. As many of your Lordships will know, both NAPO and PAS have said that they support the changes we have made.
I know that that view was widely shared on all sides of this House, but it is clear that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has some lingering doubts, if I may put it that way, that have prompted her to table two further amendments to the Commons amendments. I seek to reassure her that those amendments are unnecessary.
The noble Baroness's amendment to Amendment 51C seeks to include a further limb to new Section 4A to cover cases where a stalker causes a victim to fear for their personal safety or that of another. I can assure the House that where such stalking behaviour causes the victim serious alarm or distress such that it substantially affects their day-to-day activity, then it could meet the threshold for the Section 4A offence. The threshold would also be met where the behaviour causes the victim to fear violence. A third party who is made to fear for their safety could also have recourse through the existing criminal and civil law, including by pursuing an injunction or a restraining order in appropriate cases.
The Government consider that the Section 4A offence should be reserved for cases where a stalker causes the victim to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them or where a stalker causes their victim,
It is right that this offence, carrying a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment, is reserved for those stalking behaviours that are more serious and have greater impact on their victim. Of course, all cases of stalking are serious and can wreck lives, but it is important that we maintain a clear distinction and escalation between the two new offences. Prosecution under Section 4A should be reserved for the worst cases. Such cases should already be captured in the Section 4A offence and adding this limb could lower the threshold too far. If the stalking behaviour does not cause the victim to experience one of the effects as set out in Section 4A(1), a prosecution under Section 2A would be more appropriate.
Again, officials have discussed this amendment with NAPO, Protection Against Stalking and with the Association of Chief Police Officers' stalking lead. We have expressed our view that such cases could be captured in the existing Section 4A offence as amended in the Commons, and that this should be highlighted in police training. To ensure that this issue is properly understood by police and prosecutors, officials will involve ACPO, NAPO, Protection Against Stalking and others in developing training and guidance. Officials will meet them soon to agree how to work together. I am convinced that this issue can be addressed without further changes to the legislation. We now need to get the Bill on the statute book and to work with partners
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I end by saying that I am indebted to all Members of the House who have worked with us to shape this legislation. Together, we have across all parties developed workable legislation that will support the police and the courts in eradicating this awful crime. This will make a real difference to victims. I again pay tribute to noble Lords on all sides of the House, including the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, who is not in her place, and my noble friend Lady Brinton, for their tireless efforts in raising these issues and ensuring that stalking victims will be properly protected by these new laws. I commend Motions B and C to the House and invite the noble Baroness not to press her Motions B1 and B2. I beg to move.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, today we are almost there: a new law on stalking, for which Parliament rather than Government has been in the driving seat. Over the past six months, a staggering amount of progress has been made, much of it due to the advocacy of noble Lords on all Benches. Like the Minister, I pay special tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, along with my noble friends on these Benches. The progress is also testament to the campaigners, the excellent parliamentary inquiry, and most of all to the survivors and their families that we will soon achieve proper protection in law for the victims of stalking. I also pay tribute to those women who have shown extraordinary courage in the face of this harrowing crime: women like Claire Waxman, Tracey Morgan, Sam Taylor, Tricia Bernal and Claudia Miles, whose lives were stolen by their stalkers, but all of whom are utterly determined to make sure that future victims get the justice and protection that they deserve.
The Commons amendments that we are considering today are concessions that the Government made following serious concerns raised at Third Reading about their initial proposals. I thank the Minister and the Bill team for the work they have done. We support the amendments brought forward and warmly welcome them as far as they go. However, it is disappointing that the Government did not heed calls from experts to strengthen the proposals on police powers and to allow for cases prosecuted under the new Section 2A offence to be referred up to the Crown Court should new evidence emerge.
As the Minister said, government Amendments 51A to 51E add a new set of criteria to the more serious Section 4A stalking offence in order to ensure that those cases where a stalker never makes an explicit threat of violence towards their victim are still liable
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Mary Porter, for example, started to receive offensive e-mails and texts from a colleague about five years ago. The behaviour soon escalated to criminal damage to her property and silent phone calls. Although she feared for her safety, no specific threat of violence was ever made. Mary took a conscious decision not to react to his behaviour by changing her routine or work patterns. However, the stalking took its toll. She developed muscular strain through stress, which affected her mobility. She also reported having great difficulty sleeping, having nightmares and being unable to get his behaviour out of her mind. Eventually she discovered the identity of the stalker. She kept records and a log of his behaviour, which she was able to present to the police, but after several months of sustained harassment, he was given a short custodial sentence which was suspended for 12 months. Why should someone like Mary, who refused to let her stalker affect her daily routine, not have the same right to protection?
My amendments would ensure that women like Mary, who have serious concerns about their personal safety as a result of their stalker's actions-even if explicit threats of violence are not made-would be covered by the same protection under the Section 4A offence. The amendment also makes reference to the safety of another, as it is well known that stalkers can often target loved ones, particularly children, to get to their victims. Sally Evans separated two years ago from her abusive partner. He then commenced a campaign of threats and intimidation, including vandalism to her car on three occasions, as well as invading her website, sending offensive messages, texts and photographs to her employer and following her in the car. He used the family courts to obtain contact with the children and, fearing the consequences of his escalating activity, Sally decided to co-operate. She was frightened and worried about her personal safety and that of her children, but at this time there was still no overt threat of violence. The police told her that they were powerless to intervene unless he made a physical attack. It was only recently, when he threatened to kill her in front of one of the children, that the police finally acted.
"Following discussions with police, lawyers and others, PAS and NAPO support an amendment which would expand the definition beyond fear of violence to include causing a person to fear for their personal safety or the safety of another, for example a child or relative".
"The proposed amendment to the Bill regarding the specification of fear for personal safety or that of another as a parameter is very important, given the psychological damage that stalkers inflict and seek to inflict. The amendment would substantially strengthen the legislation and we would encourage peers to adopt it".
My amendments do not make significant textual changes, but they are changes that would make a significant difference to the lives of victims in a small number of serious cases like those of Sally Evans and Mary Porter. We are tantalisingly close to achieving our new law on stalking. However, we must make sure that when it reaches the statute book, we end up with the best possible version. No doubt the Government will argue that at this stage it is too late to bring forward further changes and the Minister said that he thought that all cases would be reasonably covered by the amendments being proposed by the Government today. However, I believe that while we have the opportunity to ensure that victims like Sally Evans and Mary Porter could be properly covered by legislation, we have a duty to ensure that they are served by the most comprehensive law possible. I would therefore urge noble Lords to think of those two women in our debate and to support my amendments. I beg to move.
Baroness Brinton: My Lords, last Wednesday was the second annual National Stalking Awareness Day and two events were held simultaneously here and in the Scottish Parliament. They differed radically from the event held one year before because all those present in London were able to celebrate the introduction of this Bill, promoted on a cross-party basis in both Houses of this Parliament. One year ago, the people's inquiry into stalking was just being created. It was ably chaired by Elfyn Llwyd MP and supported in every possible way by the National Association of Probation Officers and Protection Against Stalking, which had come together in their absolute determination to persuade Parliament that we needed legislation that recognised the scourge of stalking. It needs naming, appropriate sentencing, support for victims and, importantly, treatment for perpetrators. Some members of that inquiry were sceptical about the need for change but the evidence bravely given by the victims, survivors, families of murdered victims, police and others in the criminal justice system made it undeniably evident that change was needed.
Last month the Home Secretary, speaking in the Commons debate, confirmed the need for change. Turning to the amendments before us now, she made it much clearer and plainer that the behaviour of those in the criminal justice system had to change, too, to recognise the seriousness of the case, even if it could not be specifically identified in every exemplar. She specifically said:
"Those amendments will widen the section 4A offence to incorporate behaviour that causes the victim serious alarm or distress that has a substantial effect on his or her day-to-day life. This change will mean that when a stalker causes their victim, for example, to take alternative routes to and from work, when the victim is afraid to leave the house or when they have to ask their
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Some of the examples to do with changing the culture are absolutely vital within the system. Frankly, that change should start with the renaming of the department in the Home Office that deals with stalking. It is currently called-I am not making this up-"Death and Violence". One small but significant change such as this will signal a key change in how the Government, the Civil Service and the criminal justice system are starting to treat stalking. This is about human beings and how they are treated.
I give one illustration from the courts today. The result of Elliot Fogel's case was due to be heard this morning-the latest chapter in his stalking of Claire Waxman over the past 20 years. He was imprisoned for two years in January for breaching a lifetime restraining order; this was after a 16-week sentence for the original stalking offence two years ago. He wanted his sentence reduced. Shockingly, the case was adjourned from this morning to this afternoon because the CPS had again forgotten its evidence and files on his repeated breaching of previous restraining orders. A further problem was that the CPS had consistently not prosecuted breaches of restraining orders, so the court was able to look only at three out of the many that had been taken to court. This presents a very different picture for the judges but it is one that they were forced to use. I am pleased to say that the court finally made its decision this afternoon and Fogel's sentence remains.
Every single court case in Claire Waxman's long and difficult experience of being stalked has been adjourned at least once because the CPS arrived without key papers or because of other unbelievable acts of incompetence. As with domestic violence cases, these delays, caused entirely by administrative errors, can be physically dangerous to victims and their families. The court is often stuck without effective means of prosecution. The only way to get around this is through training and guidance on stalking, its perpetrators and its victims. Until this happens, victims stand no chance of a fair trial or even a voice.
We have debated the detail of this at length and gained, I understand, unusual consensus on the need for stalking legislation. The time has come to accept the Secretary of State's clear intention on this and for the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to begin the vital work of changing the culture around the treatment of these offences to make it clear that the scourge of stalking is no longer acceptable in England and Wales.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, what we have heard today emphasises the need for training for the police and maybe other agencies, and the need to be alert to behaviour that may escalate, having started as apparently comparatively innocent. I was relieved to hear my noble friend say that these amendments are unnecessary and grateful for his explanations. Reading them earlier today, it seemed to me that they were covered in both senses. The two sets of behaviour described, of which individual B was the subject, would fit within the new sections. As regards a third party, it is likely, depending on the degree of seriousness, for other criminal offences to be involved.
As I say, I am glad to know that the amendments are unnecessary and that such behaviour will be covered. If legislation is adequate, it is important that it is not expanded to cover explicitly this sort of example because matters that are not explicitly included might then be thought to be excluded. Therefore, if the legislation covers, perhaps in a fairly technical way, the behaviours that are of concern, it could be damaging in a wider sense to spell out those behaviours in the legislation.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I can respond relatively briefly and will deal, I hope, with most of the points. First, to protect the honour of the Home Office, I correct just one point made by my noble friend Lady Brinton. She talked about there being a department in the Home Office known as "Death and Violence". I can assure her that that is not the case. The Home Office team that leads on this is called Interpersonal Violence, which I hope my noble friend will accept is a better name than the suggestion that she put forward.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for accepting that this matter has been driven by Parliament. It has been cross-party and I pay tribute to all those in this House and another place-the right honourable Elfyn Llwyd and others-who have led the work on this. Perhaps I may also say how important it is that we work with others; and that is why we will continue to talk to NAPO, Protection Against Stalking and ACPO about how we bring in the right training. As the noble Baroness will be aware, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made it clear on International Women's Day that training will be provided, and we will work with those bodies to develop that training. It is because we are providing it that we do not believe that the noble Baroness's amendments are necessary or appropriate. It is because we believe that we have come to a considerable degree of consensus on this that now is the moment to move on and get this Bill on the statute book.
All that I want to do at this point is respond to one matter in the example that the noble Baroness gave regarding Mary and the problems she faced. The noble Baroness said that Mary did not change her daily routine and therefore would not be captured by new Section 4A. As the noble Baroness made clear, Mary on that occasion kept records of her stalker, she did not sleep and had to speak to the police. All those are examples of day-to-day activities being affected. Therefore, new Section 4A certainly could apply in that case, and that is why it is important that we provide the police with exactly the right training, and
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I should also take on the point made by my noble friend Lady Brinton about the need within the Home Office and Ministry of Justice to make sure we change the culture appropriately-that obviously also applies to the police-in terms of understanding the importance of these matters and ensuring that prosecutions are, when appropriate, pursued with vigour, if necessary at the higher level provided by new Section 4A, or by new Section 2A in much more minor cases. I dealt with the example given by the noble Baroness because I wanted to make it clear that new Section 4A could apply even in that case.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: Is the noble Lord prepared to say that the Government's view is that the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, is in fact included in the interpretation of their Amendment 51C?
Lord Henley: My Lords, my understanding and what I was trying to get over is that, with the introduction of appropriate training in how the police prosecute in these matters, her amendment is not necessary. I therefore think I am right in saying that what I have said would be covered by my noble and learned friend's point.
Lord Henley: I, as always, speak for Her Majesty's Government when I am at this Dispatch Box, but on this occasion I cannot honestly answer for the Ministry of Justice. All that I was trying to do was clear the name of my department, but I am sure that other Justice Ministers will in due course be able to respond to my noble friend's point.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and to the noble Baronesses who participated in this debate. The Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, quite rightly spoke of the critical value of training for the police and other members of the criminal justice system. It is clear that in the case cited by the noble Baroness, that of Claire Waxman, training that will bring about a change of culture is an absolutely necessary and vital part of ensuring that in future the perpetrators of stalking are truly brought to book and the new offence that we are introducing is properly used against them.
I realise that the Minister says that the case of Mary would be covered by the amendments being brought forward by the Government, and he says that my amendments are not therefore necessary. The intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, is of course extremely valuable because the
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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, I beg leave to repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime and Security to an Urgent Question in another place. The Statement is as follows:
"It is a matter of deep regret that it took 19 years to achieve convictions for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. In the years since he was murdered, the Lawrence family fought tirelessly for justice and, without their efforts, it is unlikely that either Gary Dobson or David Norris would have been convicted. I hope that the verdicts in January are able to finally deliver some comfort to the Lawrence family.
Following the convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris, further allegations of corruption have come to light. As a result, the solicitor acting on behalf of Mrs Lawrence has written to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary asking her to set up a public inquiry.
Allegations of police corruption must always be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. It is essential that we ensure that the actions and behaviours of any corrupt police officers do not undermine public confidence in the police's ability to respond to, investigate and fight crime. The Metropolitan Police is currently carrying out an internal review into these corruption allegations and we await its findings. I would like to reassure Members that my right honourable friend is treating these issues with the utmost seriousness. She is currently considering her decision and has offered to meet Doreen Lawrence to discuss these issues further. She will keep the House updated".
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for repeating the Urgent Question in another place as a Statement in your Lordships' House. I echo his remarks and regret that it has taken so long to achieve convictions for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Like the noble Lord, I also pay tribute to the Lawrence family for their tireless efforts to seek justice.
The House will know that during the investigation by the Metropolitan Police five suspects were arrested but not convicted. During the investigation many suggested that the murder was racially motivated and that the handling of the case by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service was affected by issues of race. After widespread concern, a public inquiry was held, led by Sir William Macpherson. This examined the original Metropolitan Police investigation and concluded that the force was institutionally racist.
As the Minister said, allegations of corruption in the murder investigation have been looked at on at least two previous occasions. They were looked at first by the Macpherson inquiry itself, which concluded that no collusion or corruption was proved to have infected the investigation of Stephen Lawrence's murder. Then in July 2006 the IPCC announced that it had asked the Metropolitan Police to look into alleged claims of police corruption that may have helped to hide the killers of Stephen Lawrence. In 2007, the IPCC said that it had found no evidence to substantiate these allegations. However, within weeks of the convictions earlier this year, the issue of corruption in the Lawrence case surfaced again when the Independent made allegations about a detective in the Lawrence case which had previously been made in the Guardian in 2002 and by the BBC in 2006.
Doreen Lawrence has called on the Home Secretary to order a second public inquiry into the police investigation of the murder of her son. The call for a Macpherson 2 comes as the Metropolitan Police has said that it has been unable, after a month of investigation, to establish whether it passed potentially crucial files detailing investigations by its anti-corruption command to the police inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's death held in 1998.
Those are some of the contexts in which we consider the Government's response today, and I should like to ask the noble Lord a number of questions. He said that the Metropolitan Police is currently carrying out
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We understand that the Home Secretary is, as the Minister said, considering this matter at the moment but there has been an indication that one of her concerns is cost. Can the noble Lord assure me that cost will not be a factor when the Home Secretary comes to order an inquiry? Does he also accept that there are very powerful reasons for holding such an inquiry, including the seriousness of the allegations, the fact that they have recurred on a number of occasions and that the Inquiries Act 2005 states that inquiries should be held if particular events have caused or are capable of causing public concern? I suggest that that threshold may well have been reached.
If there is to be an inquiry-either a continuation of Macpherson or a new public inquiry-I should also like to ask the Government whether they will consider adding to its terms of reference consideration of progress made by the Metropolitan Police following the Macpherson finding of institutional racism and whether further changes need to be made in the light of more recent racism allegations, which I think will be the subject of an Oral Question in your Lordships' House very soon.
Perhaps I may also refer the Minister to a number of comments made by my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper in relation to the wider allegations of alleged racism involving Metropolitan Police officers reported in recent weeks. It is very important that the IPCC carries out a swift investigation of this. She has also suggested an urgent referral to the IPCC of new information regarding alleged corruption at the time of the original police inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. I should also say that we on these Benches give full support for the efforts of the commissioner and commend his response to the recent allegations, including operational changes. There would, I think, be some real benefit if one saw Macpherson reconvened with the specific remit of investigating the corruption but also looking at the progress that the Met has made in tackling racism in the light of recent allegations and in the context of the stance that the commissioner has taken in recent weeks.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support for the commissioner in these matters, and I am also grateful that he stressed that we have already had two reports-from Macpherson and the IPCC-both of which were unable to find any corruption in the original inquiry. However, obviously that does not mean that we should not look again at these matters and that is why in this Statement, made in response to a Question, we made it clear that initially the Met will hold an internal review. The noble Lord asked when it will conclude. Obviously I
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The noble Lord then asked whether an independent inquiry was the only solution or whether we should have a continuation of Macpherson, and whether cost would influence us in these matters. I can give him an assurance that, within limits obviously-we do not want another Saville inquiry, which the noble Lord will remember cost something of the order of £100 million or £200 million-we will not let cash constrain or limit us too much.
The noble Lord went on to ask whether we would consider the terms of reference for any new inquiry. Again, until we decide whether we will have an inquiry, which is a decision for my right honourable friend, I cannot speculate on that on this occasion.
I have tried to answer every question that the noble Lord has put to me, but I have given him no answers whatever because this is not the moment or stage at which to do so. However, my right honourable friend is considering these matters and they are being taken very seriously indeed. She will consider them in due course.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, while one obviously regrets the need for such a Statement, I thank the Minister for giving it. Among one's reactions, one can only imagine the frustrations of the many good officers who have been involved in this whole case, and, of course, the feelings of the Lawrence family. I also welcome the Home Secretary's agreement to meet Mrs Lawrence. Does the Minister agree that the whole case confirms the wider importance of the involvement of, and information being given to, the family of victims as well as, when it is not a murder case, to the victims themselves? We have moved a long way, though there is further to go, from the days when the victim was little more than a witness. The role of the family is important in this day and age.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I totally agree with my noble friend about understanding the importance of victims and their needs, which is something that I hope we always manage to do. I also endorse what she said about the frustration of what she described as the vast majority of officers. I should like to make it clear to the House at this stage that there is no evidence from the two inquiries we have had. So I should like to refer to the frustration of all officers, on the basis of the basic presumption in English law that all are innocent until shown to be otherwise. However, I accept what she means about the frustration of those
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Lord Reid of Cardowan: I also thank the Minister for his Statement. I have both a personal and a previous interest in this as I was Home Secretary when the IPCC established its inquiry into this question of corruption. As a former Home Secretary-other former Home Secretaries will no doubt verify this-I understand the difficult and dangerous job that the police do and the general debt of gratitude that we owe them for our security and safety. That is all the more reason why when there are allegations or prima facie indications of corruption within the police force it is not only a source of frustration, it tarnishes the reputation of British policing.
As the Minister will know, on this occasion not only is there recurrently a swirl of allegations around this case, but it is happening in the context, as my noble friend Lord Hunt said, of other allegations of racism. There is also at present an inquiry into at least allegations that the police did not judiciously and as assiduously as possible follow up investigations into wider issues connected with the press. That is all the more reason, in addition to the concerns of the family itself, that the Minister should be able to answer two questions. First, can he assure us that when the internal police inquiry is finished-and it is proper that the Home Secretary waits until that operation is finished, as it is an operational matter for the police-the Home Secretary or another government representative will report back to the House within a reasonable time on their considerations? Secondly, will the Government not rule out the possibility of conducting a public inquiry into this matter in order to allay the concerns and fears of the wider public should those remain following the internal police inquiry?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I think that I made it pretty clear when repeating the Statement that my right honourable friend has made it quite clear that she is not ruling out an inquiry, and I repeat that assurance to the noble Lord. I also make it clear that she has promised to keep the House updated as a matter of course. I cannot promise precisely how and when she will do that or whether she will do something before the internal inquiry ends, but there might be other occasions. The precise timing and method by which she keeps the House updated obviously will be a matter for her.
I thank the noble Lord-who I think is the only former Home Secretary in the Chamber at the moment-for his intervention, and particularly for what he said about the police and the debt that we owe them. Let us hope that all these allegations prove to be unfounded as far as possible.
Lord Blair of Boughton: I lived with the Lawrence inquiry for something like 16 years, and I had the honour this year to be invited to give the first Stephen Lawrence inaugural lecture. Like many others, I pay tribute to the Lawrence family, and Doreen Lawrence in particular.
I suggest that the Home Secretary is taking a very sensible line on this matter. When I read the Independent a month or so ago regarding these allegations I was surprised at how many of those allegations I had heard before-how many had been in the investigation by the Guardian in 2002 and by the IPCC, and how many were known to those of us who had worked on the case. My concern now is to distinguish, as statisticians do, between coincidence and causation. The original Macpherson inquiry clearly did not say that there was no corruption, but it could not find any connection between corruption and the failures of the first investigation. I think that that is probably the situation that we still sit with.
I commend the idea that if an inquiry is necessary we should pursue it with absolute vigour. I also commend the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that perhaps the Metropolitan Police's internal inquiry should be given the support of an independent position from HMIC. This case has so many layers that we should take it very slowly, as the Home Secretary suggests, and very carefully, before we rush to judgment.
Lord Henley: I am very grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, who knows more than anyone about these issues. I am also very grateful for the support that he offers to the Home Secretary as regards taking this very carefully. I think that my right honourable friend will also note in particular his comments on the possible assistance that HMIC may wish to give to the Met in this instance.
Baroness Berridge: My Lords, a recent After the Riots report from the Riots Communities and Victims Panel drew on statistics that one in three people think that the police are corrupt and an IPCC survey stated that 43 per cent of black people felt that a complaint against the police would not be dealt with impartially compared with 31 per cent generally. As much as one is encouraged by the comments of the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the new leadership at the IPCC, this is the level of public confidence in those bodies. Will the Minister consider what, in essence, I believe Doreen Lawrence is asking for, which is some level of independence and impartiality in this inquiry because, in effect, you have a police investigation into the police? I ask the Minister to comment on the converse side of that: in the current context, is there not a danger that there might be a temptation for the Metropolitan Police to be too hard on past conduct to allay present connected concerns about racism, which also would not be a just resolution to this matter? Would introducing independence and impartiality achieve the best way of establishing the truth of what has happened and would improving public confidence in the police be best for the police themselves and especially for the Lawrence family?
Lord Henley: My Lords, on occasions, I have heard allegations that one in three people think that the police are corrupt, but other surveys seem to show relatively high levels of satisfaction with the police, both in the white community and in the BME community. It is much the same for both groups, although it varies once one gets into sub-groups. I note what my noble
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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, public confidence in the police is extremely important. If there is an underlying feeling that the police, either in these circumstances or in others when allegations have been made, have acted in a way that is not with full integrity and is corrupt, is the Home Office satisfied with the current arrangements within the police service for monitoring and reassuring the public about the integrity of officers? What steps does the Home Office envisage putting in place to ensure that priority is given to this work when the new regime of police and crime commissioners comes into force later this year?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right to talk about the importance of public confidence in the police. If we do not have public confidence in the police, we move to a rather different form of policing and one which neither he nor I would ever wish to see. I shall not go wider into the debate on police and crime commissioners at this stage as I appreciate that there are differences of view between the noble Lord and myself about them. We believe that they will bring greater accountability and that, in future, we shall have better policing as a result. As I made clear in the Statement, my right honourable friend takes all allegations of this sort extremely seriously. If any allegation, and particularly this one, is proved to be true, that can undermine public confidence in the police force which he and I and everyone else in the House considers so important.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to debate Sunday Trading in connection with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games begin in just over three months and, on all sides of the House, we are determined to make a success of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both occasions will draw a significant number of visitors from home and abroad to the events themselves, to our tourist attractions, to our pubs and restaurants, and also to our shops.
This is an opportunity for our runners, swimmers and cyclists to showcase their talents. They will be seeking to emulate the achievements of the noble
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At present, however, the Sunday Trading Act 1994 limits the opening times on Sundays of certain shops with a relevant floor area of more than 3,000 square feet. In particular, the Act restricts them to opening on a Sunday for a maximum six-hour period between 10 am and 6 pm. Just imagine the situation: it is the evening of Sunday 5 August, at 10 pm, and Usain Bolt has just won the 100 metre final; or a week earlier, on Sunday 29 July, and Becky Adlington has just set a new record in the 400 metres freestyle. Thousands of spectators, pumped up with pride and with the Olympic spirit, stream out of the stadium to purchase their souvenirs or their celebratory Olympic mascot, only to find that a host of shops are in fact closed. Under the current rules, only shops of up to 3,000 square feet are open. One square foot over that and they are closed, unless of course they are in a specially exempt sector. Try explaining that to visitors from Germany, Russia, China, India or Japan, let alone the millions of British spectators at the Games, or think about the thousands of spectators at big screens up and down the country who will not be able to do their regular Sunday shopping before or after these events. That is why my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget that we will remove this restriction during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, starting on Sunday 22 July and concluding on 9 September.
The Bill that we are discussing today will give shops the opportunity, should they wish to take it, to open for longer to make the most of the economic benefits of the Games. It presents retailers with a chance to increase sales, shop workers with a chance to earn some extra money, consumers the flexibility to shop when they want to and it could help to increase temporary employment. It will be good for the Games and good for the economy in these challenging times.
I recognise that the use of the fast-track procedure for this Bill is not ideal. However, I believe that exceptional use of this procedure is justified given the imminence of the Games. We do not want hundreds of thousands of visitors to be welcomed to the UK with closed signs across our shopping centres, and not just here in London.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, many arrangements needed to be put in place for the Games. This is an important one, as are many others. We are putting this in place now and it also follows the introduction of a Bill
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The Government believe that the Bill should apply to all of England and Wales. The Games are for the whole of the UK, not just for London. Indeed, many of the Olympic and Paralympic events are based outside London. There will be football in Manchester, Newcastle and Coventry; sailing in Weymouth; mountain biking in Essex; rowing at Eton; and canoe slalom in Hertfordshire. In all those sports there will be events on Sundays, including Paralympic sailing and rowing.
Big screens will be put up in towns and cities around the country to enable people to get together to watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We want tourists and visitors to those events also to take advantage of longer shop opening hours in the vicinity of those locations. Of course, tourists may travel to other parts of the UK during the Games. We want families, whether they are in east London, the East Midlands or the north-east, to have the flexibility to plan their weekends around local and national events.
However, we recognise that the Bill causes concern for important groups. We have worked with the Opposition, unions and retailers to make sure that the concerns are addressed. In particular, there was concern that shop workers would not have sufficient time after Royal Assent to opt out of Sunday working in time for the start of the suspension period, should they wish to do so. This is because the usual notice period for opting out is three months, and there will be less than three months between Royal Assent in early May-subject of course to the agreement of your Lordships and of another place-and the start of the suspension of the restrictions on 22 July. It is of course important that shop workers in large shops that are affected by the temporary suspension in the Bill who wish to exercise their right to opt out of Sunday working during this period should be able to do so. Although they can give their opting-out notice before Royal Assent-and those who object to Sunday working will generally have opted out already-we recognise the concern that they should be able to do so after Royal Assent.
This right to opt out of Sunday working is already a unique employment protection that is not shared by almost any other sector of the working population, including, for example, the catering sector. The Bill will not diminish the rights that are set out in law. However, in recognition of this concern, we have brought forward an amendment to the Bill that temporarily reduces the three-month opting-out notice period to as little as two months for shop workers in large stores that are affected by the Bill. I will move that amendment in Committee on Thursday. On top of that, and very importantly, shortly after Royal Assent the Government will publish guidance on the implications of the Bill for employers and employees.
I am pleased to see that many large shops are taking a sensible attitude to working with their staff to take advantage of this opportunity. Morrisons, for example-one of the many stores that we spoke to-told us that it will speak to its employees so that they understand the proposals and any impact that they might have on their working hours. It also said that,
Furthermore, the Government are very mindful that for many people Sunday has a particular religious significance as a day set aside for worship, and a day that is different from the rest of the week. The Government consulted with the church in advance of the Bill to ensure that it was recognised that this is emphatically a temporary measure for the period of the London Olympics and Paralympics only. I make it clear that this is not a test case or Trojan horse for a future permanent relaxation of the rules. The Bill is time-limited in its effect and contains a clear sunset clause. The suspension will be in effect from 22 July 2012, the Sunday before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, to 9 September 2012, the date of the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games. If the Government ever wanted to look at a permanent relaxation of the rules, new legislation would be required and consultation would be undertaken. Parliament would also have the opportunity fully to debate the issue. This Bill does not indicate any new government policy on the wider issue of Sunday trading restrictions.
I will also address the potential impact of the Bill on small shops, which has been highlighted. It is not clear whether, how, and to what extent small shops will be affected. However, both the Opposition and the Federation of Small Businesses have asked the Government to carry out an assessment of the impact of the temporary suspension. I assure the House that were the Government ever to decide to look at a permanent relaxation of Sunday trading restrictions, a full impact assessment would be carried out. As part of that, they would of course consider any evidence of the impact that the temporary suspension had had on relevant businesses, large and small.
We listened to the concerns raised about the Bill. We made every effort to consult and to work with a range of interested parties. We spoke to large businesses, including supermarkets and other retailers; to representative organisations such as the CBI, the British Retail Consortium and the British Council of Shopping Centres. We spoke to representatives of small businesses such as the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Federation of Small Businesses, which I mentioned. We also spoke to trade unions including USDAW and Unite. As I mentioned, we spoke to the Church of England, the Church in Wales and the Roman Catholic Church.
We also offered briefing sessions on the Bill to all Peers and Members of another place. We had numerous discussions and exchanges with the Opposition. They agreed several weeks ago to the use of the fast-track procedure for the Bill, subject to us considering employees'
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As I said, the Games are an opportunity to showcase the UK's skills, talents and businesses to the rest of the world. They will be an occasion for unparalleled entertainment, and we want to make sure that everyone can enjoy them to the full. Allowing extended Sunday trading for UK retailers will be a small change that could have a significant impact on the enjoyment of the Games, on our national economy and on our international image. It is one that has been done elsewhere on similar occasions. It may surprise noble Lords to learn that even Germany, with its notoriously tight restrictions on Sunday opening-far tighter than ours-eased its opening hours restrictions during the football World Cup in 2006 and then reimposed them. If Germany could do it, I am sure that we in the UK can and should. The Bill will give employees, consumers and businesses the opportunity fully to seize the vast opportunities that will come from this once-in-a-lifetime event. I commend the Bill to the House and beg to move.
Lord Newby: My Lords, when I first saw this Bill, I found it quite perplexing. It raised a number of questions in my mind. The first was the question that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has already raised: why has it taken seven years since we were allocated the Olympics for someone, with fewer than 100 days to go to the Games, to realise that there is a bit of a problem? When talking to people, it has been suggested to me that it was only because the retailers on and adjacent to the Olympic park realised that they were not going to be able to be open to sell souvenirs on a Sunday. If that is indeed why this is coming forward at this time, someone in the Olympic organisation has been pretty incompetent. Even if one accepts, as seems perfectly reasonable, as the Minister said, that the shops on and adjacent to the park itself and other major Olympic venues should be open for the full duration of sessions of the Games, it seems a very big leap to get to the provisions of the Bill. Why should a B&Q in Carlisle or a Comet in Margate be able to stay open all hours on eight Sundays just because we want attendees at Olympic events to be able to buy a T-shirt on their way home?
It could be argued that actually it does not really matter and that this is a storm in a teacup. No one could argue that this is the most significant problem
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The second reason why this is of greater significance is that shops are not machines. They need people to run them and, to put it mildly, the people who run them are less keen than the Government on this legislation. No doubt a number of noble Lords will have seen the representations from USDAW about the views of its members. Admittedly, they are USDAW members, not an absolute representation of everyone who works in a shop, but when you ask 20,000 shop workers what they think, and 78 per cent are opposed to longer working hours for the Olympics and 73 per cent believe that the Bill will lead to more pressure on them to work on Sundays against their will, it is a matter of concern.
I heard what the Minister said about Morrisons. In the nicest possible way, it would say that, wouldn't it? I believe that many people who do not want to work additional hours on Sundays, whatever the rules about them being able to request an exemption, will be pressurised to work on Sundays and, in the current climate, will feel that they have to work on Sundays for longer hours against their will.
I very much welcome the Government's planned amendments to make it easier for people to opt out if they do not want to continue working longer hours or to have longer hours on Sunday. I just question how effective in reality, on a shop-by-shop basis, that will be.
If I am pretty grumpy about the timing of the Bill and its geographic extent and implications for shop workers, what are the reasons why I might adopt a more balanced view and even support it? The first is that it is obvious that the Olympics are a unique event. They are a global festival. The eyes of the world are going to be on the UK and, as we have done with so many other things to do with the Olympics, whether it is the cost of the stadiums and ancillary facilities or accepting that we have special lanes for the cars of Olympics officials, we have accepted that you do not do the Olympics in a half-hearted way. That is the right approach to take. To a large extent, one is bound by the rules of the organisers, and in assessing how to run the Olympics one must have in one's mind how other countries have done it and how we can be seen to do at least as well as many other countries that have had the Olympics. In many ways, the preparations for the Olympics in the UK have been extremely well
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The other thing that flows from that is the Minister's point about how other countries have approached Sunday trading. It is quite extraordinary that in Germany the rules on Sunday trading were relaxed to the extent they were because Germany has a much stronger view about Sundays and their role than we do. It is very interesting that the academic research done about the positive and negative impacts of the World Cup in Germany showed that, in aggregate, the economic impact was as near zero as made no difference, but the great impact was that people in Germany felt better about Germany to a quite considerable extent. That is clearly a very positive benefit. Despite meeting other grumpy people, who in some cases are grumpy because they do not want to be involved in the Games at all, I have no doubt that I, like most people in the country, will be absolutely captivated by them, and I suspect that on the middle Sunday of the Games, I will be glad that there are no people grumbling that the shops are shut.
Baroness Deech: My Lords, my only reservation about this Bill is the sunset clause. The relaxation, or normalisation, of Sunday shopping hours lasts only from 22 July to 9 September. Of course it is welcome, but now that we are debating it, one cannot help but notice what is inconsistent, protectionist and, indeed, sexist about our Sunday shopping laws. Is it not odd that the restrictions affect only large shops over 3,000 square feet in size? This immediately sweeps away any rational objection to Sunday trading. It cannot be argued that there should be time for families to be together and go to church when non-large shops are open.
Not only are small shops open, but we all expect to be served on Sunday by those who work and support, at varying hours and seamlessly, in TV, radio and cinemas. The clergy and, no doubt, their wives are busy on Sunday. The pubs are open. Concerts are held. Sport and health clubs go on. Hospitals and medical services are fully staffed. Would we not be shocked if we were told that all married people in hospital service were going home to feed their families? Care homes are, of course, open. Museums, the police and the fire service are working. Restaurants are open, no doubt selling pasties. Garages are open. Traffic wardens are at work. The AA and the RAC are out there working to rescue us. Transport is more or less fully functional. Flights are flying. Swimming pools are open, and so are gyms and hotels. The telephone, electricity and gas are working with people behind the scenes to support them. The stately homes are open, as are the markets and the funfairs. The newspapers are being printed and sold. Garden centres and farm shops are open. No doubt that list could be added to. There are no such restrictions in Scotland, hardly a less religious or family-oriented nation than England.
More and more people, especially women, are in employment and find it impossible to fit in all the chores in normal shopping hours during the week. Indeed, it is my view that banks, post offices, hairdressers
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Family togetherness is threatened now by the opening of pubs and the availability of sports on Sunday. In any case, a favoured family togetherness activity is, precisely, shopping. If convenience stores are accepted, why is there no concern for the family togetherness of their owners? Is it perhaps protectionism at work? Noise concern is misplaced because there is noise already from the various activities that I have mentioned.
There is something-dare I say-a bit snobbish about controlling supermarkets and big stores when none of the other activities and outlets that I have mentioned is controlled. A YouGov poll in March this year revealed that 35 per cent of adults wanted a permanent relaxation of Sunday hours; 31 per cent supported the temporary relaxation that we are discussing this evening; only 27 per cent were opposed. Forty-six per cent of Scots supported permanent relaxation-and they should know because they already have it. The hours apply, as has been said, only to England and Wales. A OnePoll survey in February this year showed that 33 per cent want a permanent relaxation and 22 per cent want Sunday closure. A Sunday Telegraph poll in March of 1,000 adults showed that 37 per cent wanted permanent relaxation, and that 63 per cent of women did.
The existing six-hour allowance is a bit of a nuisance. A large shop is typically open only from, say, 10 am to 4 pm. There is not really enough time before lunch if you are preparing it, or indeed after lunch if it has been a good lunch, to get to the supermarket for the necessary hour and a half or two hours. The Government have shown great enthusiasm for the Mary Portas-led study of how to revive the high street. The high street is dead on a Sunday. If more shops were open there, they would rival the out-of-town shops.
I mentioned sexism. The sexism here is that objections to longer Sunday opening hours appear to come mostly-but not always-from men. They are quite happy to have the pub, sport and the garage on Sunday as usual, but I suppose they do not want their wives out when they might be required at home to make lunch. Cooking, visiting relatives, laundry and childcare are all taken for granted for very long hours on Sundays. Would it not be wonderful if all women downed tools at home on Sunday on the grounds that it was a day of rest? What working women want, quite apart from the Olympics period, is a day when they can catch up with the tasks impossible to perform during the working week-number one: shopping, preferably with another family member.
The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, it will not surprise the House that the Church of England, like most Christian churches, is no great enthusiast for Sunday training, notwithstanding the most excellent speech that we have heard from across the Chamber.
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There is a danger of contradictory messages here, of the desire to create a better and more wholesome society and having the time to do so, and finding a natural space within a week in which that can be encouraged somewhat further. I stress to your Lordships that the church's reluctance to enthuse about Sunday trading is not about its own institutional self-interest. Our churches offer ministry seven days a week, every week of the year, but Sunday remains the one day of the week when most people, by and large, are able to share common time for their own pursuits. The work/life balance is not merely an individual concern, where the life part of the equation cannot be shared with a wider spectrum of other people. Our whole society, I believe, begins to break down if we do not have something that reflects that value.
The number of people who can share a common day of leisure forms a critical mass below which many of our voluntary institutions cannot survive. Too often in debates on Sunday trading we have heard about the virtues of shopping as a shared leisure activity. But for people to shop, others must work. Very significant numbers of people, including high proportions of women and men with family responsibilities, are employed in retailing and distribution, and a great many other people in other walks of life are obliged to work when the shops are open. We are all consumers, but if Sunday trading was to become an unfettered norm, we would pretty soon all be workers too, and the rich associational life of our nation-its charities, amateur sports, extended family life and, yes, its churches-which is already desperately fragile, would crumble.
I cannot warmly commend this Bill, although I suspect it will pass. None the less, I thank the Ministers concerned for their careful consultation with my colleagues at Church House, and for their assurances that this Bill is prompted solely by the unique circumstances surrounding the Olympic Games, which will have an impact on many of our communities for the duration of the events-although I beg leave to doubt that the traders of Shepton Mallet will see much change in their normal footfall.
I am grateful that the Bill contains an unequivocal sunset clause, but no Government can have complete control over the way in which events may be used to support other arguments in the future. I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances that this is no stalking-horse for future deregulation of shopping hours, and I trust that this Bill will do precisely what it says on the tin.
However, I give notice that the church will be on guard against arguments from any quarter that try to insinuate that this Olympic experiment has been so successful that it must be extended in the future. An exceptional measure for an exceptional period in time is not replicable and it will give us no worthwhile economic indicators about deregulation in general. In the past, the calls for greater deregulation have not come from across the whole retail industry but from the chains, which saw an opportunity to steal a march
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I remind your Lordships, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, has also done, of the rights of shop workers to opt out of Sunday working if they so wish. These rights were part of the reason the Sunday Trading Act 1994 finally made it on to the statute book after earlier attempts at deregulation by Mrs Thatcher's Government had been roundly defeated. They were a crucial concession and yet they have not proved to be all that robust in practice. I am glad that we shall see an amendment to this Bill that regularises the opt-out for staff, but it must be a robust amendment, which does what it says on the tin. If the Olympic period is such an exceptional opportunity for British business, it is only right that those whose labour makes that possible-on all days of the week-are properly protected.
It would be extremely churlish of me not to conclude by saying that I believe and hope that the Olympic Games will be a resounding success for our country, and that if this Bill is to be passed, it will be limited to simply that period of time.
Baroness Trumpington: Fuss, fuss, fuss, my Lords. I cannot for the life of me understand why a small Bill covering a very short period of time should be used by USDAW in this unnecessary and provocative way. Incidentally, I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate that this Bill should never be used to increase Sunday trading hours. I have been associated with the opening and closing hours of shops since the Shops Bill in 1986, continuing with the Sunday Trading Bill in 1993. Not many of us are left, although it is worth mentioning that my main opponent, the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, who at that time I regarded as the enemy but whom I now think of as a good old boy, is still around. I am very sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, is not speaking today. As far as I know, she is the only other remaining noble Lord from that time.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells may be interested, in case he missed this information in 1994, that the then right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich in debate in this House stated that,
The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, against Sunday trading was somewhat dented by the fact that I was able to tell him that the Co-op in Scotland was already trading on Sundays. Indeed, as has been mentioned, Sunday trading in Scotland has never been enormously prolific but always legal. In 1994, I said that I was grateful to Lord Harris of High Cross for saying that I was the grandmother of Sunday trading. As such and so many years later, I wish this Bill God-speed.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak after the grandmother of Sunday trading, having survived so long since 1994. It is not without reason that there was a long debate about this subject prior to 1994 in which the grandmother played a very important part. However, when it came to debating the Bill in Parliament, Divisions arose. They were on a free vote because matters of conscience were thought to be involved in the subject matter of the Bill. In due course, these reasons were elaborated. The principal religious reason was the basis for a weekly day of rest, which was clearly set out in an article in the Times not long ago by our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi. Of course, religious days of rest are not exclusively Christian by any means. Other religions that embrace such days of rest also have them as a precious part of their heritage. In the Christian tradition, Sunday of course is referred to in connection with the commemoration of the resurrection of our Lord.
Since 1994, Governments have raised the question of whether the restrictions in the 1994 Act should be altered. The Labour Government consulted on this matter and I remember Alistair Darling saying that it had found no appetite for change. This Government have also consulted on at least two occasions-first, in the retail review and, secondly, in the red tape review. On both occasions it appears that no appetite for change was revealed. On the great deliberation with which the Sunday trading provisions had been reached in Parliament, I must say that I found it slightly insensitive that they should have been regarded as red tape.
As the right reverend Prelate has mentioned, other aspects include family life. There are few occasions in the nature of our routines when families have the freedom to get together. On the whole, Sunday is certainly the day on which that is more possible than on most other days. Again, as the right reverend Prelate has said, that is a very important part of the structure of our society. I for one would not wish to have anything to do with arrangements that make that more difficult to carry on.
As has been said, the opening of large shops is what, after great deliberation, was prohibited or restricted by the 1994 Act. It was on the basis that small shops should be allowed to carry on. That has been the balance of our Sundays ever since.
Many people will come from countries that have their own restrictions on Sunday trading. Indeed, as the Minister said, Germany has quite strict restrictions on Sunday trading. It did, of course, relax them-it was not said exactly to what extent-in connection with the World Cup. That is a factor to be taken into account. Many people will be coming from other countries to our country for the Olympics. We hope that they will come in great numbers and that the whole event will be a complete success. Those people-some with restrictions of their own, some without-will see the normal balance of life still flourishing all the way through the Olympics.
I join the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and others in saying that the general arrangements for the Olympics have been extremely good. Some of the arrangements will still be tested-the traffic arrangements, in particular,
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The idea that this should happen for eight Sundays has only recently been raised. As my noble friend Lord Cormack said during the Minister's opening address, it is not as though the date of the Olympics has been unknown until the Budget. It reminds me of the story of the man who saw a boy running for the train. He said, "You are running fast enough now, but did you start early enough?". We seem to have left that part out of the equation. This matter requires sensitive treatment in the ways of time as well as in the other ways to which the Minister referred. The Bill as introduced has now shown itself as requiring amendment and the Government propose to amend it.
As to the issue of workers in large shops, my noble friend Lord Newby has given the figures. One of the disturbing figures from the survey of 20,000 workers is that many of those who do not wish to work on Sunday feel pressured to do so and will feel increased pressure on the Sundays of the Olympics. After all, the family is an important unit in relation to the Olympics as well as to every other successful event in a similar situation.
The question of what good, if any, this will be for the economy is a matter of speculation. Your Lordships will have no doubt carefully studied the Explanatory Notes that have been printed on the Bill. They tell us that an impact assessment is not necessary. Notwithstanding that, my noble friend Lady Wilcox's department has in fact carried one out and the report is at appendix C. Your Lordships might be surprised that it is hard to find appendix A and appendix B, but it is even harder to find appendix C because it is not there at all. So the impact assessment from the department is, so far, private.
The idea that the opening of big shops will be a signal that Britain is open for business strikes me as bizarre because it is a temporary measure. After the eight Sundays have passed, will that be a signal that Britain is shut for business? I certainly hope not. We need all the business that we can get, but that does not mean that we need to destroy or damage our own way of life in order to achieve it.
The procedure used in connection with the Bill distresses me considerably. It is a pity that we should have to look at this matter in a rushed way on this occasion. The workers in the industry, as well as everyone else, have to be taken into account, and I strongly feel that the letter that we have received from the union that represents the principal number of workers in the industry has to be taken into account. As I say, I am distressed by the way this has happened. Deep considerations underlie the arrangements that we have had in this country for some time-when I say "this country", I mean England and Wales-and I am distressed that these arrangements should not be on display for people who come to visit us for the Olympics.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, it might help if I just explain that I think in Recesses some things do not get checked as carefully as they would normally, and there were no annexes A and B. Indeed, the advice was that the economic impact is very difficult to assess because of the nature of this Bill and the nature of the assessment that could reasonably be made. However, I am happy to make sure that we publish the impact assessment and make it available tomorrow ahead of the Committee stage. I stress to noble Lords that it does not strictly need to have been published, but in the name of full disclosure of information ahead of further consideration of the Bill, I am happy to make sure that it is available to noble Lords ahead of Committee.
Lord Judd: My Lords, it is always a privilege, and indeed a joy, to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, who on issues of this kind sets a very high example in terms of the wisdom that he brings to bear on the issues before us.
The noble and learned Lord referred to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Newby, in which he drew attention to the letter from USDAW and the statistics it contains. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, was right to do that, because whatever we say and whatever our position, the burden of what we are proposing falls on the shop workers. It seems absolutely extraordinary to move into it for a temporary period-which accepts that it is something we would not normally want to do-without taking the views of the people who it is most going to affect fully into account.
I will not repeat them, but one of the statistics that impressed me greatly was that only 11 per cent-just over one in 10-of shop workers believes that they want to work in this situation. It seems rather difficult to accept that we go ahead with this when almost 90 per cent of shop workers say they do not want to do it and when it has all been apparently agreed that this is something we do not want permanently. We need to take this issue far more seriously than we apparently are. There have been consultations, but this was an effort to talk to the workers themselves and ask them what their views were.
I hope the Minister will forgive my drawing attention to the way he presented the case, but I am always intrigued in situations like these by the fact that people will have the right to opt out. But why on earth should the emphasis be that way? If you are going to have it, surely it should be about who wants to opt in, because we are intervening in what should be the normal arrangement of our affairs and expecting the shop workers to go along with us. I find it rather high-handed to say, "Well of course the person has the right to opt out". Then there is the whole issue of the reality as distinct from the theory. I suggest there is not one of us who, in our heart of hearts, does not realise that in an awful lot of situations there will be all sorts of pressures one way or another for workers to comply when this provision has been introduced.
All this bears far more careful consideration. The Minister also referred to the irrefutable fact, which we should remember, that the provisions we have to protect workers' rights in this context do not apply to everybody. They do not apply to an awful lot of people, as the
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I am not a Sabbatarian but I do happen to believe that one of the crises in our society and its whole culture is a creeping and suffocating blandness in which everything becomes the same. Whatever the accident in history, in which of course religious conviction has played a big part, the concept that there are some days that are different from other days in all sorts of intangible ways helps to lighten the load of inevitability and monotony that seems so much to diminish quality of life for people. That is why we have been at great pains in our society-but I do not think that it all came from benevolence; a lot of it came through hard, determined and courageous struggle by workers and their leaders-so that, when there is no Sunday provision, there is a recognition that people are entitled to a day off every week. Of course, what is being proposed here is that people may well be, as I understand it, although not necessarily automatically, expected to work in addition to the normal working week on a Sunday. I find that really rather a strange paradox.
As the right reverend Prelate put it so well, the whole Olympic ideal is about taking us out of ourselves and seeing bigger things than just the mundane, monotonous practicalities of life. It is about seeing spirit and adventure and people being able to join in and that imagination that goes with the whole culture of the Olympic ideal. To say that for all sorts of immediate pressing commercial reasons a particular section of people are to have less freedom than they would otherwise normally have is a very strange paradox.
To conclude, this Bill illustrates the need for some profound thinking for where we are going as a society. Can the Minister reflect on the words that he used himself? He was talking about an unrivalled commercial opportunity, or words to that effect. There is a lot of anxiety among a lot of people about the commercialisation of sport and what it is doing to undermine the integrity, the character and the spirit of what sport should be about. To say crudely that here is an unrivalled opportunity to maximise our commercial opportunities on the backs of the athletes is quite a significant thing to be saying about the vision, imagination and self-confidence in idealistic terms of our society. It disturbs me-and it also disturbs me that we are saying that we must not miss an opportunity like this to demonstrate that Britain is alive and well for business. Of course, I want the world to know that we are alive and well for business, but I also want people to get a feel of what our society is like and the values that we take as important. If we send a signal to the world that we are prepared, on an issue such as this, to override something that is normally important, what is that signal to the world about our values and self-confidence as a nation? It is a pretty pathetic message to send out to the world. For all those reasons, what worries me is that it is a short-sighted, mean and oppressive piece of legislation that is unnecessary-because we do not pretend to argue, and I hope that we mean it, that it is something
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Lord Bates: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who does us a great service by touching the soul of the nation as well as by giving the social and economic arguments that we are about to look at. I will focus more on the economic arguments, although this is a bit like going down memory lane. I recall beginning my political campaigning with the campaign "Keep Sunday Special" against the Shops Bill in 1986, so this debate is like "Adversaries Reunited". There I was on one side of the gangway handing out leaflets to political conference-goers that said, "Families that pray together stay together", while the retail consortium was, on the other side, handing out leaflets that said, "The family that shops together stops together". I do not think that the debate rose a great deal above that, but I hope in my time today to focus on some core themes and zero in on them.
I very much enjoyed the opening speech on the Bill by my noble friend the Minister, who has an acute understanding of these things. I want to make an argument about the nature of this Bill and what it says about the direction of the economy. Effectively, it is saying that there is a great commercial opportunity. We are totally agreed about the opportunity. The Olympics and the Paralympics-even more the Paralympics, because they are very much coming home to London, where they were invented in 1946-are a tremendous opportunity and they have been fantastically well organised. They are going to showcase Britain to the rest of the world. All of that is a given.
My contribution will focus for a little while on whether we ought to be looking purely at deregulation and opening our businesses for longer, or whether we ought to be looking a little more deeply at where economic value actually comes from. Here I take my inspiration from my father, who ran a successful small business in the north-east of England for 30 years. He was absolutely rigid about not wanting to work for any more than 40 hours per week and he always wanted to have his lunch hour. He used to say to me, "Michael, you know the truth of the matter is that it's not the hours you put in but what you put into the hours that counts". I thought that that was a very profound economic message. It is not about saying simply that we need to fling open the doors of Britain and work every hour available. We need to think about what we are yielding in terms of product and profitability in the process of doing so.
To give an example, at the moment we are being told of the great need to liberalise opening hours, but what would happen if you asked anybody in the street, "Do you know for how long shops are allowed to open at present"? The answer should be 150 hours per week, while we are talking here about whether they ought to be able to open for what I suppose is the maximum of 168. There is only 18 hours' difference. The reality is that businesses would be crazy to open for 150 hours
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In chasing longer hours, we need to be conscious of what that is doing not only to the social fabric-a very important point, which I would not diminish-but to the economic fabric of the nation, because as the cake remains the same, you simply divide it up over a greater number of hours. The greater number of hours that you are open, the more your costs increase and therefore your marginal utility and productivity reduce. That is what I want to put a marker down on, in the time that I have available. Our focus and passion should not be so much on or about being open all hours; it should be about productivity.
What do I mean by that? According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2011 a full-time employee in the UK worked an average of 42.7 hours a week. That was greater than his or her counterparts: in Germany the figure was 42, in France it was 41.1 and in Ireland it was 39.5 hours. However, the measure of productivity per hour is really what matters. Whether you are UK plc or JM Bates and Co in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, the answer is pretty much the same: it is productivity that counts.
When you look at the hours worked you get one answer, but here is the one that really matters: where does Britain rank compared with its competitors in terms of productivity? There you get a different answer. We may be open longer, but our productivity per hour worked is 107.2, given a base of 100 as an EU average. The productivity in France, whose economic model we often sneer at from this side of the Channel, is 136-almost 30 per cent more. In Germany it is 123.7-20 per cent more. In Ireland it is 125.6-nearly 25 per cent more. Essentially, I am saying that in these times we have to ensure that we are focusing on the right thing. If we just focus on saying, "We need to ensure that our pubs, offices and so on are open for business for longer and longer", but do not focus on the quality and the productivity of what goes on in them, we will miss the point about what is so desperately needed in the economy.
If I were looking to generate a bit of interest in support of this, I might look at how we conduct our affairs in this House. We were told, just before the Easter Recess in March, that there was not enough business for us to look at last week and therefore the House was not going to sit. The reason given by my noble friend the Chief Whip-who, of course, in all matters is absolutely correct-was that it costs £496,000 for your Lordships' House to sit. As we did not have sufficient business, we were not going to be open. That is a fair point. The quality of our scrutiny of legislation is what counts, not the number of hours that we are open. Heaven knows what the response would be if we said that we would all be coming in to scrutinise the Sunday trading liberalisation Bill on a Sunday-there would be a hue and cry. We need to remember that we are legislators legislating for people who have to do
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The heart of the issue has to be the economic case, because it may have relevance further down the track. We have been given different figures. Research by the Centre for Retail Research tells us that this act of liberalisation will yield £189.9 million. We then have another piece of research, produced by the Association of Convenience Stores, that says that the Bill will actually cost the economy £480 million. That is a pretty wide discrepancy. That is why the impact assessment that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern alluded to, and which I followed him into the Table Office in search of, is very important. We need to have sight of it, not necessarily to spoil the party around the Olympics and the Paralympics-not at all; it is going to be a great event-but to learn something about what the driver of our economy is, and how therefore we ought to legislate and make ourselves competitive in future.
We need to have the self-confidence and belief to say that the measure of the competitiveness of our economy is not in the fact that some tourist visiting the Olympics and Paralympics can go out at 10 pm on a Sunday after the 100-metres final and buy a tube of toothpaste, but in the quality of the work, the skills of our employees and the level of investment and of innovation present in our businesses. That is what we are showcasing in these Olympic and Paralympic Games and we should remember that.
Lord Glasman: My Lords, this is the fourth time I have spoken in the House and the third time I have spoken about Sunday, and closing shops on a Sunday, in relation to the Olympics. I want to say to my noble friend Lord Judd what an inspirational speech that was. I was involved with London Citizens in the bid for the Olympics and the part of the agreement about the living wage that would be agreed with all stakeholders. We were not told then that there would be these measures about supermarkets. It remains the case that there is not a single supermarket chain in England that pays a living wage.
We succeeded with the living wage. There is over 90 per cent compliance with it-it is £7.85 an hour, plus holiday pay, sick pay and pension-but the quality of the workforce remains key, and we have neglected that. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, made an excellent point. I am very interested in the statements by the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, in favour of Germany, and I look forward to emergency legislation being used to get workers represented on boards, vocational training and regional banks. I am sure that this is coming soon, but this is also the final echo of one of the most dismal Budgets that any of us can remember. It is another failed piece of political thought.
I am sure I am not alone in the House in being deeply grateful that, between Athens and the classical conception and London, Christianity emerged. This
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In my campaign for London Citizens, the overwhelming majority of people working were women and there was exploitation in retail outlets. The living wage campaign was part of strengthening family life, creating a pause and some rest. What we have here is the worst kind of capitulation to the Olympic classical logic, which says that emergency measures are necessary to increase the exploitation of people. I ask noble Lords to appreciate that, when you are at the bottom end of the scale and work for a very low wage but wish to improve your life, it is often very difficult to resist the demands of the boss. That is a fact. We all wish to do better. We found all the time that the pressures to work longer and in bad conditions remained, because workers lacked the confidence to associate and to demand that day of rest.
It is very important to say that panic is a very bad basis on which to build legislation and politics. We have had a long time to think about the Olympics, and using this emergency method to bring in this legislation is also consistent with the worst aspect of the political inheritance before the emergence of Christianity because it sides with the strong against the weak, with big businesses and with big supermarket chains. Winston Churchill said that the most important British tradition was Sunday. It was the most perfect expression because it was not an obsessively religious day. It was a day for family time, a day of rest and of pause. I am really concerned about this.
Baroness Deech: Will the noble Lord explain why these sentiments about family togetherness, Sunday being a special day and well paid workers do not apply to nurses in the NHS-the biggest employer in western Europe-taxi drivers, garage attendants, train and bus conductors, barmaids, sports attendants et cetera? Why do they apply only to those working in shops bigger than 3,000 square feet?
Lord Glasman: I begin my answer by saying that, certainly within the framework of the NHS and other large employers, there is a much better organised union system. I can speak only from my experience in the retail trade to say that the conditions of its workers were characterised by a lack of organisation and extremely strong pressure to work longer hours. I will look at the other cases in due course.
The point that I was making was about supporting the strong and larger retailers against the smaller ones. It is a distinctive feature of a tradition of our country, which goes across all forms of people, that having some pause in the demands of the working week is
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The nature of the procedure and the assumption of who should benefit-that it should be businesses and consumers, without adequate recognition of the cost involved for the workforce-is an extremely important consideration, too. Therefore, while I welcome the opportunity to debate this, we should say that there are traditions involved that oppose it and do not undermine the importance of the Games. In China and Russia we heard the strong echo of a very nasty tradition in the use of the Games. I remember the Red Army being used to shield the athlete who lit the flame in China, where there were certainly no restrictions on the exploitation of workers or oppression by the state. It would be wonderful if, in England, we did not just capitulate to the corporate demands of the Games but used them as a showcase for our gentler and more humane traditions.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I start by declaring my relevant interests in this debate. I sit on the Diversity Committee and the Athletes' Committee of the London 2012 organising committee, also known as LOCOG. I also undertake other work for LOCOG that is listed in the register. However, none of it is linked to the topic of this debate. I also know that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, is disappointed not to be here this evening to take part in the debate.
With 94 days to go to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, I have to admit that I am in somewhat of a quandary. I have always said that we should maximise the opportunities of the Olympics and Paralympics-not just the sporting ones-because the Games will happen on home soil only once in our lifetime. However, I also feel passionately about protecting the hours of Sunday trading. The briefings that I have received on this topic put forward a very persuasive argument for opposing the Bill and extending Sunday trading hours. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has said that 73 per cent of its members believe that longer Sunday opening hours will lead to more pressure on them to work on a Sunday against their will. It is very important that we protect shop workers. The Federation of Small Businesses has also cited Sir Stuart Rose as saying that longer trading hours will not increase consumer spending, although in very different circumstances from what will happen during the Games.
On a personal note, I have to say that I like a day that is different from the rest of the week, and I think that the hours that are currently available for shopping are adequate. However, while I fundamentally oppose long-term change to Sunday trading laws, my quandary is that I recognise that during the Olympics and Paralympics it would make a great deal of sense for there to be increased flexibility to allow those visiting
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