To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of their commitment to ensuring adequate mobile telephony services throughout the United Kingdom, what action they are taking to ensure that mobile phone operators provide and maintain services and coverage to rural populations.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, in autumn 2011, the Government announced £150 million to improve mobile phone coverage across the UK: the Mobile Infrastructure Project. Analysis has shown that the majority of areas of poor or non-existent mobile coverage are rural. The Government are currently procuring a supplier to build the required infrastructure. Decisions on precisely where to site the infrastructure will be taken once that process has been completed later this year.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. My noble friend Lord Alderdice has pointed out that, in April this year, the residents of Glenariff, a rural area of Northern Ireland, had their mobile mast switched off, which left them without coverage. As a resident of rural Northumberland, I am quite aware that whereas the map-and I have looked at it very carefully-will sometimes indicate that you have good coverage, you have very poor coverage or none at all. Is the Minister sure that, despite the £150 million being spent, Ofcom has the power to force companies to improve that service in areas which have no coverage or very poor coverage?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I thank my noble friend. I am aware of his love of the wide-open spaces, which are quite possibly parts of the country where coverage is poorer. Ofcom will always consult providers to try to ensure that, when the deals are made, the coverage is as substantial as it can be. However, these things will always be subject to commercial and business needs as well.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is another side to this story? While all of us support the need for the best possible mobile communications, including in rural areas, it means
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Baroness Garden of Frognal: Indeed, my Lords, I am aware that there are those who object to some of these great structures; planning permission and planning requirements are always part of the process when the deals are done. There is certainly ongoing work to look at possible satellite links, which, as my noble friend says, would obviate the need for the large structures. At present, that is still a very expensive option which will doubtlessly come down in price as we go on. However, the structures are currently the main way of getting the mobile frequencies.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I found the Minister's response very encouraging, and I acknowledge what has been done in extending 2G and 3G roaming. In a place such as Devon, even market towns are pretty well provided for now, but in the most rural areas, not just the most remote ones, coverage is still very patchy indeed. There are large parts of Devon where there are limited service levels restricted to calls, texts and e-mails with only limited access to mobile internet. That impacts very negatively on both community and commercial life. Would the Government consider amending the reporting requirements to include a percentage of geographical area covered as well as a proportion of the population?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The right reverend Prelate makes a very apt point. I know the parts of the country to which he refers and how difficult it is to stand on the roof trying to get a signal on one's mobile. Yes, that could certainly be one of the requirements on the operators in a bid. At the moment, we understand that there are more than 80,000 premises in complete not-spots where you simply cannot receive, and the intention is to cover at least 60,000 of those premises, if we can, with new technologies
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the Ofcom consumer panel that a pure market approach to the extension of mobile technology has reached its economic limit? Does she therefore agree that in order to ensure the extensive coverage rurally that we all desire, it should be made an explicit condition of the bids for the forthcoming 4G spectrum auction that the operators comply with that?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The noble Baroness makes a very valid point. As I mentioned earlier, economic requirements will always be part of such bids, but the question of conditions for the forthcoming auction of spectrum to roll out 4G mobile broadband services is a matter for Ofcom, and Ofcom has consulted on options for delivering 4G coverage, including an option that would require either one or all of the 800 megahertz licences to cover 98% of the UK population. The points that she raised will undoubtedly be considered for that auction.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, does the Minister accept that in many rural areas this is not only important for tourism but is often a matter of life and death along our coastlines and in our hills? What obligation is there on Ofcom to consider the question of safety and security in such circumstances?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: Indeed, my Lords, we are aware of that. As I said, it is always a question of taking the balance of the commercial factors, the planning factors and the fact that, as the noble Lord said, in some areas having no signal can be extremely hazardous. Probably, the long-term answer will be the point raised by my noble friend of going to satellite communication for such areas, but at the moment, this is one factor. As I understand it, health and safety is not specifically taken into consideration, but in the overall package of service to the community, that would be part of what Ofcom would look at.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The issues around e-mail run into the same sort of practicalities as e-mail for mobile. We hope that, as these technologies advance, so the provision for e-mail will become easier as well. Once again, I fully knowledge my noble friend's point.
Lord Campbell-Savours: Are we not going a bit soft on some of these operators? They make vast profits, but there are large parts of the country, including large parts of Cumbria, where there is no signal at all. Companies such as Vodafone have got away with it for decades, and the Government should act.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I do not think the Government are that relaxed. The noble Lord's point is, of course, absolutely right, but there has to be a balance. Often, putting up the structures to support the sort of reception that he is looking for does not get planning permission in the first place and is commercially expensive when taking into account the handful of people who would benefit. Obviously, all these factors will be taken into consideration when the new generation-4G-comes on stream, so that communication becomes more possible for more parts of the country.
Baroness Fookes: Has any thought been given to the use of existing tall buildings rather than hideous new masts? I believe there is a right reverend Prelate who is doing rather a brisk business with church towers.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I was not aware of that, but using churches in high and rural areas may be a great solution. I am sure that all these considerations are taken into account when deciding where to place the receivers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, final data for the 2010-11 academic year show that 8.7%-that is, 23,890-of new apprenticeships aged under 25 were from an ethnic minority background. This figure has increased from 7.2% in 2009-10.
Baroness Hussein-Ece: I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, she will be aware that over 55% of black men aged between 18 and 24 are currently unemployed, a figure which has nearly doubled since 2008; that ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the Government's apprenticeship schemes in the more prestigious industries such as construction and engineering; and that those who do manage to get on an apprenticeship scheme are less likely to progress to a related job. So although I welcome the review they are undertaking, will the Government address in this review and monitor the number of ethnic minorities-as well as women and people with disabilities-who are taking up these apprenticeships in order to ensure equal access?
Baroness Wilcox: I agree with my noble friend that there is scope to ensure that apprenticeships better support learners from a wide range of backgrounds. I am aware of her interest and her expertise in this area and her excellent work for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. My colleagues in the other place and I are very keen that the apprenticeships programme should be genuinely accessible to all. I do not have time to go into it all now, but I would welcome the opportunity to meet with my noble friend to discuss any more thoughts she may have that we can take forward.
Baroness Wilcox: I heard the question as being about Travellers. I do not have any information on that here with me now but I would be only too delighted to talk to the noble Baroness. We have seen an awful lot of programmes on the television recently about weddings and Travellers et cetera, and I think that we have all become much more familiar with the life they lead and the difficulties associated with that roaming lifestyle. I would be only too delighted to come back with the information, not only for the noble Baroness but for myself.
Lord Naseby: Is it not good news that apprenticeships in general are increasing? Furthermore, the proportion of apprenticeships that are going to the ethnic community is increasing. Is it not a fact that the shortfall is in particular areas of the country? Certainly in the East Midlands, which is the area I know a bit about, the number of ethnic apprentices is, as far as I am aware, pretty competitive, and they are getting good jobs at the end of it.
Baroness Wilcox: My noble friend is quite right: there are things to celebrate. The number of apprenticeships is growing, and we want to ensure that they take people forward to the skills that we require. We have two pilot schemes running at the moment. Diversity pilots are investigating ways of increasing apprenticeship take-up and success, and a final evaluation of these will be done very soon. We have also just started the Richard review into the future of apprenticeships to examine where they are happening across the country and how. So, yes, I agree with my noble friend.
Baroness Wall of New Barnet: Is the noble Baroness aware of the project being run by Unionlearn, which is part of the TUC? It is working with SEMTA and the sector skills councils on equality and diversity and, specifically, on apprentices in the engineering sector. I wonder whether the Minister would like to use that as a good example for use in ensuring that all that has been said previously will take place.
Baroness Wilcox: I am delighted to answer that question. Yes, I do know about Unionlearn, and I know that it is going well. The National Apprenticeship Service and the TUC are planning to carry out research into this issue. The apprenticeship unit has met with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the TUC to ensure that people from all ethnic backgrounds are able to access apprenticeships and are supported throughout those apprenticeships. I am only too delighted to be working with the TUC.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: Will my noble friend please tell the House how many apprentices have been recruited to her own department and how many of them, as a percentage, come from ethnic-minority backgrounds?
Baroness Wilcox: Yes, we have. We have had to cut down on the number of staff in BIS to ensure that we can actually be economically viable. However, we would love to feel that we could start taking on apprentices, if we could have enough people to help train them on with us.
Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, the noble Lord who spoke earlier mentioned the East Midlands. For several years we were working very hard with the mental health trust in the East Midlands to recruit a
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Baroness Wilcox: I cannot give the noble Lord details at the moment but I will of course write to him on what we are doing. Cutting down in any area like this is obviously difficult. No Government want to come in and find that the coffers are so empty that they have to withdraw that sort of help.
Lord Addington: My Lords, can my noble friend assure me that the Government will look at all aspects of the apprenticeship schemes to ensure that people from all walks of society can be included in them? As we know-I have taken up a great deal of the House's time on this-the biggest disability group, that of dyslexics, was once excluded. Can we look at the basic structure to make sure that there are no more such mistakes waiting to be unearthed?
Baroness Wilcox: My noble friend does wonderful work making sure that dyslexia stays at the very top of my agenda, and he knows that we are working hard to see if we can get the right access criteria for dyslexia. Yes, we will continue to look at any group of young people who are being excluded from work. We cannot afford to have anybody out of work at the moment.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, while we support the Government's objectives in focusing on apprenticeships and the drive to increase their quantity, can the Minister assure the House that the Government will maintain the quality of apprenticeships? I am still waiting for a government response to a Question about a recent "Panorama" programme which showed some rather worrying abuses of apprenticeship programmes.
Baroness Wilcox: As the noble Lord will know following the very good work that he did on apprenticeships when he was a Minister in this department, we have really extended the number and breadth of the apprenticeships that we are doing. I suppose that there is bound to be the odd mistake every now and again, for which we would be very sorry. However, apprenticeships are central to ensuring that our workforce is equipped to help build economic growth and enable companies to compete globally on behalf of us all.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, the Government welcome the report from the dignity in care commission and will consider carefully all the
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Following the report, Delivering Dignity, which was published today, will the Government instruct Monitor and the Care Quality Commission to require all authorised providers to seek, monitor and act on feedback from patients and their families, and will the Nursing and Care Quality Forum be widened to look at all aspects of care home staffing, root out poor care and ensure that action is taken so that respect of the individual is an "always" event in the delivery of care?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the NHS outcomes framework contains two domains that are highly relevant to this area. The NHS Commissioning Board will be in prime position to monitor those areas of the domains that relate to the patient experience. However, I have no doubt that the CQC will continue to do its work in maintaining essential standards of quality and safety. The Nursing and Care Quality Forum is an independent group and it is therefore for the forum itself to consider how to take forward the issues raised in the recommendation, but I understand that its chair, Sally Brearley, was already planning to consider care homes as part of the next phase of the forum's work. She has already approached a number of individuals to strengthen the forum's membership and add further expertise in that area.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, one of the most important levers for change in the Health and Social Care Act is the mandate that has been agreed between the Secretary of State and the NHS Commissioning Board. Does my noble friend consider that one could include some of the principles that are established in this very good report within that mandate?
Earl Howe: My Lords, decisions about the content of the mandate will be made on the basis of a full public consultation, which will take place in the summer. More details on that score will follow in due course so there is a limit to what I can say at the moment. However, as I indicated during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act, the mandate is likely to include expectations for improving healthcare outcomes for patients, based on the NHS outcomes framework. That framework reflects the Government's ambition for an NHS that provides high quality, safe and effective care, treating patients with compassion, dignity and respect.
Baroness Jolly: What measures will be taken by the national Commissioning Board to ensure that clinical commissioning groups always pay proper attention to dignity when commissioning services for older people?
Earl Howe: I come back to the point that I made to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. Domain 4 of the NHS outcomes framework is about ensuring that people have a positive experience of care and reflects the importance of providing that positive experience, including treating patients with dignity and respect. Domain 5, which is about treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm, also relates to that area. These areas will be centre stage in the way that the NHS CCGs in particular are monitored by the board.
Baroness Wheeler: My Lords, the recommendations of the Delivering Dignity report focus on tackling the underlying causes of poor care in hospitals and residential care. As the Minister knows, there is widespread concern among key stakeholders, including voluntary organisations, care professionals and care providers, about the serious impact that the growing crisis in social care funding is having on providing good-quality care in residential homes. Does this not make it even more vital for the Government to stand by the Prime Minister's pledge to deal with social care funding and with the recommendations of the Dilnot commission in this Parliament?
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness makes a very fair point. As I made clear last week, our aim has been and remains to legislate in this Parliament to create a fairer, more just and better funding system for social care.
and staff "should be urged" to challenge practices that they believe are not in the best interests of residents, what measures have Her Majesty's Government taken to support staff who whistleblow in this respect?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate draws attention to an area that we have focused on quite hard in recent months, and the NHS constitution has been changed to strengthen the areas around whistleblowing. In the care home context, often the care home is looking after someone who is not publicly funded and the arrangements there are often ones that the care home itself has put in place. We believe that the CQC needs to focus carefully on the arrangements in the care homes that it inspects to ensure that staff feel free to speak up if they are aware of any problems of maltreatment or anything of that kind.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the final recommendation in the report that we need a major cultural shift if we are to get this right? A very simple and straightforward way of ensuring that would be if every person receiving care was protected under human rights legislation. That would simplify this and make it work straightaway.
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is right. This is about a culture shift and nothing unfortunately can happen overnight. To extend the Human Rights Act to apply to private providers in purely private arrangements in which there is no involvement by a public body
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, the reforms we set out in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will encourage more resolution of disputes outside the tribunals system by providing for ACAS to offer conciliation for all potential claims before they proceed to tribunal and by giving parties greater confidence to use settlement agreements. We are also taking steps to improve efficiency across the tribunals system, including considering how we can introduce rapid resolution for more straightforward claims.
Lord Hoyle: I thank the Minister for that reply. Given the present uncertain economic situation, the fear of people losing their jobs and the determination of this Government to weaken the labour laws that protect employees, what message of hope can she give to those who find themselves in this unfavourable situation?
Baroness Wilcox: None of the things that protect people while they are working are being removed. That situation is not changing. However, the immediate rush to a tribunal is changing. The idea is that ACAS, which we all respect, provides for both the employer and the employee to have those discussions and to see whether they can come to an arrangement without having to go to a tribunal, with all the costs and upset that that entails.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, for 20 years, I sat on such a tribunal. Is the Minister aware that there are gaps now? If people work somewhere where ACAS helps them, that is fine. If they work in a job on their own and they are called before a disciplinary committee, they are allowed to have with them only a fellow union member or a fellow worker. If they are in a job where they work alone, they are not allowed to bring a relation or anyone else along even if they need help with reading. This loophole should be looked into.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, picking up the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, I am sure the noble Baroness will recognise that streamlining the tribunal procedure is a little bit of a sideshow in relation to the fundamental recommendation of Adrian Beecroft regarding no-fault dismissal. Is she prepared to indicate where the Government's thinking lies on that proposal which, as she knows, her Secretary of State described as "bonkers" in the Sun?
Baroness Wilcox: The idea of compensated no-fault dismissal is one of a wide range of employment law areas covered by the Beecroft report. We are already taking forward several areas set out in the report as part of the employment law review. Of his 23 main recommendations, we are taking action on 17, but we have no plans to take this forward any further.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, will the Minister comment on the indication we have that the Government intend to remove lay people from tribunals and replace them by a judge sitting alone? Does the Minister not understand that the lay people on tribunals have a great deal of commitment and workshop experience and should not be removed, thus making the tribunals entirely less effective?
Baroness Wilcox: The fundamental review of employment tribunal rules is being undertaken by Mr Justice Underhill. We will have the report on that shortly. I hope that the noble Baroness will be pleased to read it.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, we are not opposed to constructive, evidence-based reform; however at a time when 2.7 million people are unemployed, the Government are making completely the wrong judgment in wanting to make it easier to fire rather than hire people. Slashing employee rights is no substitute for a proper growth strategy. Does the Minister not recognise that removing the rights of workers will only increase job insecurity, which is likely to have a damaging effect on workforce morale and productivity? Would she not agree that giving employers positive advice on employee engagement would be more beneficial?
Baroness Wilcox: The Government are committed to a fair and flexible labour market that helps businesses to manage their staff productively. Nothing in the Bill removes individual employment rights and neither should it intend to. It is very important that we encourage businesses to take on more staff. That is what we require. That is what we all need, but we need a flexible
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The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend I rise, unusually, to move this Motion. Perhaps I may give the House some explanation of the Motion.
As the House will know, last Monday night my noble friend Lord Sassoon invited the House to commit the Financial Services Bill to Grand Committee for its Committee stage. A group of Peers, some of whom had played no part in Second Reading, that night raised objections. In the face of those concerns my noble friend Lord Sassoon rightly withdrew his Motion even though it had the support of both the Government and the Opposition. In discussions in the usual channels preceding the Second Reading debate the Government had suggested that it would be appropriate to send the Financial Services Bill to Grand Committee for its Committee stage, building on the success of the Grand Committee that considered the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Bill in Committee last Session. Unlike that Bill, the Financial Services Bill has received pre-legislative scrutiny. It has also been through all its Commons stages, including a Committee stage off the Floor of the House.
The proposal to commit the Bill to Grand Committee was put to the Opposition and secured their full support. In the usual way, dates had been fixed for each day of Committee in the Moses Room, with the agreement of the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, the opposition shadow Treasury Minister. On Tuesday we resumed discussions in the usual channels to see if we could reach an agreement, and the Motion today reflects a compromise which was put forward.
We propose to commit the clauses in the Bill relating to the Bank of England and the new regulators to a Committee of the whole House for three days and the remainder of the Bill to the Grand Committee for
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It was the Opposition who suggested that we explore split commitment, and on that basis we put this proposal to them last Tuesday. Last Wednesday morning I myself put it to the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition. Late on Wednesday, however, we learnt not only that our original usual-channels agreement had been revoked but that the Opposition had also chosen to reject the compromise without explanation. This morning the Opposition found an explanation-that a report from the Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons had changed its view. It is unfortunate that they did not choose to reveal that view either in the course of the Second Reading debate last week or in the course of the usual-channels discussions that followed. In any event, it is a curious argument given that the Treasury Select Committee's core recommendations concern Bank of England governance and the objectives and powers of the new regulators-both of which are covered by the very clauses that we propose in the Motion before the House today to commit to the Floor of the House.
In these unfortunate circumstances, and where usual-channels agreement has not been forthcoming, I believe that it is right for the House itself to decide the fate of the Motion before us today. However, we need to take the decision with some perspective. Three Parliaments ago, on the initiative of my great predecessor from the Benches opposite, the late Lord Williams of Mostyn, we agreed to make more use of Grand Committee in return for introducing rising times at 10 pm, with the aim of reducing the need to scrutinise legislation long into the night. If the House does not support the Motion we will have more Bills competing for time on the Floor and there will inevitably be repercussions. We would need to sit later into the night to conduct our scrutiny after 10 o'clock and we may need to return even earlier from our Summer Recess.
Lord Strathclyde: I know that noble Lords opposite are quite keen on that. Reversing the decade-long practice of sending a reasonable proportion of Bills to Grand Committee is not compatible with retaining our current sitting patterns.
Curiously, I have heard it said that the objections raised to the commitment of the Bill have nothing to do with financial services regulation and everything to do with proposals for reform of this House. I have heard it said that the reason for committing the Bill to Grand Committee is to allow the Government to clear the decks for House of Lords reform. Let me speak plainly. To date, the Government have not introduced a reform Bill. Ministers are doing exactly what this House asked them to do: we are reflecting on the
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Furthermore, where we choose to commit this Bill has no impact whatever on whether the Government bring forward a Bill to reform this House. Nor would it affect the passage of such a Bill through Parliament. If a Bill were introduced in the House of Commons in the next few weeks, it would not reach this House for many months. Failing to commit at least part of this Bill to Grand Committee would serve only to delay Royal Assent to a piece of legislation that is of great significance to the financial services industry and our economy as a whole. Disrupting our normal sitting patterns would inconvenience not only us but, importantly, the staff who support us in our work. That is the crossroads at which we have arrived.
I hope that I have set out the options clearly and fairly and trust that the House will weigh the arguments carefully. I invite the House to support the Motion to commit part of the Financial Services Bill to a Committee of the whole House and part to Grand Committee. In concluding, I very much hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, will consider the position that she has got us into with great care.
Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, I have been on a pretty steep learning curve about the procedures of the House since last Monday. When the Motion to put the whole Committee stage of the Financial Services Bill into Grand Committee was withdrawn I imagined that the will of the House would be respected, that that would be the last we heard of it and that there would be no question of our now having to talk about some compromise on all this-namely that the Bill should be split, with some of it debated in Grand Committee and some on the Floor of the House.
Therefore, I talked to the Clerk of the Parliaments about it, realising that perhaps I did not totally understand. He explained that when the Government withdrew the Motion, it did not mean that they could not bring back another. I said, "What should I have done about the Motion that was put down originally?". The Clerk said that that Motion should have been amended; it could have been amended at the last minute by a manuscript amendment, but he said that that was not
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I reiterate: we are talking about the Financial Services Bill. It is a major piece of legislation which has been drafted to reorganise our financial institutions completely and regulate them properly. I do not think that the people of this country would understand it if we were to put any part of this Bill in Grand Committee. This extremely important legislation needs very serious consideration by your Lordships. As well as that, this Bill brings out the best of your Lordships' House. There is a tremendous amount of expertise here which needs to be brought to the fore. That can be done much better if the whole of Committee stage is debated on the Floor of the House.
I ask the House to consider seriously whether any of this Bill should be committed to a Grand Committee. As a noble friend said to me earlier, if we do not discuss the Committee stage of the Bill on the Floor of the House, which other Bills will we consider on the Floor of the House? It seems that the Government have a desire to put everything into Grand Committee. It is for us to stand up against that and say, "No, we want the whole of this very important Bill to be considered on the Floor of the House". I hope that the House will support my amendment.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we have before us a very important matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, has said, how we regulate our financial services and the financial services sector is vital to economic and financial stability. What our banks do and how they do it is important for the prospects for growth and employment in this country.
We on these Benches had not seen the terms of these Motions before today and we certainly had not agreed to them in the usual channels. I had a private meeting with the Leader of the House on Wednesday morning at which we discussed this matter and I told him in all honesty that I could not agree to the terms of the Motion, that I needed to have further consultations and discussions with my colleagues and that I would come back to him and the usual channels in due course. That I did first thing on Thursday morning, since when we have heard nothing about the Motion before us today. As for the Opposition's role on this Bill within the usual channels, I wrote to the Leader of the House this morning, once we had seen the terms of the Motion before us. I would be happy to provide noble Lords with a copy of that letter.
My concern, much more than accusations from the Leader and the ins-and-outs of the usual channels, is what Members of this House want. When the Government tried to put the whole of the Bill in Grand Committee a week ago today I thought that the statements made by Members from across the whole of this House made clear what the majority of them wanted. At a very late hour, during that debate on the Floor of this Chamber, Members made it abundantly
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Last Tuesday I had discussions with the Government about splitting the Bill and taking some parts on the Floor of the House and some in Grand Committee. I could see some merit in that approach, which is why we were prepared to consider it constructively in discussions within the usual channels. Yes we discussed it, but no we did not agree on it-precisely because I had to have discussions with my colleagues on the Benches behind me, which is the right and proper thing to do. In any case, we would not have agreed to the split that the Government now propose. Neither would we have agreed to only three days in a Committee of the whole House. We do not think that that split works. We also think that it was wrong not to include Part 4, on the mechanisms to deal with current issues, for consideration by a Committee of the whole House.
This House is self-regulating and on matters such as this it is for this House, and this House alone, to decide what it wishes to do. From our soundings, most Members on the Benches behind me want the Bill to be considered by a Committee of the whole House, which is what I believe many Members from all across the House want to see. That is precisely what the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, proposes.
I therefore look forward to this House, not the Government, deciding what it wants to do. From these Benches, we do not believe that the Government's proposal is the right approach. We believe that the House should reject it and accept the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton. I hope that the Government will listen to the House when it makes its decision today.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, in the light of the assurances made by the Leader of the House on the Motion, I am genuinely puzzled as to why it is being brought forward. He has told us that it has nothing whatever to do with the decks being cleared for a House of Lords Bill. If that is the case, I simply do not know why the Government are so anxious to put preferably the whole of the Bill and at worst a significant part of the Bill into Grand Committee. I remind the Leader and the House that it is a pretty rare procedure in this House-less so in the other House-to split Bills between Grand Committee and the Floor of the House. Frankly, it is done for the best reasons, as I have said on occasions in the past, when the Government are under tremendous pressure of time.
Believe it or not, I have some sympathy with the Government when they claim that they are under tremendous time constraints. However, this simply will not wash in the current Session, when we have the smallest number of Bills and the lightest legislative programme of any Session in recent political history-certainly lighter than at any stage for the last 20 years; I have not gone back any further. There are, I believe, some 15 Bills this Session compared with an average of 30 Bills in a normal 12-month Session, so I cannot accept that there is any tremendous pressure on time for the Government, particularly when we finished a
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As for the Leader of the House persuading his Back-Benchers, I imagine by saying, "Gosh, if we do not get this Motion through, it will be late night after late night", I can only say that life gets tough at times. However, I cannot accept that argument, given that the Government are making all sorts of random decisions about having longer recesses than normal and not sitting when the House of Commons is sitting, which again is not normally the case. My argument is therefore really one of bafflement about the pressure on the Government's time and, frankly, the Government not being able to accept that it means endless late-night sittings.
Lastly, I hope that the Leader of the House will at least acknowledge that it is not a very satisfactory way to treat the House to introduce this Motion on Friday night. I knew absolutely nothing about this Motion going down on the Order Paper until 10 o'clock this morning, like everyone else in the House-perhaps apart from some on the government Benches, I dare say. Anyone who wanted to put down an amendment had no option other than to put down a manuscript amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, did-and I am very pleased that he did. Are we going to have to face this sort of government management of business in the future? Not knowing even a day before what could be a very important decision for the House to make really is a very unsatisfactory way to manage government business.
I appeal to the Leader of the House to listen to what I believe is a very strong view in the House. If he was desperate to put this Motion down, can he please explain the time pressures on him and why it had to go down today? What was wrong with tomorrow? I do not want to sound Machiavellian and suspicious, but the slight feeling is that perhaps the Motion went down on Friday and various people were telephoned over the weekend to the effect, "Please come along and support the Government so that you do not have to sit late at night, night after night". I do not think that is a very credible argument, so I hope that the Leader of the House will give a satisfactory answer to those questions. If he cannot, he really should withdraw this Motion.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I speak as someone who is going to be going through this Bill in great detail. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, that I had no idea that this Motion was going down until today, so I am not part of any great conspiracy that he might imply. I looked at this legislation with the understanding that Grand Committee was not meant to be a second-rate or second citizen process but was one for dealing with highly technical Bills. Having tried to do an interview with the BBC on the latter parts of the Bill, I know that it is extremely technical. I assure the noble Lord that it passes the "eyes glazing over in agony" test. I have seen Grand Committee,
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I can understand the desire for some of the most prominent parts of the Bill to be debated in the Chamber as recognition of the level of concern following the financial and banking crisis of 2008 and the need to look again at the architecture of regulation-for some of those key issues to be addressed here. However, it is more in order to satisfy that kind of recognition of the level of concern rather than to give us almost the best practice for going through the Bill in detail, so splitting the Bill strikes me, as someone without much of an axe to grind in this matter, as a very appropriate mechanism and a sensible and practical one. That is how I have always viewed this House-as sensible and practical and willing to take on the issues simply as they are and to come to a solution. I spent time in the other place, where one might say that the principles are not the same-and I know that this House dislikes the kind of principles that the other place operates on.
The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I can remember when the whole Grand Committee thing started, and the first assurance was that only non-controversial Bills would go to Grand Committee. The whole point was that in the old days-not that they are so very long ago-we used to divide on matters of principle in Committee, which meant that we tidied up on Report, and that was much more efficient. The challenge with Grand Committee is that it delays everything, and then we have a huge argument on Report that goes on interminably.
Then we have the problem with the limited rules on amending at Third Reading. Before, we would divide on principle in Committee and tidy up on Report, with half the length of debate. Then at Third Reading we would discuss things only when there had to be a final little adjustment because a mistake had been made. It was very unusual to put forward amendments at Third Reading, which is why they were so restricted. With the new procedure of going to Grand Committee, you can have wonderful debates but then you have to do it all over again on Report, which causes problems at Third Reading. We must either have yet another reading to tidy up before Third Reading or go back to dividing in Committee. We should remember that not only the person putting forward the amendment in Committee has the option to divide; anyone in the House can call a Division on an amendment that is proposed. So if noble Lords think that someone is wasting time by withdrawing an amendment in Committee to bring the whole thing back on Report, I suggest that someone stands up and calls for a Division.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, having sat next to my much missed friend Lord Williams of Mostyn, I wish to set the record straight. I am sure that the Leader of the House did not wish in any way to mislead the House, but having sat next to Lord Williams of Mostyn through all the discussions on the introduction of Grand Committee procedure, I fear that he would be appalled that there was Division in
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Secondly, it is my understanding-this is not my area of expertise-that the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, is absolutely right about what happens at the different stages. It is confusing for everyone if some parts of the Bill can be voted on in Committee and others cannot and if rules apply to certain parts of the Bill at Third Reading but not to others. I think that will lead to confusion. It is also my understanding that the Bill tackles a serious problem; if sizeable numbers of people in your Lordships' House-I am not talking about majorities-feel unable to support the compromise, to use the Leader's words, surely it would be better to accept the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, and work in the way that I know Lord Williams of Mostyn would have wanted.
Lord Myners: My Lords, at Second Reading last week nearly 40 Peers spoke. It was an excellent debate that was very skilfully handled by the Minister, notwithstanding the fact that the Whips endeavoured to cut some speakers short, even though that is clearly not accepted at Second Reading. I think that that tells us something about the Government's attitude to trying to rush this process.
This is not a controversial Bill in a party political sense. However, it is controversial in the detail, not just in the first five clauses but throughout the Bill. It would be wrong to believe that Clause 6 and later clauses do not themselves deserve very close scrutiny, handling, as they do, matters such as consumer affairs and protection and banking resolution. The noble Earl was correct to point out that the procedures in Grand Committee are very different from those in a Committee of the Whole House. As a Minister, I took legislation through Grand Committees and through Committees of the Whole House. The argument that officials in Grand Committee are seated in the Box behind the Minister and are therefore immediately available to provide assistance is much overstated. This is a very important Bill. It creates, in the office of the Governor of the Bank of England, the most powerful unelected person in the country and deals with a problem that has beset the economy for four years. The nation would expect the Bill to be publicly debated on the Floor of the House. For that reason, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I do not want to talk about the other parts of the short debate that we have had but rather about where the Bill should go and where it would be best scrutinised. I know that the noble Lord, with whom I normally disagree, is very keen to see the Lords Reform Bill go through. He has always made that clear, but it is irrelevant to what we are discussing.
I am bound to say that the Government's management of the lengths of recesses and the business of the House has not been of the best. My noble friend Lord Grocott was right to deal with those issues. The important
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As I have said before, giving a huge amount of powers to the Bank of England is not unimportant. However, for me the question is: where will the Bill be best scrutinised? I have no doubt whatever that that will be in Grand Committee. If any Member of your Lordships' House has great expertise and wants to speak, there will be no difficulty in them doing so in Grand Committee.
One has to understand that in Committee this House does not normally vote on the Floor of the House or in Grand Committee. On top of that, the Bill will come back to the House for Report, when votes can and do take place, and again for Third Reading. As I said, personally I prefer a Bill to be properly scrutinised in Grand Committee, and this is a rare occasion when I feel bound to speak in support of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde.
Lord Wakeham: My Lords, I do not often intervene in these matters, and no one could expect me not to understand the position of the usual channels, but I have listened to this debate with some horror. In my view, these matters should have been resolved by the usual channels and it is very disappointing that the Front Benches are unable to find a sensible and satisfactory agreement. Often, finding such an agreement means persuading their Back-Benchers to do something that initially they may not want to do. If I may say so, the job of the Front Benches is not to be the cheerleader for the Back Benches; it is to find the best solution for the House. When there is no agreement between the Back Benches, the question arises of what the House should do. In my view, the responsibility then falls on the Leader of the House to do what he thinks is best for the whole House. Without going into the details, where there is a disagreement between the usual channels, the House would be right to support the Leader of the House in what he proposes.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, I just make an observation as a former Chairman of Ways and Means and as someone who was responsible for the Finance Bill for five years in another place. In my experience, each Bill was very different. Sometimes the usual channels, and indeed individual Members, chose to make representations that certain clauses should be taken on the Floor of the House, with others-often the majority-being taken in Committee. I remember one occasion when a great deal of a Bill was taken on the Floor of the House, mainly due to representations from the minority parties that went against the proposals from the usual
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I deeply regret that now, on the first Monday since then, what I thought had been settled by the usual channels in the normal way is not settled. That is a very unsatisfactory situation, and maybe my noble friend, as the Leader, will either follow what my noble friend Lord Wakeham said or recognise that the House as a whole may need 24 hours to quieten down a little. Looking at the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, on the Cross Benches, I am reminded that she once said to me, "You didn't give them long enough to settle it, Michael".
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the reason we have the usual channels is precisely to avoid the sort of debate that we have had this afternoon. It is a personal sadness to me that the usual channels broke down, which means that the House must make a decision.
The other reason to have usual channels is that we can have these debates behind closed doors where no one sees them. When the public look at this debate and listen to it on the radio and television, what will they see? They will see that the question is a very simple one: either we should have the debate on the Floor of this House or the very same people debating the very same issues should take their debate about 25 yards down that Corridor. That is all this debate is fundamentally about. This is against a background where, until a week ago, the Opposition and the Government were totally unified, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said so well, on the basis that scrutiny would be better placed in Grand Committee rather than here on the Floor of the House.
Before the House is drawn into the seductive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, noble Lords should recall that only last week he said that this House should always sit when the House of Commons is sitting. I took a view earlier this year, having taken soundings around the House, that the overwhelming view of your Lordships was not to sit in September. I do not mind sitting in September-I have done it in the past and I shall be here-but noble Lords must recognise that if we do not send Bills to Grand Committee and have them on the Floor of the House, we will need more sitting days of the House in order to complete our business. It is a very simple proposition. No one is suggesting sending another major Bill to the Grand Committee.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: Will the Leader of the House clarify that? I have to confess my ignorance on this matter, but I understand that the Grand Committee sits for much shorter sessions in Committee than when a Bill is on the Floor of the House. Therefore, I am not entirely sure why he is suggesting that it will take fewer days to get this Bill through in Grand Committee than on the Floor of the House.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, let us assume that it would take exactly the same hours on the Floor of the House and in Grand Committee. The fact that it was on the Floor of the House would mean that we would be unable to progress on other Bills, which would have to wait their turn. We would therefore need to find other days in which to complete our business.
Like the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, I remember when we used to sit until 1 or 2 am. We got a lot of business done in the early hours of the morning. Before I get another lecture from the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, I had endless discussions with Lord Williams of Mostyn about this. He would get quite heated on the subject. He said that it was wrong for legislation to take place late at night or in the small hours, and it was on that basis that we had a Grand Committee. The reason why the House now needs to take a view is that if we are going to go against the practice of the past 10 years and not send complex Bills to Grand Committee, which we have done many times before, we will have to revisit this subject in the Procedure Committee.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, before the Leader of the House sits down, Lord Williams of Mostyn was absolutely clear that Grand Committee procedure was for non-contentious Bills. His view was that the House should be able to make that judgment. The Leader of the House has failed to tell the House which major pieces of legislation are waiting in the wings that will now not be able to be debated, because we are not aware of them.
Lord Strathclyde: I urge the noble Baroness to read the record of the debates that we had at the time. If she can find the evidence for that, of course I will withdraw everything that I have said about Grand Committees. I assure her that when I was Leader of the Opposition, we understood perfectly well that Grand Committees were for all or any Bills, and that only constitutional Bills would sit on the Floor of the House.
Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, I share the concern of many Members of this House about all these massive Bills that will come through in the future to be debated on the Floor of the House. I am not at all sure what they are, but I know that one of them will not be the Civil Aviation Bill because that will be going into Grand Committee when this business has been dealt with.
I very much take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, that this is a thin parliamentary Session and that for a Bill of this importance to be shoved into the Grand Committee Room would be absolutely wrong. It will not be understood by the people of this country. It is a major Bill of great significance. I do not accept the view of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, that somehow these issues are better debated in the Grand Committee Room. I think that the place to debate them is on the Floor of the House. I suspect
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Clauses 1 to 13, Schedule 1, Clauses 14 to 30, Schedule 2, Clauses 31 to 47, Schedule 3, Clauses 48 and 49, Schedule 4, Clauses 50 to 55, Schedule 5, Clauses 56 to 59, Schedule 6, Clauses 60 to 72, Schedule 7, Clauses 73 to 76, Schedules 8, 9 and 10, Clauses 77 and 78, Schedule 11, Clauses 79 to 82, Schedule 12, Clauses 83 to 91, Schedule 13, Clauses 92 to 99, Schedule 14, Clauses 100 to 112.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, in many ways this is quite a difficult Bill to scrutinise fully. Some information relating to the Bill is missing today: we do not have the framework document, which would be extremely useful as your Lordships consider how the NCA board will operate.
Our amendments today are intended to bring some sense to the Government's words, which is not necessarily reflected in the Bill, and to ensure that the new National Crime Agency has operational independence. The Government have quite rightly gone to great lengths to emphasise that the NCA-the body that takes over from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the National Policing Improvement Agency and CEOP-will be operationally independent, but I am somewhat puzzled about how this is going to operate. SOCA was, of course, a non-departmental government body, or NDGB. The NCA has been classified as a non-ministerial department, or NMD, and that is similar to other bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, as the Home Office fact sheet identifies. This is significant and appropriate because, as a rule, NMDs are considered to be more independent of Government. I quote from a research
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Examples given by the Library in the other place are Ofgem and the UK Statistics Authority. Both the Crown Prosecution Service and HMRC, which the Government give as models for the designation of the National Crime Agency, have corporate governance structures which have a strategic direction and strategic accountability exercised by a board, and that board reports to the Secretary of State. That is true currently for both SOCA and the NPIA. The benefit of that is that it ensures and preserves the agency's independence from Government, but it also maintains, quite rightly, the ultimate strategic oversight by Government.
In this Bill, the Government seem to be proposing a departure from that. Under current proposals, the NCA will have no board and instead will be governed by just one individual, the director-general, who will report directly to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary's responsibilities are to set the strategic priorities for the NCA. He will authorise the director-general's annual plan of strategic and operational practices and priorities. The Secretary of State has the power to appoint and fire the director-general and the power to designate the director-general's operational powers on the direction of an advisory panel, and we shall return to both those issues in later amendments.
It seems to us that this kind of structure is not conducive to operational independence and is at odds with other NMDs that the Government have set up and support. Compared with Ofgem, the Financial Standards Authority, the Serious Fraud Office, the Office of Fair Trading, the CPS and HMRC, the National Crime Agency would be unique in its level of direct ministerial oversight and influence. There seems to be some contradiction within the Bill and within the Government's priorities because although they are talking about devolving operational power to the police, they seem to be retaining more power, but without responsibility, to the Secretary of State. The Bill does not seem to do what the Government have said they intend, which is to put power in the hands of the police force. It is very much a top-down structure and, if one were being unkind, one could say that the Secretary of State is happy to devolve responsibility but, at the same time, is centralising power.
The amendments that we have tabled today have two impacts. Amendment 1 will remove the responsibility for direction and control of the NCA from the director-general, and instead the NCA board will have responsibility for the strategic direction and control of the NCA, while the director-general will be responsible for the exercise of the NCA's operational and administrative functions. Amendment 4, which is quite long, sets out the structure of the new NCA board and is modelled on the existing governance structure of SOCA. We would be quite happy if, at some later stage, the Government were to bring back this amendment to look at the detail of it. There may be items within it that are not as appropriate for the NCA as they are for SOCA. However, broadly speaking, it seems to us that the governance arrangements for SOCA, with a board
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I suppose we are seeking answers to a number of questions from the Minister, in trying to understand why the Government have proposed this structure. Can the noble Lord explain why the Government believe that there are benefits to the National Crime Agency from not having a board? The organisations that are to become part of the National Crime Agency have had boards, so the Government should really explain that and justify their reasons for having a different governance structure in this case. Why does the NCA have to be directly accountable to the Home Secretary, unlike the Serious Organised Crime Agency? Again, that is a departure from current practice.
Given that the Government have rightly changed the structure from that of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which is a non-departmental government body, to a non-ministerial department, can they give any indication of the model that they used for the NCA? I am not aware of any significant body that is a non-ministerial department and that has the same kind of structure reporting directly to the Secretary of State, but not through a board. In looking at these areas, it would be very helpful if the Minister were to give some explanation of those issues and say whether he will consider looking again at governance and introducing a board, which we think would be the appropriate way to manage and run the agency.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we have tabled Amendment 5 in this group. The amendment, in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, does not seek to change the architecture of the proposal-I thought I would get that in quite quickly because my noble friend hates the term. It is not a governing board and accountability would still be that of the Secretary of State. However, it is good practice to provide infrastructure and support in this sort of situation.
The Home Office itself has a supervisory board. I would have taken my amendment from that, had I been able to get into the Home Office website at any time when I tried over the past few days. The form and function of the model is, I suppose, not very different from that of other government departments, so I looked at CLG, another department with which I am fairly familiar. The description of its roles seemed to be very much what I was looking for. It tells us that:
Those are listed with descriptions that I will not trouble your Lordships with this afternoon, because I think the CLG website is pretty accessible. I am not wedded to any particular model but I am wedded to good
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Lord Condon: My Lords, I would not seek to challenge the architecture in the Bill for control and accountability, but it is not a question of all or nothing-there can remain clear direction and control by the director-general and clear accountability to the Home Secretary and onwards to Parliament. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will find ways to reassure your Lordships' House and the wider public that in this day and age notions of good governance demand that there should be something more than just that naked architecture of the DG in control and the Home Secretary being accountable. It would be good to have reassurance around the notion of a management board, a supervisory board, an advisory board or some board mechanism that allows both stakeholder interest and independent voices to contribute to the health and well-being in the future of the NCA so that issues such as value for money, good governance, priorities and so on could somehow be part of a wider debate within that family than just between the DG and the Home Secretary. I understand that the Bill and this agency will deal with some of the most challenging criminal matters facing the country. Should terrorism subsequently also be transferred as a responsibility to the NCA, I understand that there must be very clear direction, control and accountability, but a committee-type model does not fit well with those demands. Nevertheless, there is ample scope for reassurance around the notion of a management board that involves stakeholders from the police service, the emerging police and crime commissioners, the wider local authority family and the business community. I hope that the Minister, today or subsequently, will be able to give us some reassurance that the Bill will be able to move us in that direction.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I certainly do not want to fall into the trap of automatically accepting the Government's architecture for these proposals. However, the amendment put forward by my noble friend does not necessarily undermine that architecture. The key point of this part of the proposed legislation is the creation of a new National Crime Agency. That is the key concept, and in this group of amendments we are dealing with some of the accountability mechanisms and the arrangements that will be put around the agency to ensure that its governance is of an appropriate and effective standard.
Let us be clear why this is important. The National Crime Agency, as proposed, will be a tremendously significant organisation. It will be responsible for ensuring that as a country we deal effectively with the most serious types of crime. In due course, it may be responsible for dealing with terrorism. This is not some minor government body; it is an extremely important part of the arrangements that we put in place to ensure that our citizens are properly protected against serious crime.
The other fundamental part of the architecture of the Bill, if you are wedded to that architecture, as no
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The Government have to put forward a clear justification as to why this very lean approach to governance has been included in the Bill. As a number of your Lordships have already indicated in Committee, there is a virtue in having a proper governance structure, a group of non-executives and a group of individuals to whom the director-general must report or explain or expand on his or her proposals on how the agency goes forward. That is not to decry the direct accountability to the Home Secretary because it will be the Home Secretary who will, whatever is written into the Bill, have to answer to Parliament as to whether this new structure works. It supports that function and gives the Home Secretary reassurance that all the processes and procedures that any sensible Home Secretary would expect to be around the director-general are in place.
I am not suggesting that the Home Secretary is incapable of providing adequate supervision of the agency. I am simply saying that it is not necessarily the most effective or efficient way of doing it and that some board structure supporting that process is better and more likely to be successful. I have looked for precedents for this sort of one-to-one relationship between the Home Secretary and significant agencies. For 175 years the Home Secretary was the police authority for London and at the end of those 175 years the Metropolitan Police was so well governed, despite the excellent leadership at that stage provided by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that it did not have a system in place-it was a £2 billion business at the time-for telling whether it had paid a bill more than once. I rather suspect that had the Home Office-I absolve previous Home Secretaries from day-to-day responsibility for this-been doing its job properly proper accountancy systems would have been installed within the organisation. However, the supervision of the Home Office and the Home Secretary was quite properly on the main policing issues, which would have been advised by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and his predecessors as Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. This was not about the way in which the organisation was run, administered or governed. That is the natural tendency. Home Secretaries are busy people. They have broad responsibilities. They are not going to be involved in day-to-day issues about the robustness or otherwise of governance structures. The history of the Metropolitan Police is not a sound precedent.
More recently we have the precedent of the border agency. Here, the opposite problem seems to have occurred. You seem to have a Home Secretary-perhaps successive Home Office Ministers would be a fairer way of putting it-who wanted certain things to happen and applied pressure on the border agency to do so. You then end up in arguments about what was said to whom by whom because of that one-to-one relationship. In all the fuss that there was a few months ago about whether certain expectations were being bypassed to let people into the country and remove queues, would it not have been better for there to have been a supervisory board between the Home Secretary and the chief executive of the border agency where there would have been a record, minutes, and perhaps an opportunity for dissent to be expressed? All that would be missing in the arrangements for the National Crime Agency, which raises the question of whether we are not in danger of creating a structure where the Home Secretary has too much of a role in respect of a policing body.
In this country, we have always expressed real concern about politicians having direct operational control of policing. That is part of the reason why there was a little bit of debate about the creation of police and crime commissioners, but that debate has moved on and we are now well into the process with the Labour Party having today announced a selection of candidates for those positions that includes my noble friend Lord Prescott. The Labour Party will clearly have an excellent set of candidates and we wait to see whether the Conservative list will be quite as exciting or interesting. The reason that there was some concern about that and there is even more concern about a national agency directly under the control of a single politician is the danger that that power is abused. I am certainly not accusing the present Home Secretary of having any desire to abuse that power. I am simply saying that we are creating a structure where such an abuse is possible and that it might happen in future.
Imagine occasions when there is a considerable threat from some organised crime group or a terrorist organisation, if that is the direction that the new agency goes in, and it is the responsibility of the Home Secretary to direct what the agency should do. The guarantees in the Bill for operational independence do not amount to very much in those circumstances. There is no place for control freakery here. This has to be about a proper system of governance. In a few years' time, I would not want people to be making all sorts of sinister connections between policing operations that happen under the auspices of the National Crime Agency and saying that there are sinister implications that they have been personally directed or required by the Home Secretary, but that is the danger of the governance model that the Government have created.
My final point returns to what I mentioned in passing earlier. A critical part of this new agency will be the ability of the National Crime Agency to say that it wants local police forces to carry out or collaborate on particular operations. The danger of having a National Crime Agency that is divorced from the rest of the police structure is very real. I recall the discussions that took place over several years to try to get a system that worked on counterterrorism with primacy for one
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My noble friend's amendments, which address precisely those points, are very welcome. There is a slight drafting error in that they make no reference to London, but I am sure that could be adjusted when we return to this at a later stage. The key issue that the Minister has to explain today is why this particular governance model has been put forward and why it is genuinely an improvement on a supervisory board which involves, for example, chief officers of police and police and crime commissioners.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, I hope that in due course I will be able to answer those points, in particular those final questions from the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I begin, though, with two points. First, my noble friend Lady Hamwee referred to "architecture". I think that the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, also used that word. My noble friend did not particularly like the term and I agree with her. I find it inelegant, but as a form of shorthand, it is quite useful on this occasion. Therefore, I suspect that architecture is something that might be referred to. Secondly, I make a brief apology to my noble friend about the website.
I was discussing the Home Office website with the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, earlier during the Division that took place. We have had some problems with the Home Office website. This is true of other government departments, all of which have been targeted. I hope to write to the noble Baroness in due course and I am more than happy to copy my letter about the problems we are having with the website to my noble friend Lady Hamwee. It can be difficult for all noble Lords if, in trying to discover what the Home Office is doing-or any other department for that matter-they cannot get into our website. Obviously, that is the means on every occasion by which we learn what is going on. There have been problems and we hope to address them. Perhaps for the first of many times, I give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, since the Minister raises the issue of the website, I believe that the Home Office's explanation of why booklets will not be issued about the election of police and crime commissioners is that people will be able to access the information about candidates from the website. When the Minister writes to my noble friend, what reassurances will he give that the elections will not be interfered with by the same sort of malign intervention on his website?
Lord Henley: My Lords I am not sure that these booklets will come from the Home Office website. I will double check and make sure that I get an appropriate response to the noble Lord. All I am saying is that it is within the Home Office website that we have been having this problem. We want to get it right and are desperately keen to be open and fair. We want to get things across, and that is why I want to make sure that I can deal with all these matters and why I will write to the noble Lord's noble friend, copying it to my noble friend and no doubt copying it also the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and others who wish for a copy. We might discuss this later.
It might be useful if I set out-I hope not at excessive length-what we are trying to do with the National Crime Agency, where we are trying to get and why we think the Government's arrangements are appropriate. Then we shall listen to the response from the noble Baroness. As she is aware, the National Crime Agency will be operationally focused, with a demanding mission to fight serious and organised crime and protect the public. We considered carefully how we would get the right governance arrangements for this agency to make sure that it maximises its effectiveness, accountability and, of course, minimises bureaucracy. That is something that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, did not stress, but might have done.
We have drawn up in the Bill the arrangements which we firmly believe achieve that right balance. Ever since I came to the Home Office, I have been talking about balance and it is important that there is the right balance between strategic oversight by the Home Secretary and effective operational leadership of the agency by the director-general. The director-general will lead and direct the agency and be directly accountable to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and through her to Parliament, because she is answerable to Parliament. I must make it clear that this is entirely consistent with the tried and tested arrangements in place at many non-ministerial departments, of which there are a number. Let us, for example, take two that have a Home Office focus: law enforcement agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office-despite what the noble Baroness said-and the Crown Prosecution Service. As she will be aware, there are others outside what we could call the Home Office family. For example, there is the Food Standards Agency, which is chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, and is answerable to the Department of Health or Defra-I forget which. Again, it is a non-ministerial department that responds to a department.
The noble Baroness proposes creating an NCA board, headed by a non-executive chairman, which would lead and direct the agency and to which the director-general would report. Instead of an operational crime-fighter, the Opposition want to put a non-executive chairman and board in charge of the NCA. Instead of the director-general being directly accountable to the Home Secretary, he would report through the board, which would inevitably be a slower and-I stress-more bureaucratic process. That is not the best governance model for a law enforcement agency that has to respond quickly and decisively to threats to protect the public.
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In that example, chief constables must be held properly to account on behalf of the electorate, as must the director-general. However, people want to see effective accountability, not bureaucratic accountability. Creating more quangos, which is, in effect, what the noble Baroness suggests in her amendment, is hardly the way to protect the public from crime. Chief constables will be accountable to a single, directly elected police and crime commissioner in their force area. He will be visible and able to be held to account by local communities. In the same way, the director-general will be accountable to the Home Secretary, who can then be held to account by the taxpayer, noble Lords in this House and colleagues in another place. It is the Home Secretary who ultimately has responsibility for ensuring that the public are protected from crime and who will come before Parliament to account for the performance and impact of the NCA. Inserting a predominantly non-executive board and chair between the director-general and the Home Secretary will not increase accountability; it will just create more bureaucracy and more officeholders.
The amendments suggested here essentially replicate the arrangements that were put in place for the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which are more typical of non-departmental public bodies. However, SOCA is the only law enforcement agency with the sole responsibility of fighting crime that has this quango structure. It was always an anomaly. I do not know why the previous Government thought it was necessary, compared to, say, the Serious Fraud Office or the Crown Prosecution Service. Putting that non-executive chair and committee in charge of SOCA has inevitably led to more bureaucracy without adding to accountability. It has reduced the clarity over who is responsible for what.
In saying that, I make no criticism of the current SOCA chair and board members, who are distinguished professionals in their fields and who have done a very good job as a committee. However, I do not believe that it was the right structure for a law enforcement agency. The NCA is an agency that will have the power and responsibility to investigate serious and organised crime, and the officers of which will, like the police, be able to use coercive and intrusive powers. In its work to protect the public, there must be absolute clarity of accountability. What the noble Baroness proposes in her amendments would do away with that clarity.
Amendment 4 further specifies that the NCA board should include representatives of police and crime commissioners in England and Wales and of the police service. They are obviously key partners for the National Crime Agency and the director-general will want to work with them. However the Bill already clearly provides that these key policy partners will be part of the group of strategic partners and will have the opportunity to influence the strategic direction of the agency. Clause 3 requires the Home Secretary and the director-general to consult strategic partners before determining the strategic priorities for the NCA. Clause 4 also provides for these partners to be consulted on the agency's annual plan.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, put forward the idea of the importance of non-executive directors to be part of the internal governance of the NCA. He referred to the framework document, which will be issued in due course. In accordance with the principles of good governance set out by the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, in that document we will set out what those internal arrangements must be. They will include the role of potential non-execs, which we will consider carefully as regards the NCA but not in the manner suggested in the noble Baroness's amendments. We will make an outline of that framework document available to Parliament in due course, as I think I made clear at Second Reading, to make sure that we can discuss these matters at later stages of the Bill.
Turning to Amendment 5, my noble friend Lady Hamwee is right to emphasise again the importance of good governance for the NCA, with which we agree. We will set that out in the framework document in due course. But the supervisory board proposed by my noble friend is a step too far. As I have said, we believe that the NCA should be led by the operational head, the director-general. Unlike the Opposition's amendments which we have just discussed, this amendment sensibly leaves the director-general as the person responsible for "leadership and control" of the agency as set out in Clause 1.
However, creating a supervisory board headed by the Home Secretary muddies the waters over the director-general's line of accountability. Therefore, I do not think that I can give it much support at this stage. I hope that those explanations are sufficient to deal with the concerns raised by noble Lords about the governance of the NCA. Obviously, we will discuss other more detailed matters on some later amendments. No doubt, we will come back to this issue at later stages of the Bill. I hope that I have largely dealt with most of the concerns put by noble Lords as regards this amendment and that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the noble Baroness tells the House what she proposes to do with her amendment, perhaps I may raise with the Minister the way in which references to the framework document are set out in Schedule 2. We are told that the document will deal with ways in which the NCA is to operate, including how it,
No doubt the Minister and his officials will consider further the points that have been made today-I am by no means certain what should happen after this stage on this issue-and at least they will consider whether the term "administered" covers the issues of governance which noble Lords have raised. To me, governance is not something which is included in administration; it is an issue on its own. To include it within administration downgrades its importance.
Lord Harris of Haringey: Before my noble friend responds to the debate, perhaps the Minister will also tell us precisely when we are likely to have this framework document. Clearly, he is saying, "Don't worry your heads about the governance arrangements because
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Incidentally, while the noble Lord was speaking, I checked on the Food Standards Agency. As far as I can see, it has a fully functioning board; I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is its chair rather than the head of the agency, but that is a mere detail.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Smith. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is absolutely right to say that it is the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who chairs it. I was just giving it as an example of one of those boards that is slightly different in the way in which it reports to Ministers.
The noble Lord is also right about the importance of when we will be publishing the framework document. We want to share an outline of that document with Parliament in due course and I hope that we can do that before we get to the Report stage of the Bill. I remind noble Lords that the Bill started in this House so we have quite a time before it goes through both Houses. As the noble Lord will be well aware, in terms of the timetable, we will not even finish Committee stage until we return in the autumn, when I think we will have one day of Committee to deal with some matters. I believe it coincides with the Conservative Party conference, which, sadly, I will have to miss, but one often has to make enormous sacrifices in the course of duty and I will be deeply upset to make that sacrifice. However, I will try to ensure that the noble Lord gets the framework document in due course.
I also note exactly what my noble friend said about the importance of making sure that we distinguish between administration and governance. I think that she is right to stress those two points. I hope that noble Lords will bear with me and be prepared to wait for the framework document, which I hope we will get in due course.
Lord Condon: Can the Minister confirm that he is not excluding the notion of key stakeholders being drawn into a formalised relationship with the new NCA, even if it is not a supervisory board or a strategic board? He is acknowledging that the framework document may well create a role for key stakeholders to have a formalised relationship with the new NCA, something more than just being a vague consultee, who receives a letter saying, "What do you think of ... ?".
Lord Henley: My Lords, as the Bill makes clear, it is quite obvious that we want those key stakeholders to be involved. How formalised that should be is another matter. I would hope that the noble Lord would be prepared to wait for the framework document and
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Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I appreciate that the Minister is trying to be helpful regarding the framework document. However, I hope that he understands how difficult it is for your Lordships' House to consider properly the governance arrangements when we are told that we are going to get a lot of the information later, probably at Report. He said that we will not complete the Committee stage until after we return from the Summer Recess, with his great sacrifice of missing his party conference. The only reason the Committee stage is finishing so late is that in another part of the Bill the consultation, which will inform the clause in the Bill, has not yet been completed. As I said at Second Reading, I wonder whether this Bill should have come before your Lordships' House at this stage or whether it would have been better, in order to consider properly the governance arrangements and the later clauses on community sentences, to have had that information with us now. We have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Harris of the difficulties of trying to make suggestions and looking at exactly what the Government are proposing when we do not have a lot of the information with us today. I am slightly disappointed by the Minister's response because even without the framework document being available to noble Lords he dismissed the idea that there could be a more formalised structure for involvement in a governance board, as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, said, before we had even had a chance to look at and consider the framework document.
I have listened to comments from around the Committee and there seem to be several points of agreement. There is a general recognition that the NCA is a big beast, taking on what the Minister called a "demanding mission". It is clear that noble Lords want it to succeed in tackling some of the worst and most difficult crimes in our country. The only reason why we would discuss governance structures at all is not to make the Minister's life more difficult or deny him the opportunity to attend his party conference, but because we want those structures to reflect the importance of the organisation and ensure that it has the best possible information, advice and governance to be adequate to the task that it faces. As other noble Lords have said, nobody is wedded to any specific structure, but there has to be some recognition that it is not really satisfactory to have a relationship whereby the director-general responds and reports to the Secretary of State, who sets the guidelines that the director-general works under.
The Minister mentioned some kind of advisory body. There is provision in legislation for that, but with a very limited capacity. That is not particularly clear, either. My noble friend Lord Harris referred to the importance of the relationship between the director-general of the NCA and policing bodies and PCCs across the country. The power of direction in the legislation is something that the Minister has said will be used in exceptional circumstances and that agreement
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I take the Minister's point about bureaucracy, but I do not think that that should be an excuse to remove good governance processes and practices, which have proved themselves in other regards. As my noble friend Lord Harris said, the Minister gave the example of the Food Standards Authority, which has a board. I asked what the benefits were of the NCA not having a board, why it needed to be accountable directly to the Home Secretary and what the model was for the organisation. I did not really get an answer to those questions in the Minister's reply.
I have another point that I would like the Minister to think about a bit more. He said that one concern that he would have if there was a board was that the response from the director-general would be slower, and that it would be more bureaucratic, when he had to move quickly and decisively to any threats. The role of the board as we see it would not be an operational one but strategic and about giving advice. I would not expect the director-general to consult the board every time he thought that he or his colleagues had to respond to a specific threat. That would clearly be unacceptable. We are talking about the role in the legislation that the Minister and the Government intend for the Secretary of State, and our suggestion is that it should be the board's role. When the Government create bodies such as police and crime commissioners, we have to look at how they are brought into the general architecture of how the police and other law enforcement services work. It is unhelpful to good working practices to sideline them as they are in this Bill.
I would like to take this matter away and reflect on it. I do not intend to pursue it further at this stage. There may be more opportunities as we go through the Bill and debate other clauses around the issue of governance. At some stage, we will have a framework document, but I hope that it comes some time before Report. This House cannot do its duty of scrutiny as well as it should when we do not have such information. To suggest that it will be there for the Commons stage and that therefore we do not need it is unsatisfactory. I am sure that we will return to the issues of governance and, depending on how things go in the course of the debates in Committee, we will decide whether or not to return to them at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 seeks to remove Clause 1(10) from the Bill. That subsection excludes prosecution from the NCA's crime reduction function. Is the point simply what the NCA itself can do? If so, why cannot it prosecute on its own behalf? The crime reduction function is defined and includes activities to combat crime listed in Clause 1(11), which refers to prosecution. If the NCA cannot itself prosecute, how is it anticipated that the process will work? Common sense tells me how it will work but I would like to hear that from the Minister. Why cannot the NCA have the option of prosecuting instead of commissioning prosecution, as it were?
Amendment 3 seeks to understand what is intended by the activity of mitigating the consequences of crime. Of course, that is not something to which I am in any way opposed, but can the Minister expand on that? Is it expected that the NCA will work in partnership with the many organisations which deal with mitigating the consequences of crime such as the Restorative Justice Council and Victim Support? I was pleased but a little surprised to see that referred to and would be glad to have some flesh put on those bones. I beg to move.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has explained, she is, as I understand it, seeking an explanation of why the National Crime Agency is precluded from pursuing its own cases. Presumably, the National Crime Agency would pursue only more serious and organised offences although there is provision in the Bill for NCA officers to become involved in dealing with any crime, so perhaps that is not necessarily the case. Subject to the Minister putting me right, I assume the Government consider that the Crown Prosecution Service would become involved in pursuing most cases. If I am right in thinking that, one advantage is that the Crown Prosecution Service is able to take an independent look at the evidence available to support a charge, and make a decision on whether there is sufficient evidence to put before a jury with a reasonable prospect of success, whether it is in the public interest to proceed and whether the charges being brought are the appropriate ones in the light of the evidence.
One can argue that where an agency or body which is the one that has investigated the case and produced and collated the evidence is also the one that makes the decision on whether the evidence is sufficiently strong to make the charge stand up, there is a possibility that that agency or body may be too close to the case and too involved to make the necessary judgments in an entirely objective manner. We will listen to the Minister's response to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and to the explanations that she is seeking. My only further comment is that independent agencies do not always seem to have a high reputation when it comes to pursuing cases successfully. Some might raise the Serious Fraud Office in that context.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for putting forward these amendments and for making it quite clear that they are probing amendments. I hope that I can deal with some of her concerns.
I start with her first amendment, which simply suggests leaving out subsection (10). As I said, she put it forward as a probing amendment and I understand what my noble friend is seeking to ask. In setting out the expectation that agency investigations will lead to prosecutions, it is necessary to provide clarity on the role that the agency will take in relation to prosecutions-hence subsection (10), which provides that the agency does not have the function of prosecuting offences or, in Scotland, the function of instituting criminal proceedings. Rather, the agency will work closely with the prosecutors-that is, the CPS in England or the Lord Advocate in Scotland-to ensure that the right criminal justice outcome is achieved. I think it is right that those two agencies should do that, along with, in Northern Ireland, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. Therefore, there is no inconsistency here. The NCA will not itself undertake prosecutions but will work with others to undertake activities to combat serious organised crime. Such activities must, quite rightly, include the prosecution of offences.
I am very grateful to her for indicating that she also wanted to get over the fact that this is important in terms of the relations of the victims of crime. We have been clear that the reason for establishing the National Crime Agency is the need to respond to the changing nature of the threat posed by serious and organised crime-it has changed and will continue to change-and to ensure that our response keeps pace with the changing threat now and into the future.
As we are all well aware, where there is a crime, there is also a victim of crime. If we are committed to the agency tackling some of the most serious and pernicious forms of crime that we face, so too we must be committed to the agency playing an important role and working with other agencies and the voluntary sector to support the victims of crime. I suspect that my noble friend would like the reassurance that the agency will be able to work with any partners as it deems necessary to carry out its work. I can certainly give her the assurance that the agency's primary relationships will be with other law enforcement partners but it will also be important for it to build wider partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors.
I hope that that assurance goes as far as my noble friend would like. I want to assure her that in due course the agency will take its responsibilities for all people, but particularly for victims, very seriously. With that, I hope that she will be sufficiently satisfied and will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am glad of that reassurance. I expected it but I am glad to have it. Indeed, there is something of a change in the nature of crime and the need to recognise what is required to assist victims of crime. We will no doubt come on to that in more detail with the next group of amendments.
I remain a little perplexed as to why it does not remain an option for the NCA to undertake prosecutions. Indeed, one might have thought that this was something that the framework document would address and give
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(a) persons, units or services responsible for investigating trafficking in human beings are trained accordingly,
(b) effective investigative tools are available to persons, units or services responsible for investigating trafficking in human beings,
(c) there are services available for the protection, assistance and support of adult and child victims of trafficking in human beings.
( ) "The EU Human Trafficking Directive" means Directive 2011/36/EU of The European Parliament and of The Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims.
Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, a number of speakers at Second Reading raised the question of how the Bill will impact on the work of combating human trafficking and on wider child protection issues. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his responses in the debate. However, as we all know, the devil is in the detail, so my amendments seek to explore further how the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the UK Human Trafficking Centre will be incorporated into the National Crime Agency and be built on.
I want to put this issue in context. One of the current organised crimes under investigation occurred in Oxford. In March, Thames Valley Police arrested 12 men on various charges including trafficking, in relation to the sexual exploitation of 24 girls aged 11 to 16. In the press release issued by Thames Valley Police that day, the work done by CEOP and the UKHTC was also acknowledged. There have been subsequent arrests of individuals in association with this operation, which is known as Operation Bullfinch. That was in April and May and last Friday of this month.
Last Thursday, 14 June, CEOP published its assessment of the danger of those in possession of indecent images of children committing further crimes against children. The report suggested that such images are,
"In 1990, Home Office estimates of the number of individual, hard-copy [indecent images of children] in circulation stood at approximately 7,000 ... Today, the number of unique [indecent
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although more research is required to assess and quantify that link. The recommendations in the report include making possession of indecent images of children a high priority for UK policing, thus ensuring,
Last Thursday, CEOP also released details of Operation Tharsely, which was conducted on 12 and 13 June with more than 40 police forces and officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency who were targeting suspected and known child sex offenders. In the press release, CEOP said that 78 offenders had been arrested and 80 children protected. CEOP has a dedicated child trafficking unit that provides a specialist child-focused and protective approach to tackling child trafficking. The unit produces a national strategic intelligence picture on child trafficking every year.
The UKHTC has an important prevention remit, including disrupting traffickers, working with partner NGOs, raising awareness and disseminating intelligence. The UKHTC has worked on the Blue Blindfold campaign to raise awareness of trafficking among police forces, professionals and the public, as well as the campaign with the rather unfortunate title My Dangerous Loverboy which was designed to raise awareness of internal trafficking among children in the UK.
It provides expert advisers who provide support and advice 24 hours a day to police forces and government agencies to support pre-planned operations, advise on the disruption and prosecution of identified offenders and help in determining whether individuals may be trafficking victims. It is also one of the UK's two competent authorities to determine whether an individual is a victim of trafficking under the national referral mechanism and is the central collection point for NRM data.
I hope that my brief review of the functions of these two agencies will convince the House of the importance of the current work. Yet, we cannot be complacent. We need to ensure that this work continues within the NCA and that the UK's effectiveness in tackling this terrible crime is improved further. I hope that noble Lords will be able to support my amendments to bring a "combating human trafficking function" within the work of the NCA in Clause 1. Amendment 3B would ensure that the functions of the Human Trafficking Centre and CEOP will be part of the NCA under statute. Amendment 3A would ensure that human trafficking would be recognised as a serious organised crime for the purposes of this Bill.
We have international obligations to prevent and police human trafficking and to support victims under the European convention on human trafficking and the European directive on human trafficking. My Amendment 3A would require that the NCA take necessary measures to meet particular obligations under the European directive. There would be an obligation to provide training for investigations and for effective investigative tools to be available. That would meet Article 9 requirements. Similar requirements are also set out in Article 29 of the European convention.
I am concerned that this important function should not be lost in the crime reduction and criminal intelligence functions of the NCA that are set out in Clause 1. The obligation in Amendment 3B would place that protection function in statute and seek to meet the obligations of Articles 11 to 16 of the directive. Similar requirements are also set out in Article 12 of the European convention.
I should make it clear to noble Lords that this amendment does not intend that the NCA should be undertaking provision of services, but that the overseeing role of the UK Human Trafficking Centre should continue and, in carrying out its duties, that there is intentional action to ensure that the UK is meeting its international obligations.
The amendment specifically states that there need to be services for both adults and children. A number of concerns about the impact of the NCA on current resources tackling human trafficking were raised at Second Reading. The need to care for trafficked children has been debated by the House on numerous occasions. The debate ranges from specific measures if they give evidence in court to educational needs and much more besides.
I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for giving a commitment in February to look into the case for appointing legal advocates for trafficked children, I and look forward to the outcome of that work. I was also grateful for his letter of 13 June, a copy of which is in Library, reminding us that the NCA will have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children across all its functions and duties. It would be helpful to know how he thinks this will change the current work and approaches of the UKHTC and CEOP.
How the new National Crime Agency is formed and functions will impact the prevention and policing of human trafficking offences and the protection of victims. I fully appreciate that the Government intend for the NCA to have responsibility in the area of trafficking.
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Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I strongly support these amendments and Amendment 22, to which I assume the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, will speak in a moment. Two All-Party Groups have today published their Report from the Joint Inquiry into Children who go Missing from Care-I am relieved that it came out today so that I can refer to it. In doing so, I need to declare an interest. At least I hope that it is an interest, because I should at this moment be at the annual general meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, where I hope the group will decide to retain me as co-chair. However, I thought that it was more important that I should be present here to speak to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McColl.
The report from the joint inquiry makes some extremely important and worrying comments and recommendations in relation to trafficked children, many of whom are foreign children trafficked into this country. It has found from having heard a lot of evidence that it is estimated from,
"Being exploited for labour is the most common form of exploitation for trafficked children, followed by sexual exploitation, cannabis cultivation, domestic servitude, benefit fraud, street crime and forced marriage. Many of the victims are subject to multiple forms of exploitation".
Although the Minister might be wondering why on earth I am talking about what he might think is a matter for the Department for Education, this issue affects the NCA just as much it affects local authorities through the Department for Education. One of the major problems is that the police are not given information about children going missing from care homes where they have been placed, either because the local authority does not have that information or because the children are in another local authority which is not the local authority concerned with the children. It is a crying scandal that nobody knows anything about large numbers of missing children in this country except the place from where they went. Those data are not passed to the police. The police must be proactive in finding out what is happening to children.
The figures that local authorities give are peanuts compared with the figures that the police give. Local authorities say that it is about 900; the police think
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Amendments 3A and 3B-and, indeed, Amendment 22- would remind the NCA of an overriding obligation to deal with one of the most important and worrying crimes in this country, which is the receipt of foreign people who are trafficked and the internal trafficking of our own children. The police need to be proactive. The NCA needs to make sure that police, right down the scale, are aware, so that if they see a child in an odd situation, they should find out whether that child is missing from a care home or foster home or, perhaps more importantly, wonder whether the child is a trafficked child
The point made by the parliamentary group is that most child victims go missing within one week of being in care, often before being registered; and almost two-thirds of trafficked children are never found. One reason that the non-British trafficked children go missing from care is that they have been groomed by their traffickers not to let anybody in this country know about it, either because they are frightened of the police or, much more likely, because they have been threatened with what may happen to their families. They are not immediately obvious, but that does not mean that we do not have, and that the NCA should not have, an absolute obligation to seek out those children and adults who are in a similar position-in particular, if I may come back to it, to deal with the inadequate and patchy data. That is something that the NCA should have responsibility for in passing all the information it has to the UK HTC in Birmingham, if that is the best place.
I wonder whether the Government should rethink where national data should be placed to ensure that they are all produced-what CEOP, the NRM and everyone else, in particular local authorities which may end up with information about the children they take, have. The Department for Education should be working much more closely with the Ministry of Justice, police and local authorities. I believe that the only way in which it will work more closely is if it is stated in primary legislation what should be done.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, regarding Amendment 22, I am concerned at the failure of the Bill to deal adequately with the problems of child trafficking. I was also concerned at Second Reading that the Minister's only reference to child-related crime was a mention of the exploitation of children for sexual purposes. This is not the same as child trafficking; the two are separate issues and dealing with one does not necessarily deal with the other.
Because the Bill is silent on child trafficking, it is unclear where responsibility is going to lie. Will it be with CEOP or the new operational command for border policing and immigration crime, or will it be divided between the two? I very much agree with the comments made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that the difficulty is we really need something that deals exclusively with children. The ideal solution would be the establishment of a child-focused operational command within the NCA that could deal with all problems pertaining to child-related crime, including all forms of child trafficking and child exploitation.
Amendment 22 would not force the NCA to establish such an operational command since that is clearly a policy decision. However putting the words "child trafficking" on the face of the Bill would make it abundantly clear that this was a prime duty that the NCA had to address.
From the official statistics, which are woefully inadequate, we know for certain that in the past two years more than 600 children were trafficked into the UK. However, this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg because it is almost impossible to get the real figures. One reason for this is because trafficking legislation requires evidence sometimes called double intent, which means that it is necessary to prove both an intent to transport and an intent to exploit. Often, evidence exists of one or the other, but seldom both. For example, trafficking legislation cannot be used if a child arrives in UK with an adult but there is no evidence to prove that the same adult will exploit the child during its time in the UK. Such cases are usually prosecuted under immigration legislation. They are then not recorded as child trafficking, they do not go into the official statistics, and the official figures therefore hugely underestimate the problem.
The types of child exploitation are varied. Domestic servitude is a major issue and always has been, but looking after cannabis plants-I think it is called "cultivation"-is a major issue for children, particularly those brought in from Vietnam. Vietnam has consistently ranked in the top two countries for child referrals since 2009 when the national referral mechanism began. Despite this, there has not been a single prosecution under UK law for the trafficking of children for forced labour in cultivating cannabis, although Vietnamese children are regularly arrested and prosecuted in the UK for drug-related offences.
I urge the Committee to support this amendment. If we can get the words "child trafficking" on the face of the Bill, it will elevate the problem to a major responsibility of the NCA and something that has to be taken very seriously, that cannot be split between different operational commands and cannot just be pushed to one side. This is a very serious problem and it needs to be seriously addressed.
Lord Neill of Bladen: Will the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, say that his amendment is essential in relation to the directive? In other words, if his amendment were forgotten about or did not exist, would the Bill contain provisions that have the same effect, or are his provisions critical to the UK's ability to carry out its duties under the 2011 directive?
Lord Hylton: My Lords, we have now heard some very powerful speeches in favour of these two amendments. I would add two further examples of trafficking which have not so far been mentioned. There is some evidence-and there are certainly some strong suspicions-that, first, some English-born children have been trafficked from place to place within England and that, secondly, some children who have been taken into the care of local authorities but have run away or escaped, or taken avoiding action, have then been trafficked out of this country to overseas destinations for unknown purposes.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for introducing the subject of child trafficking into the Committee today. One reason why it is so important that we look at what should or should not be written into the Bill about child trafficking, human trafficking, child exploitation and so on is the concern that there will be, from those who are concerned with these issues, that somehow these matters will get lost in the new National Crime Agency. I recall the concern expressed when SOCA was set up about what was to happen to the high-tech crime unit. It appeared to disappear completely. Because that unit had disappeared into the new agency, it was not apparent to those who had been working with it whether those activities were still continuing as time went on. There is a very real concern that some of these issues about child exploitation, human trafficking and so on may disappear or not be given the same priority.
Part of that comes back to what I suspect may not be included in this much vaunted framework document, which is: what governance and external-facing relationships is the National Crime Agency going to have? CEOP, for example, has a highly regarded partnership structure that relates to other organisations which are active in the field. It relates to those technology companies and to all sorts of organisations which need to work with it to help deal with child online exploitation. The danger is that unless we are told explicitly that these activities will carry on and that those relationships with external agencies will continue, some of them will disappear. There is a real fear about some of these activities and relationships as far as CEOP is concerned, which is why we are seeing amendments such as the one before us that are trying to pin down what the responsibilities will be on issues such as trafficking and child exploitation. I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance that these issues will be dealt with explicitly in the framework document, so that we can be reassured that the National Crime Agency will continue to have robust external relationships on this range of issues.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, has long championed the issue of child victims of human trafficking having had, I believe, a Private Member's Bill in the last Session and an amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill to introduce a system of guardians for child victims who enter the system. His amendments today, however, relate to including in the NCA's statutory functions a
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