The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): My Lords, badger culling is part of a package of measures to tackle bovine TB. The policy will be piloted, initially in two areas, during the summer of 2013 to confirm our assumptions about the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting. An independent panel of experts will oversee and evaluate the monitoring of the pilots and report back to government; only then will Ministers decide whether the policy should be rolled out more widely.
Lord Hoyle: I thank the Minister for his reply. However, scientific evidence conducted over 10 years says that the killing of badgers makes hardly any difference-indeed, no difference-and in fact eminent scientists say that it makes it worse. In view of that, will he now follow the Welsh Assembly and decide on a policy of vaccination rather than elimination?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the noble Lord and I will disagree on the science. Ultimately, of course, we want to be able to use vaccination both for cattle and for badgers, and we are investing in this option through extensive research and development. However, there are practical difficulties with the injectable badger vaccine, which the noble Lord refers to as being used in Wales and which right now is the only available option. The difficulties involved include the need for each badger to be trapped and the fact that vaccination does not appear to cure already infected badgers, along with the cost and the fact that it has to be repeated every year.
Lord Krebs: My Lords, I have spoken in your Lordships' House before about the scientific evidence for the efficacy of culling as a way to control TB in badgers, and I do not wish to repeat myself. However, I should like to ask the Minister two questions. First, how will the success or failure of these two pilots be judged? The independent panel will make the judgment, but what will success look like? Secondly, is it not right that the Government should take the opportunity between now and next summer, when the cull is proposed to resume, to review all the options for controlling TB in badgers, bearing in mind that not even the most
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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, as always, I respect the noble Lord's position. An independent panel of experts will oversee the monitoring and evaluation of the two pilots for the badger control policy to test our assumptions, as I said, about the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting. The expert panel will play an important role in overseeing the design of the data collection and their analysis, and in providing additional advice on interpretation of the data. It will be on the basis of both the pilots and the panel's report that Ministers will take a decision on whether the granting of culling licences should be authorised in areas besides the pilot areas, and whether the badger control policy should continue to include controlled shooting as a culling method. On the noble Lord's second point, we are constantly reviewing the options. As I said earlier, we are working hard on a vaccination, and there are a number of other measures in progress. In a general sense, we are doing as the noble Lord suggests.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, how much have this year's aborted culls already cost the police in those two areas? What is the estimate for the cost to the police if the two culls go ahead in the summer and who is going to pay this money?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, to put things in context, we should bear in mind that in 2011-12 the total cost to the Government of controlling the disease in England will be about £90 million but that, without further action, the disease will cost the taxpayer approaching £1 billion over the next decade. In terms of the costs, a large proportion of which are borne by farmers, £750,000 was spent on surveying costs, which gave us the more accurate estimate of badger populations, £300,000 on Natural England's costs and approximately £95,000 as part of humaneness monitoring.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, given that 92% of the people of this country are against the proposed cull, what conversations has the Minister had with his partners in the European Union who have successfully introduced vaccination?
Lord De Mauley: The noble Lord raises an important point. I can only repeat an extract from the report following the visit to the UK in March 2012 of the EU Commission's bovine tuberculosis sub-group of the task force for monitoring animal disease eradication:
"It is however of utmost importance that there is a political consensus and commitment to long-term strategies to combat TB in badgers as well as in cattle ... There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. However there is considerable evidence to support the removal of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle".
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I do not believe that the Minister mentioned which areas were going to be part of this experiment. During the six years thatI was at MAFF, people in Devon begged me to have a culling operation. Is Devon part of the experiment?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, it is for the National Farmers' Union to decide where it wants to conduct pilots. Natural England issued west Somerset and Gloucestershire with licences for the two badger cull pilots and these licences remain valid for the duration of the cull next summer. We are working with the farming industry so that badger control in two pilot areas can be implemented effectively in 2013 in the best possible conditions and with the right resources.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I declare an interest as a resident of the Forest of Dean, a cull area, and as a member of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting. My party still believes that there is no scientific, economic or moral basis for culling. What is the estimated additional cost to farmers or others of a more intensive cull, and are the Government confident of recruiting enough marksmen to do the work?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I have referred to costs already. I can only repeat that the cost of not bearing down on TB in cattle through, among other things, controlling the badger population is currently about £90 million a year and is increasing.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: I thank the noble Lord. My Lords, in view of the vast compensation paid for the slaughter of cattle that react to the tuberculin test, and in view of Britain's vast experience of vaccination of wildlife-not only of badgers but all over the world-what attention is being paid to the vaccination of badgers in this situation by using techniques that are commonly used elsewhere in the world in very difficult circumstances?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I mentioned earlier the injectable badger vaccine, with which, as I explained, there are complications. The other alternative is the oral vaccine. An oral badger vaccine is in development but is still several years away. It is therefore not possible to say with any certainty if and when such a vaccine might be available for use in the field.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, following broadly free and fair parliamentary elections on 1 October, Georgia is now negotiating a tricky period, with a difficult cohabitation between the Government and the President. It is incumbent on all sides to work together to consolidate Georgia's democratic progress. This message was delivered by my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe, David Lidington, on his recent visit to Georgia on 21 to 22 November.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for his reply, but does he agree that there are very worrying signs coming from Georgia? More than 20 members of the previous Government have been arrested, including many high-ranking officials, former Cabinet Ministers, the deputy mayor of Tbilisi and the chief of the defence staff. It may be that some of those are guilty of misconduct, but will the Government join with other members of the European Union to make it quite clear to the new Prime Minister that the due process of law must be followed in every case and that there should be no hint of what has already been termed political retribution against former members of the Government?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are concerned about the number of political figures who have been arrested and we are following that situation very closely. The sentiments that the noble Lord suggested have been expressed by a number of foreign ambassadors and Foreign Ministers. There have been discussions with the Georgians in Brussels. Ivanishvili, the new Prime Minister, visited Brussels in the context of the NATO-Georgia council on 5 December. An active dialogue is therefore under way.
Lord Haworth: My Lords, Georgia is a sovereign, democratic and proud country, but is it not the case that recent events are staining its reputation for democratic development? Is not the Georgian Dream becoming the Georgian nightmare? Will the Minister comment on the cancellation of Prime Minister Ivanishvili's visit to Washington? Some reports say that while his party is busy arresting and harassing opposition parliamentarians that should remain the case. Would he be welcome in this country while this situation continues?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it is a little too early to be quite as definite as the noble Lord has been. This is a new Government who have been in office for, in effect, less than two months, and the Georgian Dream coalition is extremely diverse. It is led by the richest man in Georgia, who has very little previous political experience. It is finding its way. Georgia is the most democratic among the former CIS states. It is not by any means a perfect democracy, but one has to recognise that the elections were seen as being broadly free and fair, and there was a democratic change of Government. We have to cling to that and bring all the pressure we can to make sure that the new Government fulfil their full democratic obligations.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, perhaps I may move the focus to Russo-Georgian relations. Prime Minister Ivanishvili made most of his millions in Russia and it is reported that he either has been, or is about to be meeting President Putin. Will the Minister comment on the Government's informed understanding of how Russo-Georgian relations may alter or whether they will remain as they are?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we would welcome an improvement in relations between Russia and Georgia. The new Government have indeed attempted to open a new dialogue with the Russians, but so far, as far as I am informed, the Russians have not responded very favourably. The problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain; Russia still does not accept the territorial integrity of Georgia. There is a long way to go, but in the context of the multinational Geneva talks in which Britain also plays a part, we would very much like a more positive dialogue between Russia and Georgia to take place.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, there is plenty of time for both noble Lords. I think that we can hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and then my noble friend.
I should admit that I was in Georgia by chance the week before the parliamentary elections, and, perhaps to offset some of the comments this afternoon, I should say that the massive demonstrations that took place then after the revelation of terrible human rights abuses in Georgian prisons were impeccable. There was no violence on the part of protesters and there was no force used by the police. What we need to do, surely-
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble Lord for those comments. The previous Government were not perfect. There is a very large prison population in Georgia and prison conditions were clearly awful. The current Government are not perfect either; media freedom is still very limited, but we have to do what we can to encourage a process of transition to full democracy, which is still under way.
Lord Dykes: Is my noble friend confident that the October 2010 constitutional measures will ensure greater accountability and duty by the president to avoid the Putin-Medvedev interchangeability that is such a feature of Russian politics?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, one of the worrying concerns has been that the Government have published a proposed series of cuts in the budget that would sharply cut the budget for the presidential administration. We are doing everything that we can, as are a number of other foreign Governments, to encourage a constructive cohabitation between the president and the current Government until the presidential elections next year.
Lord Newby: My Lords, the Government are fully committed to tackling avoidance and evasion wherever it occurs. HMRC is to receive additional investment of £77 million to expand its anti-avoidance and anti-evasion activity, including resources to identify and challenge multinationals' transfer pricing arrangements. Following the Chancellor's call for international co-operation to strengthen international tax standards, the UK, Germany and France have pledged resources to the OECD to speed up work to tackle profit-shifting and base erosion at the global level.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that if companies and individuals complied with the letter and spirit of the law, the Treasury would be £32 billion better off. Is he aware that the public are extremely angry about this and that the whole situation is grossly unfair to those companies that pay their taxes, such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer? Is he further aware that the army of bankers, accountants and lawyers advising those companies on how to evade their taxes are the same people the Government employ for their own business? Will he take action in the tax havens that make all this possible?
Lord Newby: My Lords, HMRC does indeed estimate that the tax gap in 2010-11 was £32 billion, which represents 6.7% of total tax due. The tax gap as a percentage of tax due has fallen from 8.2% since 2004. It is not good enough but it is going in the right direction. The absolute determination of the Government to bear down on this was evidenced by the decision we took last year to divert £900 million into this area, which has since been supplemented by an additional
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Lord Naseby: Why does HMRC not take action a bit nearer home and look at the smuggling into this country of cigarettes and tobacco? The percentage for this is still 20% to 25%, denying retailers and the trade a normal profit margin and ensuring that cigarettes are cheaper and easier for young people to take up. That percentage has not changed for the past three years.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dubs is quite right, but should the answer not be that there is nothing whatever that the Government can do until there is international agreement which, sadly, is unlikely to happen in the very near future?
Lord Newby: We need a greater degree of international agreement and that is why, along with France and Germany, we have just contributed an extra €150,000 to the OECD's work to change the basis of accounting. We can do only a certain amount ourselves. It would be a counsel of despair to say that we cannot change the rules; the rules exist and can be changed.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I am glad that the Government are ending Labour's indulgence to business on tax issues but, like many others here, I would like to play a part with my purchasing power. Is there a way we can find out who the good guys are so that we do not have to use the likes of Amazon, Google and Starbucks and can transfer our business elsewhere?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the worry would be that if the Government constructed a good guys' website they would not be on it. The Minister is absolutely right: we need international action. However, the significant European countries taking action with regard to places such as Monaco point a very accusatory finger at the UK Government, with our plethora of regimes that are in fact tax havens. That is why the Government should be taking a lead, not following others.
Lord Newby: I do not remember the noble Lord quite espousing those lines when he was in my position. The Government are working very hard with low-tax jurisdictions to make sure that we get the tax that is due. This is why the Liechtenstein disclosure facility has been so productive and why the agreement with Switzerland will yield many billions of pounds that we never got before. We also have the newly expanded exchange of information, announced with the Isle of Man, which sets an example that we hope to expand to other tax havens. We are trying to bear down slowly on them so that one after another they become less desirable as places for people to put money to evade taxes.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, on the problem of leakage of tax revenue to tax havens with lower rates, is not the answer to lower the rates of corporate taxation in this country? In answer to a previous question of a similar nature, my noble friend told me that it was an accounting problem. It is not an accounting problem that leads people to base their company headquarters in countries such as Luxembourg-it is because they pay less tax there. If we wish to maximise revenue, should we not cut corporation tax still further in the way that my right honourable friend did in the Autumn Statement?
Lord Newby: We are reducing the rate of corporation tax but there is a danger of a race to the bottom. Corporation tax brings in a substantial amount of money and is an important contributor to the Exchequer.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, would the Minister join me in welcoming the fact that Her Majesty's Government, having cut the money to HMRC for dealing with this problem, have now restored their own cut? Would he see whether it is possible to collate information about those companies with large numbers of employees that do not even pay a living wage to those employees, let alone their tax, and therefore cost the Treasury in additional income support?
Lord Newby: My Lords, I am afraid the noble Baroness is wrong about what has been happening with the resources: we have been reallocating resources within HMRC. Bearing in mind that so many taxpayers now pay their tax online, we do not need as many people opening envelopes. However, we do need highly sophisticated people working as analysts and investigators.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Department of Health is evaluating the effectiveness of latent TB screening in migrant populations. NICE produces clinical guidelines
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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the moment you arrive here you become the responsibility of the National Health Service? Would it therefore not be much wiser to have these tests carried out in the country of origin where the visa application is made? As I understand it, something like three-quarters of the people diagnosed in the past year would have been missed with the present test. Can he assure me that, if country-of-origin testing is introduced, the Home Office will take action to ensure that the tests are up to standard and not subject to interference or even possible corruption?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. Overseas tests already take place, first by X-ray and then by a sputum test in the event of a positive result. This results in cost savings because we do not need to treat someone suffering from tuberculosis if they come to the UK.
Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, given that tuberculosis is not exclusive to immigrants, does the Minister agree that everyone coming into the United Kingdom from some of the suspect countries should be tested?
Lord Ribeiro: My Lords, TB and HIV co-exist. The NHS is required to test all new healthcare workers for tuberculosis and blood-born viruses, including HIV. In relation to overseas recruitment, it is recommended that the tests are performed in the country of origin before applying for employment. Can the Minister confirm that compliance with this guidance is being maintained and is it possible to move towards the situation that currently pertains in Australia, New Zealand and Canada?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, eventually for all the 82 high- risk countries, you will not be able to get a visa to the UK unless you are clear of TB. To clarify further my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, arrivals from the other European states are not tested for TB because of course they do not need to be tested. They can come and go as they please.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the growing incidence of TB is actually a feature now in the UK, particularly in cities such as London and Birmingham? What priority are the Government giving within the National Health Service to dealing with a problem that is causing a great deal of concern?
Earl Attlee: The noble Lord is absolutely right: it is a problem in the big conurbations, due to deprivation and very dense accommodation. I can assure the noble Lord that the Government are on the case. We regard it as a serious problem. Further to the article in the Financial Times, we recognise that we must not let it get out of control. That is partially why we are insisting on testing people outside the UK so that we do not incur the costs for the NHS. It costs about £6,000 to treat someone who is very susceptible to treatment with antibiotics but if they are multiresistant it can cost £100,000 to treat them. We need to make sure that we do not import health problems and we concentrate on solving our own health problems-not just by activities in the NHS but also by improving housing, which I am sure all Governments have striven to do over the years.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, as blood tests for latent TB are already available to migrants through their GPs, is not the answer to encourage greater voluntary take-up in areas such as the noble Lord opposite mentioned-Birmingham, Hounslow and Newham-and enlist the help of diaspora organisations from the 67 countries where TB is most prevalent to increase the rates of take-up? Since the countries that undertake pre-emptive screening all depend on X-rays, as we are now doing with overseas checking of would-be migrants from those countries where active TB exists, and none is contemplating pre-emptive blood testing, should we not have discussions with those countries to concert a common approach on what should be done about pre-entry blood testing in overseas countries?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I look forward to reading my noble friend's comments in Hansard in the morning but it is important that testing is targeted. The health professionals will offer tests where they are most effective and most likely to find a problem.
A Bill to provide the framework for the appointment and functions of a Press Council to act independently and in the public interest to promote and protect freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, in communicating information and opinions to the public, to encourage and maintain professional standards and practices, and to provide redress for victims of professional misconduct; and for connected purposes.
That the Commons message of 4 December be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed
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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): I have a great deal of sympathy with the implied comment that the noble Lord is making. I have to point out that the Committee of Selection made these appointments on the basis of nominations from the usual channels. If the noble Lord or other Peers wish to take this matter further, they know where the first port of call should be.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, this is a Joint Committee of the two Houses, which I welcome-generally speaking, I think they work very well. We are a bicameral Parliament. This may seem a minor point, but it is part of a pattern: that on the last day before the Recess the Commons are sitting and we are not, and on the first day after the Recess we are sitting and the Commons are not-or whichever way round it is. As the Leader is obviously master of these matters, perhaps he could give us a rational explanation because I simply cannot find one.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Chairman of Committees for his great advice on how to tackle this, to make sure that we do not develop into a second House of Laity of the Church of England and have no women on any of these committees.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, in attempting to lower the temperature slightly, can my noble friend the Chairman tell us whether any member of this committee from either House sat on the previous important Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege? It would clearly be an advantage if there were somebody who had experience of that committee. As one of those people was the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, she would provide a wonderful answer to both questions.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, without referring to any of the people who have been proposed for this committee, the noble Lord mentioned that it was down to the usual channels. Can he assure the House that when a quarter of the membership of this House does not get to have a say in these important matters, that when he gets this kind of referral in future he will go back to the usual channels and propose to them that they need to incorporate perspectives from all sides of the House?
Lord Tyler: My Lords, I endorse the views of my noble friend Lord Cormack. I, too, served on that committee and I warmly endorse the suggestion that the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, should be nominated to this committee. From memory, she and I sat through many sessions when we worked very hard on this issue. Parliament as a whole does not do itself any justice when it seems to go back and reinvent the wheel every so often instead of taking advantage of the work that both Houses have done in the past.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I will deal with the list of complaints. First, the main issue has been the gender composition of the committee. I can only say that the Committee of Selection works on the basis of accepting the nominations that come from the usual channels. If Members of your Lordships' House have a concern that the gender balance is incorrect, they should refer in the first instance to the usual channels that represent their own particular group. It is not up to the Committee of Selection to make that challenge in the first place, but I am absolutely sure that the usual channels have heard the comments that Members have made and will take these into consideration in future. In terms of the experience of the names brought forward today, I have not got the faintest idea whether or not they served on the previous committee.
Lord Richard: My Lords, the Chairman of Committees said that the first thing we should do is go back to the usual channels. With respect, that is not so. The first thing we have to do is not pass this Motion. If this Motion is passed, the committee is established; if it is not passed then certainly we can go back to the usual channels.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I am very proud to be part of the usual channels. I am also acutely conscious of the need for gender balance. I am rather embarrassed by the fact that there is no gender balance on this committee. We have a very democratic system in my party and we ask people to put their names forward if they wish to serve on committees and we try to ensure a gender balance across committees. If, however, it were the will of the House that this should go back in order to find a better gender balance, I would have no hesitation in supporting that. It is something that I am very conscious of.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I wonder whether the Chairman of Committees could respond to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Grocott. If he feels that it is difficult, perhaps the Leader of the House could intervene and explain to the whole House what the position is.
The Chairman of Committees: I take the chance that the view of the House is that it would wish to see the composition of this committee re-examined. On that basis, therefore, I will take the nominations back. On the issue of the meetings of the two Houses, the somewhat ingenious way in which the dates of the sittings of the two Houses are arrived at is beyond my comprehension. It seems that a great deal of effort is put into ensuring that we do not sit on the same days.
"With permission, I would like to make a Statement on the government proposals to enable same-sex couples to marry. Not so long ago, Mr Speaker, talk of marriage as one of the building blocks of society was dismissed by some as out of date. Of course, those of us in this House who have taken a closer interest know that marriage remains something which most people aspire to. So, far from being a peripheral issue, the future of marriage is something that should concern us all. Today we are setting out how the Government will extend marriage to same-sex couples.
This is a consultation that has been the subject of much debate within the House and outside it. I am immensely grateful to the many honourable Members who have taken the time to discuss these proposals with me, adding their voices to the 19 petitions received by the Government and the record 228,000 individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation.
For some, this is a contentious and radical reform, or, indeed, a reform too far. But the historical facts show that over the generations marriage has had a long history of evolution. In the nineteenth century, inequalities prevented Catholics, atheists, Quakers and
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For me, extending marriage to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, this vital institution. The response I am publishing today makes clear that we will enable same-sex couples to get married through a civil ceremony. We will enable those religious organisations that wish to conduct same-sex marriages to be able to do so. This will be on a similar 'opt-in' basis as is available to them for civil partnerships. That is important for the obvious reason that it would be wrong to ban organisations that wish to conduct same-sex marriages from doing so.
I am under no illusions. I am fully aware that the proposals set out today to allow same-sex couples to marry are contentious. I am also clear that there should be complete respect for religious organisations and individual religious leaders who do not wish to marry same-sex couples. The Government have to balance the importance of treating all couples equally and fairly with respect for religious organisations' right to their own beliefs.
We need to be fair to same-sex couples. The state should not ban them from such a great institution. Equally, we need to be fair to people of faith. Our religious protections, which I will set out, will ensure that fairness is at the heart of our proposals. Churches have a right to fight for and articulate their beliefs and to be under no compulsion to conduct same-sex marriages. As the Prime Minister has said, we are 100% clear that if there is any church, any synagogue or any mosque that does not want to conduct a gay marriage it will not-absolutely must not-be forced to hold it. That is why as part of our response we will have a quadruple lock, putting into English law clear and unambiguous protections.
I will go into the detail of those locks, but before I do that I want to reiterate my comments yesterday concerning Europe. I know that many honourable Members are worried that European courts will force religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriage. The law is complex but that complexity is absolutely no excuse for misunderstanding the facts. The case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the rights as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights put protection of religious belief in this matter beyond doubt.
The Government's legal position confirmed that, with appropriate legislative drafting, the chance of a successful legal challenge through domestic or European courts is negligible. I have therefore asked the Government's lawyers to ensure that this is the case here. Our response sets out clear safeguards-a quadruple
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First, we will write on to the face of the Bill a declaration that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises. Secondly, I will amend the Equalities Act so that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations, or individual ministers, for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose.
Thirdly, the legislation will make it unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation has expressly opted to do so. As part of this lock, a religious organisation will have to opt in as a whole and then each individual minister will have to opt in too. Therefore, if a religious organisation has chosen not to conduct same-sex marriage, none of its ministers will be able to. However, if an organisation has chosen to do so then individual ministers are still under no compulsion to conduct a same-sex marriage, unless they wish to do so.
Finally, because the Churches of England and Wales have explicitly stated that they do not wish to conduct same-sex marriage, the legislation will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples. This provision recognises and protects the unique and established nature of these churches. The church's canon law will also continue to ban the marriage of same-sex couples. Therefore, even if these institutions wanted to conduct same-sex marriage, it would require a change in primary legislation at a later date and a change in canon law-an additional protection that cannot be breached.
I feel it is important also to directly address other concerns raised by religious institutions. Other legal cases, including provision of services such as bed and breakfast or the wearing of religious symbols, have no bearing on the legal situation regarding marriage. This is because, for most religions, marriage is a commitment made before God; it is at the heart of religious belief. There is clear protection under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and there is clarity in case law that the European Court of Human Rights considers same-sex marriage a matter for each member state.
Faith has underpinned British society for centuries and it is as important to me as equality for all before the law. These proposals will allow both to co-exist without threat or challenge to the other. People of faith hold views which must be respected. That is why I have always been absolutely clear that I would never introduce a Bill which encroaches or threatens religious freedoms. It is with these strongly held views in mind that the proposals presented here today have been designed.
I believe that these proposals strike the right balance by protecting important religious freedoms while ensuring that same-sex couples have the same freedom to marry
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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Statement and the Government for bringing forward these proposals, which are consistent with the progressive changes that my Government carried through over many years. The Minister can expect our support in carrying forward this enlightened legislation to make it possible for couples who love each other and want to make a long-term commitment to each other to be able to marry regardless of their gender or sexuality. Labour strongly agrees that gay and lesbian couples should have an equal right to marriage. Same-sex couples deserve the same recognition from the state and society as anyone else. I wholeheartedly agree with the Minister that extending marriage to same-sex couples strengthens, not weakens, the institution.
Labour's introduction of civil partnerships faced some opposition at the time, but much progress has been made in fighting discrimination in the past few years. We need to continue progress on lesbian and gay equality, and same-sex marriage is an important step. Indeed, freedom of religion is also important. No one is proposing that churches should be obliged to hold same-sex marriages. Religious freedom is guaranteed in law and both the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights put the protection of religious belief beyond doubt.
Religious marriages are a matter for each church, religious organisation or denomination, not for the Government. We expect the Bill to rule out any church or individual minister being required to perform same-sex marriages and that the protection of religious freedom will be double-locked or double-double-locked, as set out in the Bill. However, freedom of religion also means that we support those churches and faiths that wish to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies in being able to do so, including the Quakers, the Unitarians, Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism. The Government initially ruled this out in their consultation but, thanks to the campaigns that have been waged, I am happy to see that they have changed their mind and that these provisions may now be included.
Labour's Front-Bench equalities team has been supportive of permissive legislation which would allow those religious organisations that want it the opportunity to celebrate same-sex marriage ceremonies. This has precedent in Section 6 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, amended by Section 202 of the Equality Act 2010-now known in this House as the Waheed Alli amendment-which allows religious organisations to host civil partnerships on their premises if they wish.
Some religious leaders have expressed opposition even to proposals for same-sex civil marriage. Although we respect their right to hold such views, we do not agree with them. There was similar opposition to civil partnerships when Labour introduced them seven years
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Labour made huge progress on equality over 13 years in government. As well as introducing civil partnerships, we created an equal age of consent, ended the ban on LGBT people serving in our Armed Forces, increased sentences for hate crimes and outlawed discrimination in goods and services. Between 1997 and 2010, the Labour Government did more for the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality than any other Government in British history.
The Minister is correct: marriage is not a static institution. It has, rightly, changed many times over the years to make it relevant to the society it serves. Changes include, for example, the introduction of non-religious, civil marriages in the 1830s, allowing married women to own property in the 1880s and outlawing rape in marriage in the 1990s. Freedom of religion is extremely important. No one is proposing that religious organisations should be obliged to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
I listened with interest, as did the Minister, to the debate on the Statement in the Commons. I offer my sympathy to the noble Baroness and some of her colleagues over some comments made by Conservative Members of the House of Commons. One of them said that 98% of his constituents were opposed to this proposed legislation. Quite how he knows that, I am unable to say. I hope that noble Lords behind the Minister will take a more enlightened view of these proposals. The Minister has, unsurprisingly, dwelt on the safeguards. I hope that the Government will not be defensive over the Bill; they should be proud of it.
How will this legislation work? Will the people who currently have civil partnerships be able to, as it were, convert to a civil or religious marriage? How will they do that and will there be any constraints or time limits? The Government have made available their response to the consultation but will they make available its results?
The second lock mentioned by the Minister concerned amending the Equality Act, but I wonder whether, and why, this is necessary. My understanding is that this matter is already covered precisely in that Act.
In conclusion, the Labour Party strongly supports same-sex marriage. People who love each other and want to make a long-term commitment to each other should be able to get married. As a society, we should support and celebrate that commitment. We are pleased and we welcome the fact that the Government have gone further than they originally intended and that they will allow religious organisations that want to celebrate same-sex marriage the chance to do so.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for her support. I recognise that her Government did much to enhance
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The noble Baroness asked a few questions, which I am happy to respond to. On her point about the conversion of civil partnerships to civil marriages, it is certainly our intention to propose in the Bill that the 50,000 or more people who have entered into a civil partnership since that was enacted will be able to convert it to a marriage. There will be a process for them to follow, and I am pleased to confirm that it will not be time-limited.
The noble Baroness also asked about the consultation responses. Today we have published the Government's response to the consultation document, and that provides some details of those responses. Clearly, having received more than 228,000 responses, it is not our plan to publish all of them individually, but I hope that the details of the consultation document will provide the sort of information that noble Lords will be interested in.
She also asked about the Equality Act and why it was necessary for us to amend it, as we have proposed as part of the quadruple lock. This is necessary because we need to introduce a safeguard specific to the conducting of same-sex marriages so that anyone, such as a member of a religious faith, who chooses not to do so on religious grounds is not in any way at risk of any kind of legal challenge.
I think that covers all the points that the noble Baroness raised. I restate that obviously I am here to respond to questions. I hope that all noble Lords will feel free to express any views and that they will be reassured that those views will be respected today.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I remind noble Lords that Statements are a time for brief comments and questions. Could noble Lords please show consideration of each other to enable as many as possible to contribute?
Lord Laming: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating this measured and very welcome Statement. I hope that she will understand that many of us in this House were brought up to believe that all people are equal in the sight of God, and that some of us are deeply saddened that some churches have given up their responsibility of being at the forefront in promoting equal opportunity.
That being so, I ask the noble Baroness-somewhat unusually for me-to convey to the Government my personal thanks for the thoughtful and sensitive way in which they are dealing with this matter, especially in providing the churches that want them with a remarkable
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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his support and also for his comments about the way in which we are bringing forward these proposals. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not seek to respond on behalf of the right reverend Prelates in the House today and I am sure that he would not expect me to.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, those of us on these Benches entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. That is why many of us supported civil partnerships, as we believe that the rights and obligations that flow to those who wish formally to mark and celebrate their commitment to each other should not be denied to people simply because of their sexuality.
However, civil partnerships, while conferring virtually the same legal benefits, are not the same as marriage. Marriage is not the property of the Government, nor is it the property of the church. While the forms and legalities around marriage have evolved over time, as the Minister has pointed out, one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout-that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. It is a social institution that predates both church and state and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.
Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England's position but, rather, a more fundamental concern for stable communities? Can she assure us that teachers in church schools, for example, will not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teaching? Can she assure the House that, in spite of the accelerated pace of this process, proper time, even over a Christmas holiday, will be given for adequate consultation with the Church of England's canon lawyers on the legislative drafting? Can she assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudiced against gay people for taking a traditional stand?
Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the Government and the Opposition have together in proceeding with this measure led to division not only within the country, where polls consistently show that around half the population is against this change, but also between the political class and the vast majority of practising religious people. What plans do the Government have for working towards some greater degree of consensus on this matter?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for setting out his view on behalf of the church. I acknowledge that people have concerns about some of these proposals, but the safeguards that we are putting in place to protect religious freedoms are there directly to address those concerns. We are not in any way redefining how religious
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The right reverend Prelate asked me about teachers and faith schools. I can reassure him that nothing that we are doing in this legislation will bring about any change to the approach for teaching in schools. A faith school would be able to continue to describe its belief that marriage is between a man and a woman while recognising that same-sex couples can marry.
The right reverend Prelate asked me about allowing proper time for consultation with canon lawyers. I can absolutely give him that assurance. It is our intention to make sure that we have watertight legislation that addresses all the concerns that religious faiths may have.
Finally, I say to the right reverend Prelate and to all Members of this House that there is absolutely no way that we as a Government would seek to label anybody who did not support same-sex marriage as prejudiced. We are trying to make marriage available in civil ceremonies to same-sex couples and to protect the religious freedoms that are rightly there for all faiths to continue to act in accordance with their beliefs, and we would not seek to change that in any way.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, will the Minister accept from these Benches our wholehearted congratulations on and support for this Bill? It was, of course, we who began civil partnerships though my Private Member's Bill, which was taken over by the Labour Government. This is a further example of progress. The Act of Uniformity in the 17th century forbade religious marriages of any kind except those in the Anglican faith. It was in the 19th century that that began to change through Lord Brougham's Bill of 1855. This is a further step forward. Will the Minister accept from me that the safeguards that she has just mentioned will be wholly compatible with the European Convention and will pass full muster before the European Court of Human Rights if anyone was silly enough to take a case there?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support, and I recognise what he has done over many years to bring forward the rights of others and to ensure that we continue to progress equality in this country. I am also grateful to him for his very clear statement about the compatibility of the safeguards with the European Court of Human Rights.
Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, I thank the previous Government, who enabled my husband and I to have the same legal rights as married couples. I welcome this next small step towards equal marriage and full equality under the law. My husband and I have been through two civil partnerships in recent times on the path towards equal marriage, and I very much welcome the cross-party support for this move. Having gone through a GLC civil partnership and a civil partnership under the law, my husband is
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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am very grateful to the noble Lord for setting out why he feels as strongly as he does about this. I am pleased to be able to confirm to him that if the Bill passes through Parliament and becomes an Act, not only will he be able to marry in the local town hall but he will be able to convert his civil partnership into a marriage and will legally be able to call his partner his husband.
Lord Deben: As a practising Catholic I wholly support the church's teaching on marriage, but I am also pleased that the Government have decided to bring in this Bill. The right reverend Prelate is right to say that marriage is not owned by either the state or the church. It is owned by humanity. Surely our understanding of sexual relationships and sexuality should lead us to understand that there is an extension of natural law from that understanding. That extension should lead us to be prepared in the state to allow people of the same sex to marry. It is wrong to suggest that there is something unnatural for them to wish to take this step. Therefore, I congratulate the Minister on repeating the Statement. I think she will have considerable support from Christians of all denominations, not least from Catholics.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am very grateful to my noble friend for his remarks and support. He has very eloquently described why this is an important step forward and why-with the right safeguards in place to protect religious freedoms-we will be able to bring forward a right that many people should feel is theirs and which they can enjoy.
Lord Morgan: Like others in the Labour Party, I declare my support for this measure, which is liberal, humane and in accordance with the progressive consensus in our society, particularly among young people. This is not a young House and it is important that we strike a chord with younger people.
However, the Statement contained a quite absurd historical error: it referred to the established church in England and Wales. In Wales, the church has been disestablished since 1920. I declare an interest as the only living author of a book on that subject, and I hope I did not put quill to parchment in vain. I just wonder what the situation will be in Wales.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: As the noble Lord was speaking, my heart started to miss a beat. I only hope that I read out a version that had not been corrected by my right honourable friend. I am absolutely clear about the noble Lord's point that the Church in Wales is disestablished now, but the safeguards apply to the Church in Wales as they do to the Church of England because the Church in Wales has a duty to marriage in the same way that the Church of England has. Therefore, all limbs of those safeguards will apply to the Church in Wales.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the official position of the Church of England on this, a good number of its members warmly welcome the Government's position on this? Is she aware that privately, a fair number of individual bishops in the Church of England also support it, but are not able to say so publicly at the moment because of the political situation in which the Church of England now finds itself?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord for making those points. I obviously note them, but I leave it to the church to comment on its own position on this matter.
The Marquess of Lothian: May I enter a slightly dissenting note in what otherwise appears to be a consensus? I fully accept the merits of civil partnership in our society, but are the Government aware that in moving towards this legislation, they will create two distinct and potentially divisive forms of marriage-statutory marriage on the one hand, which this legislation will create, and real marriage between a man and a woman on the other, which cannot be redefined by statute any more than night can be redefined as day by statute, or fiction as fact?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: There is only one form of marriage and what we are setting out here is that it will remain a matter for religious faiths as to how they define marriage within their own faith. There is only one legal type of marriage and that will apply both to couples of opposite sexes as well as to couples of the same sex.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, notwithstanding what was said by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and my noble friend Lord Deben, the fact is that for the majority of Christians in this country, at the heart of their religious belief is the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. In that context, can the Minister assure us, first, that the 500,000 people who signed the petition that was reported in today's press will be taken into account? Secondly, will she assure us that every member of Her Majesty's Government, as well as Back-Benchers, will have a free vote on this issue?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I have tried to make clear that in bringing forward our proposals we recognise and respect the religious freedoms of those who are committed to their faith and the position that their respective faiths take with regard to marriage. Perhaps it is worth reminding my noble friend that the consultation was about how we bring about same-sex marriage and not about whether we should. The huge response was the largest that we have ever had to a consultation. In the consultation document that has been published today, we are very clear that in addition to the 228,000 who responded many others signed their names to a petition. We are firmly of the view that we are moving forward in the right way and taking account of everyone's position on this. On my noble friend's final point, I can confirm again that it will be a free vote.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that a very significant element in marriage concerns children? Will she give an assurance that the position of adopted children in single-sex marriages will not be changed for either better or worse by a partnership entering into a civil marriage?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: We have been clear that what we are bringing forward will focus on allowing same-sex couples to marry. That is the purpose of this legislation and where the change in legislation will occur. There will be no impact on any adoption laws whatever.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, where exactly did the pressure come from which has persuaded the Government that this proposal is a sensible, or even a desirable, thing to do? Why are they taking this further, beyond what I understand is already a very good provision that allows for civil partnerships to receive a blessing in the church? The union can therefore be blessed in the sight of God in a place of religion. Surely it is not necessary to go further than that. In proposing to do this, are the Government not requiring a complete redefinition of marriage as laid down in the Church of England?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I understand the points made by my noble friend. I can only restate what I have already said. As regards the Church of England or any religious faith, we are putting in place safeguards to prevent any change to their religious definition of marriage.
As to why we are doing this and why it is different from civil partnerships and allowing civil partnerships to take place on religious premises, while civil partnerships were a significant step forward, and were embraced and welcomed by many people, especially those who have taken advantage of a civil partnership, there is still a distinction between a civil partnership and marriage. We believe that marriage should be available and accessible to two people who love each other, and who want to spend their lives together, and that they should not be discriminated against just because they are of the same sex. That is why we believe that it is right that a same-sex couple should be able to marry and to define themselves legally as married, as do other people who have the same feelings for the one they love.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The key issue is that two people of the same sex will be legally defined as married in the same way as two people of the opposite sex. There will be no difference in the definition of their relationship in future.
It is important that we remember why we are here today: the tragic events of 15 April 1989 resulted in the deaths of 96 innocent men, women, and children- 96 lives lost, and 700 people injured, many seriously. For those who survived, and those whose family members did not come home that day, the events that unfolded at Hillsborough changed their lives for ever. We must never forget that fact. Yet we are here today, 23 years on, still seeking justice-23 years of hurt and grief for the families, of not knowing the truth; 23 years suffering lies, rumours and innuendo in the media; and 23 years of the authorities actively obstructing the truth, by lying, amending statements and shifting blame for those tragic events on to the fans themselves. That is the "double injustice" to which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister referred. That is why we have brought forward this fast-track legislation: to help to tackle this double injustice.
The truth about the terrible events of that day is now known. The independent panel, chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, published its report in September. I take this opportunity to record our thanks to the right reverend Prelate, and the rest of the panel, for their dedication and hard work. It has provided the foundation for us to move this issue on. Its work has not only exposed the truth about Hillsborough but helped to keep the needs of the families to the forefront of all our considerations.
I shall not detain the House by thanking the many individuals who could be singled out for their efforts, but I will mention the right honourable Member in another place, Mr Andy Burnham, without whose dedicated work the panel would never have been set up. Most importantly, before I move on, I put on record my thanks and deepest respect to the families and friends of the 96 victims of the disaster, and to the survivors. I was privileged to meet some of their representatives, whose dignity and dedication to the truth is truly inspirational.
The truth exposed in the panel's report is both shocking and disturbing. The safety of the crowd was "compromised at every level", the ground was inadequate, and earlier warnings of the potential for disaster had not been acted on. Once the disaster started to unfold, the correct action was not taken, and the emergency response was poor. Then, in the aftermath, the authorities responsible for protecting the public and exposing the truth made a concerted effort to conceal the truth. Statements and evidence were altered. The original
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To understand the extent of the attempted cover-up is a chilling experience, but it is vital that this truth is known so that, after 23 years, we can be sure that it is not the end. For the families who have suffered years of injustice, simply knowing the truth is not enough; we now need to move from the truth to justice. It is for this reason that we have brought this Bill before the House today.
Following the publication of the panel's report, the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into the panel's findings. That is a vital step in the transition from truth to justice and accountability. The IPCC investigation will look into the conduct of all officers at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989 and all those involved in subsequent investigations. It is important to note here that the investigation will look at matters of both misconduct and possible criminality. It will consider the actions of officers currently serving with the police and those who have subsequently retired. The investigation into the Hillsborough disaster will be on an unprecedented scale for the IPCC, which estimates that 2,400 officers could be within its scope. We recognise the additional burden that an investigation of this scale places on the commission and we have made a clear undertaking to provide it with both the resources and the powers needed to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the panel's findings.
Since the independent panel published its report in September, the Home Secretary, my fellow Ministers and officials have been in close contact with the IPCC. The IPCC has made clear that, in order to fulfil its obligations in the Hillsborough investigation, it needs two additional powers and it needs them urgently. Those are the two powers contained in the Bill. There have, of course, been ongoing discussions between the Home Office and the IPCC for some time regarding the powers that the commission has and whether they are sufficient. I should be very clear on this matter: those discussions are still continuing. Should it become apparent that the IPCC needs reform or further additional powers in relation to its regular, day-to-day functions, then the Government will act. If legislation is required, we will bring it forward. The fact that we have introduced this fast-track Bill is testament to our dedication to ensuring that the IPCC has the powers that it needs to function effectively.
However, those questions of wider reform are not for today. The IPCC has been very clear; it needs the two additional powers contained in the Bill in order to conduct as thorough and comprehensive an investigation into Hillsborough as possible. In order to fully investigate the tragic events of the disaster, the IPCC is clear that it will need to hear from those officers involved on the day and in subsequent investigations. The commission already has the power to call serving or retired officers to give evidence where the officer is a subject of the investigation. Officers suspected of misconduct or criminality are already required to attend an interview when they are called. However, the IPCC needs to hear from a wider range of officers; perhaps those
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Clause 1 extends the existing power, which compels officers who are themselves the subject of an investigation to attend the interview. The clause will provide that serving officers and police staff can be compelled to attend as witnesses. This can bite when the interview arises as part of any investigation managed by, or independently undertaken by, the IPCC. This power will apply to officers in Home Office forces and other policing bodies, such as the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Of course, in the vast majority of cases, I expect that both serving and retired officers will attend an interview willingly, recognising the importance of assisting the IPCC to investigate as serious a tragedy as Hillsborough. Any decent human being would.
The power in Clause 1 applies to individuals still serving with the police. The IPCC will not be able to compel a retired officer to attend an interview as a witness through the use of this power. I am aware that some noble Lords may believe that, given the significance of this investigation, this power should extend to retired officers as well as those still serving. However, we must recognise the status of retired officers. Once officers retire, they are in the same position as any other member of the public. They are no longer bound by the same responsibilities and obligations as serving officers, and are not subject to the same penalties that can be imposed through police conduct regulations. The police themselves do not have the power to compel an ordinary member of the public to attend an interview as a witness. If the police want to compel an individual to attend an interview, they must arrest them as a suspect.
To give the IPCC powers of compulsion over retired officers would be to extend the commission's powers beyond those held by the police. I do not think that any Member of this House would be comfortable with that, and such a matter would require careful and detailed consideration. Let us remember that the IPCC can, and will, investigate retired officers for misconduct and criminal behaviour, and it has the powers to compel such individuals to attend interview. The power contained in Clause 1 will be used in relation to witnesses, and it is proportionate that this applies to serving officers only. However, as I said before, I expect that many retired officers will attend voluntarily. The IPCC is currently scoping its investigation, and intends to start calling witnesses early in the new year. Noble Lords can be in no doubt, therefore, of the urgency behind this short Bill.
I turn my attention to Clause 2. This allows the IPCC to investigate matters that were previously subject to an investigation by its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority. The power will be exercised by the IPCC only when it is satisfied that there are "exceptional circumstances" that justify its use. This is a high threshold. The need for this power is clear, because the PCA investigated certain aspects relating to the Hillsborough disaster. In particular, it considered
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There must also be a sense of finality to the investigations concluded by the PCA or the IPCC. That is why the power in Clause 2 provides the IPCC with the discretion to reopen cases where the matter meets the high threshold of "exceptional circumstances". This test will allow matters relating to Hillsborough to be considered, but the IPCC itself has stated in the briefing on the Bill that it has given to noble Lords:
"Unless there are powerful public interest reasons, as well as exceptional circumstances, it must be right that scarce resources are not diverted from addressing our extremely important current work".
I can confirm that the IPCC has precisely set out the Government's intention. We do not want the IPCC to spend its time reinvestigating cases that have already been closed, and we see this power being used only in truly exceptional cases. Hillsborough is truly exceptional and it is right that these matters are reinvestigated. It will be for the IPCC as the independent body overseeing the police complaints system to determine whether a case meets this exceptional circumstances threshold, and it is appropriate for it, as an investigatory body to hold that decision-making power.
The Bill before the House today is essential finally to achieve justice for the 96 innocent men, women and children who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. The Bill is narrow in scope, focusing on two powers that the IPCC needs to fulfil its obligations relating to Hillsborough. Rightly, it does not stray into the territory of wider reform of the IPCC. That would not be appropriate for a fast-track Bill. This short Bill provides the IPCC with the tools that it needs and marks one step further along the road to justice for the victims of Hillsborough. All who support this aim should support this Bill, and I commend it to the House.
On 15 April 1989, across the nation people watched with increasingly incredulity and horror the unfolding tragedy of events at Hillsborough. It was hard to
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While many of us shared in the shock and horror on the day, those directly affected have been living with the aftermath ever since. That is not just because of the loss of loved ones or the injuries and trauma they suffered, but because, although at the time it seemed that we had witnessed the full extent of the horror, it has become clear that the tragedy of that day has been compounded and magnified by the 23 years of lies and obstructions put in the way of those trying to get to the truth of why and how something so terrible and dreadful could happen.
As we heard from the Minister, totally untrue but appalling and hurtful accusations and allegations were made about Liverpool fans and then reported by some as facts. That such lies were told and took so long to be corrected has created enormous anger and great sadness. Those lies and that lack of justice have made the search for the truth too long and unnecessarily hard and traumatic. Yet, that fight has made those affected only more determined to get to the truth. We in your Lordships' House agree that they should not have had to have that fight.
The Bill and the welcome announcement by the Attorney-General yesterday that he is seeking to quash the original Hillsborough inquest verdict of accidental death is part of the way forward. As the Minister also said, it is appropriate. I am sure that your Lordships' House would welcome the opportunity to pay tribute to the families and organisations that have fought for justice, to their supporters and to their legal advisers, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who will be speaking in this debate today, as well as those politicians and community leaders who have fought for truth and justice and who have taken courageous, sometimes unpopular decisions.
We must also pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and I look forward to his contribution to this debate. I have no doubt that the report of the independent panel which he chaired, while deeply distressing is finally helping the people of Liverpool to move beyond that search for the truth and focus on their quest for justice. It is the shocking findings of that report that have led the Attorney General to take his decision and also to the IPCC reopening the investigation. This Bill will assist in that quest for justice. There are a number of aspects to that quest and a hugely significant part is the investigation by the IPCC; the Bill seeks to ensure that it has greater powers to conduct that investigation.
There is genuine cross-party support for this Bill and it is cross-party, united action that has brought us to this point. We raised with the Government the issues in this Bill and we put on record our appreciation for the willingness and readiness of Ministers to engage and listen to the concerns raised by my right honourable friend in the other place, Yvette Cooper, the Shadow
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We agree with the Government that is not the end of the debate or the end of the changes that need to be made. We also agree that what we have before us today is appropriate for fast-track legislation and note unanimous support for the Home Affairs Select Committee in the other place for the content of the Bill and its approach to it, while raising issues that are not covered by the Bill.
If the IPCC is fully to investigate the potential criminal and misconduct issues raised by the independent panel, it needs these greater powers in order to examine the conduct of the police on 15 April 1989 in addressing the culpability of the individuals and organisations involved and the safety standards, planning and operational decisions that led to the disaster. These greater powers are also needed to examine the evidence that suggests a massive cover-up following the disaster that has continued for years. The Minister gave some examples of that cover-up, but to those I can add that 164 statements were taken by the police and it is incredible that the panel found that 116 were altered in some way. This is how the tragedy was compounded and magnified and why my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper called for the inquiry to have greater powers.
Now I turn to the specific clauses of the Bill and look at Clause 1. At present, the IPCC can require police officers to give evidence if it believes they have committed a crime. However, the IPCC has been clear that in order to gain the fullest picture of events it also needs to be able to obtain evidence from police officers and police staff not themselves suspected of any criminal activity or misconduct but who are witnesses. The IPCC has expressed its concerns about the convoluted current process if an officer chooses not to attend an interview as a witness, which it considers can seriously undermine public confidence in its work. The IPCC, in a report to Peers, has informed us that it does not keep specific records of non-co-operation by the police and police staff but that, in what I assume was a quick exercise, it readily identified at least 25 cases involving over 100 police officers where they have refused to attend for interview as witnesses. Those involved cases such as death, serious injury, police shootings, road traffic incidents and the use of excessive force. Clearly that is a serious problem and one that the Bill seeks to address.
I also want to say something about what the Bill does not do, and invite the Minister to comment. As he explained, the Bill does not compel police officers or staff to answer questions. Although the IPCC is not asking for this power, in the debate in the other place it seemed to me to be clearly the intention of Parliament that, if called for interview, police officers and staff would be expected to co-operate fully with the IPCC. Indeed, we would argue that there is a moral duty to do so. Will the Minister confirm that refusal to co-operate, after being called by the IPCC to give evidence as a witness, would be a misconduct matter? Can that be clarified in regulations? Can he give further information
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I would hope that the majority of police officers will recognise their duty to co-operate-although that does not appear to be the experience of the IPCC to date-and that sanctions will rarely be required. However, clarity is needed for cases of the kind already mentioned where co-operation is not forthcoming.
I also recognise that, as the Minister said, the Bill cannot force retired police officers or staff to attend interviews as witnesses. I understand why that is-a retired person is a private citizen-and why the Government consider that it is not appropriate to deal with the issue in fast-track legislation. However, it is a serious issue and I hope that the Government will consider and seek to remedy it.
I trust that provision can be made to ensure that early retirement cannot be used as a way of avoiding giving evidence to the IPCC. Will an officer or staff member be able to have a retirement application considered after they have been asked to give evidence to the IPCC? I know that Ministers have discussed this issue. The shadow Home Secretary, the right honourable David Hanson the shadow Police Minister, and other Ministers are aware that this issue needs to be addressed and I would be grateful for any indication that the Minister can give of the action the Government intend to take.
It would also be helpful to have clarification of an answer given by the right honourable Damian Green in the Commons to the right honourable David Hanson, the shadow Police Minister. Damian Green said that even if an officer had retired, the investigation will continue into criminal or misconduct matters. Can the Minister confirm whether that means that a retired officer will still be required to give evidence if he or she is the subject of an investigation; or can he or she only be compelled to do so prior to the date of his or her retirement? I am also unclear about whether the authority of the IPCC to compel witnesses who are police officers or police staff extends to civilian staff and private contractors working for the police.
On Clause 2, as the Minister said, currently the IPCC cannot investigate any matters previously considered by the Police Complaints Authority. If that situation were to continue, it would seriously hamper the work of the IPCC in investigating matters relating to Hillsborough.
The Bill will allow the IPCC to make investigations if it is considered that there are exceptional circumstances. The Minister discussed this in his comments. The IPCC is understandably concerned that, within its resources and other work, it will be unable to take on all cases where it might be considered that the circumstances
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I do not think that is what either the IPCC or the Minister means to happen-there needs to be a balance. The exceptional circumstances have to be about the merits of the case and not the public interest-using the meaning of public interest as public enthusiasm or publicity about a case. The point I am trying to make is that this should not be about those who shout the loudest because there may be exceptional circumstances that the IPCC should look at but that are not the subject of a massive public campaign.
In the other place, David Hanson asked about the concerns raised by the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents' Association about the lack of consultation. They had issues regarding the Bill that they wished to discuss with Ministers. The Minister said that he had a meeting scheduled with the Police Federation and was happy to meet the Superintendents' Association. Have those meetings now taken place and is there any information from them that the Minister can share with your Lordships' House.
We have this Bill before us today-and yesterday we had the welcome announcement from the Attorney-General on the inquest verdicts-because of the tenacity, dedication and faith of the families and those who supported them that truth will out. That quest for the truth and justice has been hard fought-it is of deep regret that it has been so hard fought. Too many barriers, lies and obstructions have been placed in the way of the truth. We support and welcome the Bill. It is not the end of the process but part of it. As indicated, there are other issues that we will return to. Through the independent panel and the work of families, their lawyers and supporters, we are now at the point where truth is emerging and justice can prevail.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am not from Liverpool but I am acutely aware of how central football can be to the DNA of the citizens of a city, and I mean more than loyalty to a particular club. In my home city, if you support Manchester City you celebrate when Manchester United loses, but tragedy brings people together. I have a vivid early memory of the air crash at Munich when Manchester United was returning from Belgrade. The shockwaves were felt throughout Manchester, among firm City supporters no less than others. Looking the other day at some information about that crash, I realised that of those who died there were as many reporters as players. That prompted me to reflect that, had that crash occurred in 2008 not 50 years earlier, the press would have behaved differently-and probably much more intrusively.
I mention the Manchester United air crash because I think I have some understanding of how the whole of Liverpool felt and still feels affected personally by the tragedy of Hillsborough-qualitatively quite differently from the public more widely. I say "feels" in the present tense because the tragedy is not just a past event. Of course, it never could be for the families of those killed or injured, or for those who were there, but the current sense of insult and outrage for the whole city and all right-thinking citizens who care about the reputation of their public services is something that is not in the past.
Tribute has rightly been paid to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool-I am embarrassed to be speaking before him-not just for the report but for the whole process. That the panel made contact with at least one member of each bereaved family says so much about how it approached its task. Again, tribute is rightly paid to the families and survivors whose grit, determination and dignity were recognised by the panel and the public. The panel's report is powerful, telling and very shocking. I was pulled up short by its reference to,
My other general point is that as a society we seem too often to shy away from saying "sorry", perhaps because we focus too much on the implications for liability. That seems to have spilled over. We use weasel words like, "apologise if any inconvenience has been caused". I want to emphasise the importance of apology. From time to time, things will go wrong-maybe badly wrong. Detail is important for those affected and those against whom allegations are made, but as well as investigating what happened, a simple apology can make clear that it is understood that there are real people with real feelings involved.
Like others, I am cautious about fast-track legislation but to delay the Hillsborough investigation even further or not to give the investigators the tools that they identified are required would not be right. I am prepared to trade extended parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill for scrutiny of the event. But having fast-tracked it, there is no excuse for not moving forward with the investigation with speed and determination. I hope that the IPCC will emulate the panel and work across agencies, individuals and issues in a co-ordinated fashion.
I will not ask the Government today when we might see legislation to address the issues that they themselves have identified as outstanding-or, on the other hand, an announcement that they have determined that legislation is not necessary. I refer here to things like sanctions for serving officers refusing or failing to attend an interview, and the wider issues around sanctions and their application to former officers, including those who are now employed by companies providing contracted-out services, which is a growing issue. These issues are relevant to more than Hillsborough. I understand that 31 officers refused to be interviewed after the death of Mark Duggan. Conversely, there is
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There has been discussion of the term "exceptional circumstances". It seems appropriate that the IPCC itself should assess exceptionality. The ability to make that assessment goes towards the very independence of the IPCC. It is worth reminding ourselves that the commission has the function-not just an aspiration-enshrined in statute of securing the establishment and maintenance of public confidence in dealing with complaints and possible criminal offences or behaviour.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the report published on 12 September by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, meticulously examined every aspect of the disaster at the Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April 1989, in which 90 men, women and children lost their lives.
The right reverend Prelate, from whom we will hear shortly, and those who worked with him deserve our gratitude and wholehearted appreciation. Their report exposed a number of significant failures and associated shortcomings in the investigation that followed the disaster. The welcome Bill before us today emerged from their findings. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for the way in which he introduced the debate on what, as he said, is an exceptional Bill.
The Independent Panel's report concluded that police and emergency services had made "strenuous attempts" to deflect the blame for the disaster on to fans. One hundred and sixty-four police statements had been altered, 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the match. The report also said that 41 of the 96 who had died had had the "potential to survive"-grounds, certainly, for ordering new inquests.
Lives that were lost can never be brought back but it has given significant comfort to those personally affected by Hillsborough that Parliament has at last recognised that a terrible tragedy was compounded by injustice and falsification, as the noble Lord said. Flawed and delayed investigations do significant damage to delicate and crucial finely balanced police-public relationships, and this Bill is a recognition of that. The Bill-and the new inquests-will allow the Independent Police Complaints Commission to bring some solace to the families and their supporters, whose signal resolution and dignity have been exemplary.
Twenty-three years ago, one of my saddest duties as a Liverpool Member of Parliament was visiting families of those bereaved at Hillsborough. Several of my constituents had died, including a child. Another, Andrew Devine, then aged 22, was left in a persistent vegetative state. Andrew was caught in the crush, deprived of oxygen, and following the resultant brain damage his parents were told that he would die within
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The deaths of 96 people and the long-term trauma were compounded by the infamous aftermath, which combined vilification and procrastination. Agony was piled upon agony with the insulting and wholly fallacious attempts to smear and blame the victims. They had, it was suggested, brought the calamity of Hillsborough on themselves. Thanks to the Independent Panel's report, 23 years later that calumny has finally been laid to rest.
For me, however, the most shocking aspect of the tragedy has always been that it could have been averted and that it had been predicted. In the month before the match, a Liverpool fan who had witnessed an earlier game at Hillsborough told me that staging the semi-final at Hillsborough would be unsafe. Following that conversation, I wrote to the then Sports Minister, Colin-now the noble Lord-Moynihan, to express my concern. This correspondence is referred to in a parliamentary reply which appears in Hansard. In 1989, the Minister said:
"The hon. Member wrote to me on 22 March about the arrangements at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough on 15 April. No other representation was received. The arrangements for the match will be among the matters to be considered by Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry".-[Official Report, Commons, 24/4/89; col. 414.]
So ground safety and ticket allocation at Hillsborough had been an issue before the game. Many of us were reassured that Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry would examine why sufficient weight was not attached to those concerns, as well as examining the events of the day.
Although much-needed changes would subsequently be made to ground safety, Liverpool fans found themselves branded by Kelvin MacKenzie as liars-for which he has now unreservedly apologised. Acting, he said, on information given to him by the police, his newspaper alleged that drunkenness was to blame. At the time, I questioned Ministers in Parliament about the fans' behaviour, asking the then Minister at the Home Office, Douglas Hogg,
"Statements made by officers of the South Yorkshire police are a matter for the chief constable. It would not be helpful for me to publish statements or counter-statements which have been made about the circumstances leading to the tragedy, or to name those who made them. It is for Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry to establish the facts".-[Official Report, Commons, 24/4/89; col. 404.]
The names of the officers who gave the authorisation were not subsequently made known and the falsehoods were allowed to stand. Taylor did not establish the facts; nor did he discover the truth. It was left to the grieving families to demand answers and to insist that justice should be done.
Three years had then elapsed since the tragedy-and a further 20 now. If we had acted in 1992, telling the coroner to reopen the cases, it would not now be possible to cite "the passage of time" as the reason why details of what occurred will not and cannot be accurately recalled. It is not just the passage of time that is shocking: it is our lamentable failure to provide justice- as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said in his remarks earlier-in a country which prides itself on the rule of law.
Imagine if any of us here were involved in a bank robbery, a fraud, manslaughter or a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Would the police decide that because one of us had retired they would take no action against the other? That is simply implausible. It also raises a worrying question about the ability of the IPCC to question retired officers. Ministers, of course, have got it wrong before. In 1998, the Minister was clear that,
As the Prime Minister made clear in his Statement on 12 September, we now know otherwise and that allegations of irregularity and malpractice were indeed substantiated. Mr Cameron told Parliament that the Liverpool fans had "suffered a double injustice", both in the,
It would, however, be helpful if, arising out of the exchange of letters on 10 December and 4 December between the right honourable Damian Green MP and the All-Party Group on the Hillsborough Disaster and the chair of the IPCC, Dame Anne Owers-concerning the decision not to specify effective sanctions in this Bill-the Minister will clarify precisely what action will be taken if serving officers refuse to attend an interview with the IPCC if required to do so. Will he also list the documents which the IPCC says were not given to the right reverend Prelate's panel and say who is now looking at them, why they were not given to the panel in the first place and whether they are going to be made public?
Last week, the Home Affairs Select Committee said that there should be safeguards for police officers interviewed by the IPCC. This would surely point to the use of interviewing under caution. Perhaps the Minister will say whether that procedure will indeed
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When the Prime Minister made his Statement in September the Attorney-General, the right honourable Dominic Grieve MP, said he would make a decision in the forthcoming two months about whether to apply to the High Court for the original verdict of accidental death to be quashed. Yesterday the Attorney-General said:
"My application has now been lodged with the court. It is my intention to appear to argue the case at the hearing that will take place in the High Court. I believe that the case for the High Court to quash the original inquests is a good one".
"The Attorney-General is in the process of preparing an application to the High Court to quash the original inquests and order new inquests into the deaths of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. The evidence which supports an application in respect of Kevin Williams is essentially the same as that which supports an application into the other deaths and the Attorney-General expects to be in a position to lodge the application in December".-[Official Report, 27/11/12; WA 38.]
Sadly, what is not the same as in other cases is that Anne Williams has terminal cancer. I hope that the Attorney-General, whom the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester-who is in his place and was himself present at the Hillsborough game-and I will see tomorrow, will ensure that Kevin's new inquest will be given the highest priority so that it does not come too late for his grieving mother, Anne. Otherwise, one tragedy will be compounded by another. When he comes to reply, I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us the precise timetable which will be followed so that these new inquests will be held without delay, and whether the Lord Chief Justice is likely to make an announcement before Christmas.
Having taken 23 years to uncover the truth, the bereaved families and survivors have a right to expect that the investigations by the IPCC and the inquests are taken forward as expeditiously as possible. I am grateful to the Government for bringing forward the Bill, to the Prime Minister for acting so decisively and to the right reverend Prelate and his independent panel. This time, the words need to mean more than the ones previously uttered and, in seeking justice, our institutions need to examine how and why these tragic events were allowed to fester and to be covered up for so long.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the clarity of his exposition of the reasons why we need the two clauses in the Bill. It is a great privilege to be able to speak in today's debate. With your Lordships' agreement, I would like to take the opportunity to speak more generally about the Hillsborough tragedy and, in particular, about the work carried out by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. It was a humbling honour to be entrusted with the task of chairing the panel.
I also declare an interest. As the Home Secretary announced in another place on 22 October, she has asked me to act as her adviser on Hillsborough-related matters and I was happy to accept that invitation. She was particularly keen that the principles that the panel had established in terms of engagement and consultation with the families should not be lost. In this role, I am very aware of how the families of the 96 and the survivors are following closely the different judicial processes and are understandably anxious that the momentum established by the panel's report is not lost.
The 1989 Hillsborough disaster was Britain's worst sporting tragedy. Ninety-six men, women and children lost their lives, many were injured, and the effects of the tragedy have been felt by many more: the relatives of those who died; the survivors who experienced the horror in pens 3 and 4, or who were elsewhere in the ground on that day; and those members of the emergency services who helped the dying and the injured. There have been, over the years, a judicial inquiry, an inquest-at the time the longest-running inquest in English legal history-scrutiny of evidence carried out by a senior judge and a private prosecution. However, despite all these inquiries and investigations, the families have always felt that the truth about Hillsborough had never been told. Instead, they felt and believed that the truth had been obscured.
As Bishop of Liverpool, it became apparent to me that a deep wound continued to exist within the community and it was on the occasion of the 20th anniversary in 2009 that the anger and frustration that had built up over the years was vented at the then Secretary of State, Andy Burnham. I was present and presided over the act of remembrance, which was attended by more than 30,000 people. Mr Burnham was visibly moved by this outpouring of anger, and it was a great credit to him-for this, along with other noble Lords, I pay him huge tribute for it-that he went back to the Government and the idea of a full-document disclosure process was developed.
Discussions took place over the next few months within the Government involving a number of prominent MPs, including Maria Eagle and Derek Twigg. Representatives from the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the group that represents the largest number of bereaved families, were also involved in these discussions. I pay particular tribute today to the bereaved families for their strength, dignity and fortitude, and their persistence in pursuing the truth. Without that persistence, it is unlikely that the work of the panel would ever have taken place.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel was established in January 2010. I place on record my thanks to my fellow panel members for their dedication. Each of
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At the outset, we had defined terms of reference, and these established three broad objectives: to oversee the disclosure of the documents to the maximum possible degree, initially to the families; to report on its work, outlining the ways in which the information disclosed adds to the public understanding of the tragedy; and to make recommendations about a permanent Hillsborough archive.
The panel met for the first time on 4 February 2010. That meeting was significant. Rightly, it took place in Liverpool, and it was at the very start of the meeting that for the first time the panel met representatives of the three family groups: the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hope for Hillsborough. Meeting the family groups for the first time in this way and listening to their views provided the panel with a sense of unity and common purpose that endured throughout our work.
Enshrined in the panel's terms of reference and central to its work was the need to consult the bereaved families. This we did. We also met with those families that were not part of one of the three representative groups. Perhaps I could add here that, during the panel's work, the families said to me on more than one occasion that this was the first time in 20 years that they were being listened to and taken seriously. That sentiment has given me much cause for reflection on some of our judicial processes that, by contrast, seem to distance the very people whom they are intended to assist.
The scope of the disclosure process was significant and complex. It covered documentation held by central government, local government, other public agencies and some private bodies relating to the events of the Hillsborough tragedy and its aftermath. Spanning two decades, this necessarily included material that was produced before the tragedy occurred in 1989 and extended to 2000 and the private prosecution of former Chief Superintendent Duckenfield and Superintendent Murray.
The panel developed a system for cataloguing and archiving relevant material, based on the principle of maximum possible disclosure with minimal redaction. We identified a wide range of relevant organisations, and the process involved us reviewing more than 450,000 pages of material from 85 separate organisations and individuals. The material was subject to analysis and research so that it could be considered in the context of the panel's report. Throughout, the panel has been guided by the fundamental principle of "families first"-in other words, the bereaved families would be first to see the report and the disclosed material. As chair of the panel, I am grateful to all who accepted that principle.
The panel's report and the disclosed material were made available to the families on 12 September in Liverpool's Anglican cathedral. This was a very moving
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The disclosed documents show that multiple factors were responsible for the deaths of the 96 victims and that the fans were not the cause of the disaster. It is also clear from the documents that the seeds of the disaster were sown as early as 1981, when warnings went unheeded.
The disaster should never have happened. The deficiencies at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough, the end occupied by the Liverpool supporters, were well known. Overcrowding had occurred at the turnstiles in 1987 and on the terrace of the equivalent FA Cup semi-final match in 1988. The risks were known and the crush in 1989 was foreseeable.
The scope of responsibility for the tragedy extends well beyond the role of the South Yorkshire Police. From the documents provided to the panel, it is clear that the crush at the Leppings Lane turnstiles outside the stadium was not caused by fans arriving late for the kick-off. The turnstiles were inadequate to process the crowd safely and the rate of entry was insufficient to prevent a dangerous build-up outside the ground. The documents do not detract from the conclusion of the judicial inquiry at the time that there were police failures, but for the first time the documents reveal the extent of the shortcomings in the emergency response. The ambulance service's failure fully to implement the emergency incident plan is thrown into sharp relief by the disclosed documents.
The panel's report reveals that the medical evidence from pathologists, who had conducted post-mortem examinations on the deceased, was central in establishing a picture of a single, unvarying pattern of death within a few minutes of crushing. This evidence was the basis for the assertion by the coroner and others that the outcome was predetermined from an early stage for all who died. This in turn underpinned the imposition of the 3.15 pm cut-off on the generic inquest and the repeated assumption that the emergency services' response could not have helped. The panel's access to all the relevant documents has confirmed that the notion of a single, unvarying and rapid pattern of death in all cases is unsustainable. Lives could have been saved.
It is evident from the disclosed documents of the multiple investigations that, from the outset, South Yorkshire Police sought to establish a case emphasising exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression among Liverpool fans, alleging that many arrived late at the stadium without tickets and determined to force entry. In seeking to make this case, South Yorkshire Police went as far as to vet the written statements made by its officers. Once vetted, changes were made. As we have already heard, the panel found that 164 statements
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The final chapter of the panel's report looks behind the media headlines to the origins, promotion and reproduction of unsubstantiated allegations. Drawing on papers provided to the panel by the Sun newspaper, the panel is able to explain the background to the stories that appeared in a number of papers at the time. The documents show the role played by a local news agency in Sheffield, but also the part played by a local MP and a number of police officers. I hope that whatever emerges as the result of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry will be tested against the experience of the Hillsborough families and survivors. Misrepresentation and distortion by the press can endure for a generation or more. The press should be accountable not just to its readers but to an independent body that inspires confidence that truth and justice will be the benchmarks of a free press.
The Government's response to the panel's report has been unequivocal. We have already heard from the Minister, and the Prime Minister spoke very powerfully and clearly for us all in the Statement in another place on 12 September when he acknowledged that the families had suffered what he described as "a double injustice". He went on,
The panel has been enormously encouraged by the cross-party consensus and by the overwhelming reaction of support to its report and publication of the disclosed material. It is right that the publication of the panel's report and the disclosure of the material should now allow us to move from truth to justice, a phrase which was coined by the Prime Minister in his Statement and echoed in this House today, but justice, for me, is making sure that the various investigations that are now taking place-and they are to be welcomed-allow the law to take its proper course. The panel interrogated documents, not people. Organisations and people who may be the subject of allegations need now to be give the opportunity to respond in a proper manner, for justice is about process as well as outcomes.
There have already been speeches from the Government and Opposition Benches in support of the principles of this short Bill. I will therefore not add to them, other than to say that I welcome any proposal which takes forward the panel's work in a correct and proper manner.
I think back to the day when it was announced that I would be chairing the Hillsborough Independent Panel. I was asked what I thought would be achieved by the disclosure of the documents. I replied, not knowing fully the impact of my words, "Truth has its own pressure". That is an article of faith that I believe generally. In the context of Hillsborough, it is something that I now believe specifically, not least in the week that the Attorney-General has been persuaded by the disclosed documents to make application to the High Court to quash the inquests of the 96.
In conclusion, I am grateful to your Lordships' House for allowing me the opportunity to speak more generally about Hillsborough and, in particular, about the work of the panel, its context, the content of its report and the consequences. Hillsborough was a national tragedy, and it is right that the events there and in the aftermath should never be forgotten. The names of the 96 victims of the tragedy are publicly remembered each year at the annual memorial service at Anfield but, as we have already heard, the families, friends and survivors have to live with what happened every day of their lives. The sad fact is that it has taken 23 years to get to the point we have reached today.
If members of our family had died on 15 April 1989, we would not have wanted to wait 23 years until truth could call out for justice. If we can put ourselves into the shoes of the Hillsborough families, then the journey of justice must not now be a long and winding road. The families know that justice delayed is justice denied. The panel's work is now complete; we owe it to the memory of the 96 to ensure that the next stage is done in a just and timely manner. In short, the journey from truth to justice must itself be just in order to deliver true justice for the 96.
Lord Wasserman: My Lords, had I known a few days ago that I would be speaking directly after the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, I might not have spent any time writing a speech of my own. I probably would simply have congratulated him on the magnificent way in which he led his team in a very difficult and painful task and suggested that we all remain silent for a few moments and think about what he said in his illuminating, thoughtful and very moving speech. However, I did not know until noon today that I would be speaking directly after him, and because I feel very strongly about these issues, I prepared some remarks of my own. I beg the indulgence of your Lordships' House if I deliver them now.
A distinguished Member of your Lordships' House-alas, no longer with us-is reported to have said, "A week is a long time in politics". I was reminded of that comment when, over the weekend, I read the Hansard report of the consideration of this short Bill in another place last Wednesday afternoon. Reading those proceedings, I was struck not by the discussion of those horrendous events of 15 April 1989; these are seared in the memories of all of us old enough to have been around at that time. I was not even shocked by the references to how police officers on duty at the grounds that day had mismanaged the tragedy once it had begun to unfold and thus unwittingly contributed to the toll of deaths and injuries. The pressure on those officers at that time is impossible for us, sitting in this place at this time, to comprehend fully. I, for one, am not prepared to pass judgment on their actions on this basis.
No, what shocked me about the debate in another place last Wednesday was the way in which one speaker after another, on both sides of the House, referred to how police officers had behaved in the subsequent investigation of the tragedy. There were endless references to officers as having lied, covered up the truth and obstructed the course of justice. Several Members referred-as did several noble Lords today-to the fact that 164 witness statements had been amended, 116 of which were changed in some way as to remove or lessen the culpability of police officers and others. As one Member described it, this was,
It was this which shocked me. Here were Members of another place describing ordinary, English police officers as guilty of lying, obstructing justice and covering up the truth, and doing so without interruption, without apology and without shame.
Contrast that debate with the debate in your Lordships' House on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill on 27 April 2011. In our debate, less than 20 months ago, noble Lords were falling over each other to extol the international reputation of the British police service, particularly its reputation for integrity and professionalism. We were told that our police leaders are the envy of the world and the introduction of police and crime commissioners would put that reputation at risk, precisely because PCCs, directly elected by the people, were unlikely to adhere to the same high standards of personal and professional integrity that were the hallmarks of the British police officer. Indeed, we were warned that PCCs would facilitate, if not encourage, the growth of the culture of cover-up and corruption that would undermine the cherished integrity of our police service.
How sentiments have changed since those words were spoken. I am not sure about a week being a long time in politics but to judge from this context 19 months certainly is long enough to effect a fundamental change in public opinion and, hence, in the political narrative.
Why has that happened? Why has the reputation of the British police service for integrity and professionalism taken such a knock in the past year or so? Why has our policing brand-undoubtedly the most respected in the world until so recently-become so tarnished so quickly, not only in this country but, thanks to the internet, all over the world? I fear that the explanation lies, sadly, with the behaviour of some of our police leaders themselves. No one who has ever even had the slightest interest in the work of the independent panel on the Hillsborough tragedy, which the right reverend Prelate led, can fail to be shocked by the behaviour of
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But the Hillsborough report, as shocking as it is, would not have produced the kind of reaction we heard in another place last week if it had been a one-off, isolated event, describing something that had occurred more than 20 years ago. No, I fear the truth is that the right reverend Prelate's report triggered the kind of debate that took place last week in another place because it was not an isolated event. It triggered that reaction because it was simply the latest, if the most shocking, in a series of reports to have emerged in the past two years about corruption, cover-ups and collusion in our police service.
For most members of the public, the biggest shock came some 18 months earlier on Sunday 17 July 2011 when the media reported in screaming headlines that Britain's top police officer, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had accepted a free five-week stay at a top health spa and that this had been justified by a Metropolitan Police spokesman by the fact that the managing director of the spa had been a friend of the commissioner. The very next day, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, in an Oral Statement related only tangentially to the health spa story, added to the sense of public shock about police leadership by saying that allegations about phone hacking were,
A few days later, the public learnt that both the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland had been arrested in a dawn raid on suspicion of corruption. Four months later, on 13 December 2011, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary published a report following up the Home Secretary's comments on phone hacking. Entitled Without Fear or Favour, the inspectorate's own press notice described its findings as follows:
A month later, in October, we learnt that the chief constable who had been arrested in that dawn raid had been sacked for gross misconduct after a disciplinary panel found that he had lied to the IPCC and ordered a member of his own staff to lie to the IPCC. The IPCC described his actions as "shameful."
Is it any wonder that Members of another place reacted so strongly when discussing this Bill and were so anxious to give the IPCC the powers that it needs to get to the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy? I am
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As for retired police officers and staff who know something which could help the IPCC's investigation, we should send a clear and simple message to them as well. Although the IPCC itself has not asked for legislation to compel you to attend interviews as witnesses, the reputation of the police service in which you served so proudly, and which served you so well, has been badly damaged. You can help to repair that damage and restore the reputation of the uniform you wore by coming forward voluntarily with any information which might help the IPCC to get to the truth.
The last thing the police service of this country needs at this time are headlines announcing that retired officers and staff have declined to help to get at the truth of the Hillsborough tragedy. This must not happen. I very much hope it will not.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I declare an interest: I am acting, pro bono, for the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which includes members of over two-thirds of the families of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster. I apologise to the House that I am not able to attend the winding-up speech. I have apologised personally to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who has kindly urged me nevertheless to intervene in the debate.
I greatly appreciate the House having the opportunity to reflect on Hillsborough and to think about the way forward. The tragedy on 15 April 1989 was entirely foreseeable. The tragedy which befell the Liverpool supporters who came from all over the country that day was unspeakable and unimaginable for them and for the families of those who were injured or died. They could have expected the state, the organisations involved and the media to support them, and some did. However, elements in the state, in the organisations involved and in the media did not support them; instead, they vilified them without justification. They blamed Liverpool fans-both those who died and those who lived-for what happened in order to deflect blame from their own responsibility.
The inquiry by Sir Peter Taylor-later, Lord Taylor of Gosforth-rejected the police's attempts to blame the fans and put the blame four-square on the police. However, as the right reverend Prelate has indicated,
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"Those truths have been told only because of the sheer love of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters ... a love that provided strength when hope was lost and provided dignity in the face of provocation".-[Official Report, Commons, 22/10/12; col. 795]
I thoroughly endorse those words. The resilience and courage of the Hillsborough families has led to the truth coming out and the cover-up being revealed. Their role and their achievement dwarfs all other contributions to the revelations that have come out in the past few weeks. They were supported by the people of Merseyside, who stuck with them through thick and thin when almost the rest of the country had abandoned them. The Merseyside MPs, whom it is invidious to name but I name five of them-Andy Burnham, Derek Twigg, Maria Eagle, Alison McGovern and Steve Rotherham-stuck with them throughout; the Liverpool Echo stuck with them throughout; David Conn of the Guardian stuck with them throughout; and Jimmy McGovern, who wrote and produced a drama-documentary which made a real difference, and Phil Scraton, who was on the bishop's panel, stuck with them.
The role of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has been stunning and fundamentally transforming of what has happened to the position of the families. He did not say it about himself but he should have: he listened when the state, the establishment and the other organisations involved stopped listening pretty soon after the Taylor inquiry. The bishop's panel revealed that the families were right and the establishment was completely wrong in the way it had been addressing the matter.
The Prime Minister's response on 12 September 2012 was conspicuous in its decency and leadership. It has been quoted on a number of occasions, but he unequivocally accepted the injustice that the families had suffered and he unequivocally apologised to the families for what the state had done. His attitude was incredibly important in making it absolutely clear that the families had been right.
What of the future? The Bill is helpful and we support it. I do not want to go into the detail of these issues but, in relation to what happens now as regards the investigations following Hillsborough, perhaps I may make the following points. First, the families have waited 23 years for justice. Many of the families did not discover how their loved ones had died until the bishop's panel produced its report 23 years after the event, which is an appalling indictment on the institutions that should have been looking after those families. The consequence of that 23-year wait is that the state should do everything that it reasonably can to ensure
11 Dec 2012 : Column 1019
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