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House of Lords

Monday, 20 January 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.

Girls’ Education Challenge

Question

2.37 pm

Asked by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what responses they have received to the Girls’ Education Challenge, to expand education opportunities to marginalised girls, from non-governmental organisations, charities and the private sector.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, in 2011, DfID established the Girls’ Education Challenge, the world’s largest global fund dedicated to girls’ education. This will reach up to 1 million of the world’s poorest girls to ensure that they receive a good quality education in order to transform their future. The initiative has been enthusiastically received by NGOs, charities and the private sector alike.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on all that they are achieving with the Girls’ Education Challenge. I know that the Government recognise how critical it is to keep girls at school. Will the Minister tell us what progress has been made to retain girls in secondary schools so that they can go on to complete their education? How does the Girls’ Education Challenge particularly address the obstacles of keeping girls safe on their way to and from school, as sexual violence and forced child marriage both cause girls to fall out of education?

Baroness Northover: I congratulate my noble friend on her first Question in the House. She is absolutely right: educating girls is one of the best investments to reduce poverty. As many noble Lords know, educating beyond primary level, which is what she is flagging here, improves a girl’s life chances and delays early motherhood so that she is more likely to have healthy, better nourished children. In fact, ensuring that girls have between seven and 10 years’ education has a decisive influence over whether they can choose whom they marry. The Girls’ Education Challenge is concentrating particularly on supporting girls to progress through secondary school. My noble friend is absolutely right: ensuring that girls are safe on their way to school and at school is extremely important, but this is being addressed.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister share my concern that DfID’s business case for the Girls’ Education Challenge fund actually fails to list tackling violence against girls as one of its critical success criteria? Given that millions of girls are

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sexually assaulted at or on their way to school, does she agree that tackling gender-based violence and the need for social norm change should be priorities and should surely be included in the interventions currently taking place under the GEC fund?

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness is right that combating violence against girls, as I have just addressed, is extremely important. It is no use trying to encourage girls to come to school if, on the way, they are attacked or will be attacked within the school. As the noble Baroness knows, dealing with this is a high priority right across DfID’s work, including in its education programmes.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of the particular challenges in Afghanistan, which is part of this programme. After the withdrawal planned for later this year, what steps will be taken to ensure that education for girls is maintained at the level it is currently at and to ensure that it continues?

Baroness Northover: When troops are drawn back from Afghanistan, as my noble friend will know, DfID’s commitment will be maintained because we are well aware that a more peaceful future is likely to be secured through the development of Afghanistan. Engaging girls and women is absolutely vital to that, and education is all part of it.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, education for disabled young people is even more difficult in areas of extreme poverty. Is there any focus in this programme on disabled girls? I declare an interest as a trustee of Livability, which works in Asia with disabled young girls.

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness may like to know that my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone has a particular focus on assisting those with disabilities in developing countries. The projects being taken forward at the moment are in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. There is great determination to make sure that schooling is inclusive, whether it is for able-bodied or disabled children.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab): My Lords, I am sure the Minister recognises that even at primary level it is frequently difficult to keep young girls in school, partly because poverty means that they are needed at home. What will the Government be doing to make sure that this issue is really addressed in the post-2015 agenda and that we do not assume that, because it has been part of a millennium development goal so far, everything is okay? The reality is that, unless the quality of the education is really good, the family loses faith in the worth of continuing to send a young girl to school.

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness is right, and that is one of the lessons from the MDGs. Looking forward beyond 2015, it is not just a case of getting children into school but of making sure that they stay in school. DfID built into its programmes consideration of the results—that is, ensuring that children stay in

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education and that they learn while they are there, and that teachers and educational programmes are in place. One reason for there being a focus on secondary education is that children are required to have gone through primary education.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend join me in welcoming to this House, for its First Reading today, the International Development (Gender Equality) Bill and in wishing it a safe and speedy passage?

Baroness Northover: My noble friend’s timing is extremely good because, as she says, the Bill has its First Reading here today, and I welcome its arrival. As she and noble Lords will know, DfID already puts girls and women front and centre, and this Bill, which I am sure will have all-party support, will ensure that that continues to happen. It will ensure, for example, that the 2006 international development Act is amended so that that commitment is duly reported to Parliament. I think that this Bill has more cross-party support than some.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I also congratulate Ministers, but how is DfID monitoring these research phases of the projects and when are they likely to be completed?

Baroness Northover: DfID constantly monitors its programmes, including these. As I mentioned before, it is looking for results to be secured, which, as I said, means making sure that there is high-quality education and that children attend all the way through so that they reach the next stage.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD): My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in Afghanistan girls are not allowed to know their father—their basic heritage? Given that deliberate depth of ignorance in the female sex in Afghanistan, and since the UK will have no locus following our withdrawal, how does the noble Baroness feel that we can influence such a tragic and miserable situation through educational means?

Baroness Northover: My noble friend is right that there are many challenges in Afghanistan; but one of the encouraging things over the past few years has been the extension of the education of girls and women and their absolute determination that that is going to continue. That will help to underpin what DfID is doing in this area.

Gibraltar

Question

2.45 pm

Asked by Lord Hoyle

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what response they have received from the Government of Spain about incursions by Spanish vessels into Gibraltar’s territorial waters and delays at the frontier.

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The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, we have raised our concerns about incursions with the Spanish Government. Their response is that the waters were not ceded to the UK in the Treaty of Utrecht. We remain confident that the waters are British, as sovereignty flows from land. We have also raised concerns about the additional border checks. Spain maintains that the checks are necessary to prevent smuggling, while HMG considers them to be disproportionate, politically motivated and therefore unlawful under EU law.

Lord Hoyle (Lab): First, I must declare an interest as a freeman of Gibraltar, a title of which I am very proud. When did we last see the Spanish ambassador, what assurances did we get—from the Minister’s reply, it sounds as though they were negative—and, as we are members of the European Union, can we ask it for help and assistance in requesting Spain to stop the incursion into British territorial waters and to stop the unnecessary hold-ups at the frontier?

Baroness Warsi: In terms of contact, the Spanish ambassador was summoned back in August, the Minister for Europe spoke to the Spanish Minister for Europe, the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Spanish Foreign Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister spoke to the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister. In September, the Prime Minister spoke to the Spanish Prime Minister at the G20 summit. In November, the Spanish ambassador was resummoned to the FCO. The Prime Minister also spoke to President Barroso in the margins of the December European Council.

Lord Howe of Aberavon (Con): My Lords, the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, is entirely the most important in this context. Is the Minister aware of the observations by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum—a body with which I have not been very familiar—which has come to the conclusion that policy issues relating to Gibraltar are relevant, but not strongly relevant, to numerous UK Government ministries and departments, ranging from two sections of the Foreign Office to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? The forum’s conclusion is that,

“it seems likely that it is Gibraltar’s misfortune to”,

run the risk of falling “between the slats”.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, there are a number of issues that are of course competences for the Government of Gibraltar; it is important that the United Kingdom Government ensures that they become involved only in those issues that are competences as far as the United Kingdom Government are concerned. I was not entirely clear as to the specific question that my noble and learned friend asked, but it may well be that I can go back through Hansard and then write to him in detail. However, our strategy at this stage is very clear: to de-escalate the situation and to try to resolve these matters through diplomatic and political routes.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, the sea incursions are clearly very reckless—

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords—

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford) (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is on his feet, perhaps we can hear briefly from him and then hear from the noble Lord, Lord Pearson.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: I will repeat: the sea incursions are clearly reckless and the border delays are highly damaging to the economy of Gibraltar. In October and November, the peak period, visitors to Gibraltar were down by 44%. Should not we urge the Spanish Government to respond to the recommendations of the European Commission—which we can do as we are now, and will remain, a member of the European Union—and should not the Spanish Government be told that these provocations will not help, because there is overwhelming support among all parties for listening to the Government and people of Gibraltar before there is any change in Gibraltar’s status?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord is right that the incursions have been steadily increasing: in 2011, there were about 23 incursions; in 2012, they went up to 228; and in 2013 they went up to 509. The good news is that there has been a welcome reduction since December of last year, so this may mean that there is a slight change in attitude. We have been asking for the ad hoc talks to resume; we have reiterated to the Spanish Government the Foreign Secretary’s proposal of ad hoc talks, which he made in April 2012, involving all the relevant parties.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is it not Spain’s unfortunate domestic situation, brought about by her membership of the euro, which encourages her to look outwards and behave badly over Gibraltar? Is the result not yet another example of how useless the EU and our membership of it have become?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I think that these matters are much more complex than that.

Lord Chidgey (LD): Is it not the case that there has been not only a 44% reduction in visitors to Gibraltar but a 26% reduction in the number of non-Gibraltarian cars visiting Gibraltar? With 10,000 Spanish workers’ jobs dependent on a growing economy in Gibraltar, is not the use of aggressive tactics at the border to make life more difficult actually damaging the Spanish economy, which is already in a parlous state?

Baroness Warsi: I completely agree with my noble friend. The border delays are impacting on the economies on both sides.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, when these meetings took place—the Minister gave a list of all of them—did our representatives point out to the representatives of the Government of Spain that Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, in Ceuta and Melilla? That therefore shows their hypocrisy on this kind of issue. What kind of replies do they get from the Government of Spain in relation to that?

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Baroness Warsi: These discussions are always about trying to resolve matters, not trying to make them worse. It would not be appropriate for me to go into the details of those discussions but, needless to say, we are robust in making the views of the people of Gibraltar known to the Government of Spain.

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm that no Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister has visited Gibraltar since the election of a new Government and Chief Minister in 2011? Is that not slightly surprising and remarkable, given the increased tension in Gibraltar since that time? What plans are there for a visit by an FCO Minister in the near future?

Baroness Warsi: I do not have details of visits in my brief, but I will certainly write to the noble Lord to say whether there have been any and if any are planned.


Housing: Underoccupancy Charge

Question

Asked by Baroness Hollis of Heigham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to revise their underoccupancy charge so that, as in the private rented sector from 2008, it applies only to new tenants.

2.53 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): My Lords, as restrictions on entitlement to housing benefit based on accommodation size have been in place in the private rented sector since 1989, the local housing allowance introduced in April 2008 could be phased in. We have no plans to make similar arrangements for the removal of the spare room subsidy, which has already been applied, as it delivers a consistent approach to the treatment of housing benefit claimants across both the private and social rented sectors.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, the sectors are very different. The private rented sector seeks to make profit out of people’s housing benefit. That does not apply to social housing. Social tenants hit by the bedroom tax, through no fault of their own, are now trapped. They are unable to move to smaller social housing as it does not exist. They are unable to move to private housing because private landlords are rejecting or evicting them. They are unable to get discretionary housing payments because most are refused. Debts are mounting and lives are being destroyed. Will the Government please at least apply the bedroom tax only to new tenants who can cope with the new rules, as in 2008, perhaps over a transitional period until we have enough new housing to meet housing need?

Lord Freud: My Lords, the number of transfers into one-bedroom social rented accommodation in the past year is running at 108,000. There are more people in the private rented sector, not fewer, and DHPs are—if anything—underspent. Our indications are that they will be underspent. I am pleased to say that in Norwich, with which I know the noble Baroness is very closely

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associated, the spend was a little higher: £166,000 in the six months, against the allocation of £288,000. I am puzzled that Norwich has not put in a bid for additional funding. I urge it to do so because it has until 3 February to do it.

Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, will my noble friend indicate what discussions are taking place with local authorities to ensure that they and the public are aware of the discretionary housing payments?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we have a range of meetings and interactions with local authorities. In particular, at the moment we now have a £20 million discretionary fund on which they can bid. I am hoping to get as much of that money to them as possible.

Lord Jenkin of Roding (Con): My Lords, the House is becoming very well aware that the party opposite does not approve of the removal of the spare bedroom subsidy. Could the Minister confirm that if the policy were reversed, it might cost as much as £1 billion over the next two years? Would the Opposition not be a little more convincing if they could give us some idea of how they would replace that?

Lord Freud: My Lords, this is a substantial saving, as my noble friend says. Our central estimate is that we will save £500 million a year on this programme, which makes it an important contributor to the Government’s deficit plan. If the Opposition maintain their policy, they need to look at how to find that money back. Not only that, they will run the risk of having to have a similar policy in the private rented sector.

Lord Best (CB): My Lords, has the Minister had a chance to read the report from the Defra Select Committee, chaired by Anne McIntosh MP in the other place? It recommends that rural communities should be exempt from the bedroom tax because it is so difficult for people in rural areas to move down to smaller premises. Staying put means they can be paying £25 a week that they were not paying before, creating a great deal of hardship. Has the Minister had a chance to read that report and react to it?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I have looked very closely at the issue of rural communities. That was why, this year, we put in an extra £5 million a year to handle the subsidy arrangements, which buys out a substantial proportion of the cost of this policy.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, what flexibility is there for housing authorities in the implementation of the underoccupancy charge in circumstances such as when a child dies and the house thereby becomes underoccupied?

Lord Freud: The basic principle here is that when a child dies or there is a death, there is a 12-month run-on so that tenants remain entitled to that room for that full year. However, the underpinning support for making sure that these cases of hardship are managed is clearly the discretionary housing fund, which is running at £180 million this year and will be at £165 million next year.

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Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, the Minister has failed to address the core point made by my noble friend Lady Hollis and the noble Lord, Lord Best: why are the Government penalising people already in social housing, who took out their contracts when the current system was in place and before the bedroom tax came in? Why could they not protect people, as this House asked them to do during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act? If all else fails, will he join us in our costed commitment to abolish the bedroom tax?

Lord Freud: My Lords, the costings of the Labour Party in this area are fairly extreme because it seems to have used the same money many times over. This is a savings measure introduced in the emergency Budget, which applies to the existing case load and gives 33 months’ notice. The comparison is with the LHA changes introduced at the same time, for which there was less notice: 21 to 33 months. We have put in as support the discretionary housing payment system, as opposed to transitional protection.


Taxation: Personal Thresholds

Question

3.01 pm

Asked by Baroness Eaton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people on the lowest incomes have been lifted out of income tax by the rise in personal tax thresholds since 2010.

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, by 2013-14, 2.4 million low-income individuals have been taken out of income tax altogether as a result of this Government’s increases to the personal allowance since 2010. This number will increase to 2.7 million once the personal allowance reaches £10,000 in April 2014.

Baroness Eaton (Con): I thank the Minister for that Answer. The significant changes to the personal allowance mean that someone working full time on the minimum wage has seen their income tax bill more than halved under this Government. Does he agree that this is the most effective way to support those on low and middle incomes because it enables them to keep more of the money they earn?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I do agree. The effect of what we have done is that by 2014-15 there will be a £705 cash benefit to low-income households, which even in real terms is well over £500. This has made a material difference to the income of people in those categories and is much to be welcomed.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, the Resolution Foundation has shown that in future the 3 million taxpayers on universal credit will receive only about one-third of what other taxpayers receive from an increase in tax thresholds, and the 5 million low-paid workers below the tax threshold of course receive nothing. Does the Minister agree that this is a singularly ill targeted policy for helping those on the lowest incomes, and will he consider alternative, more progressive policies instead?

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Lord Newby: No, I simply do not agree with the noble Baroness. The Government are considering a number of measures which will help people on low incomes, of which a potentially significant increase in the minimum wage is perhaps the most significant.

Lord Sharkey (LD): My Lords, now that our economy is growing again, can the Minister say what more the Government can do to help those who need it most, in particular the long-term youth unemployed?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the most important thing the Government can do as the economy grows is to ensure that the macroeconomic framework is conducive to greater growth. There has been a 300,000 fall in the claimant count within the past year, so that is the single biggest thing that the Government can do to promote the continued reduction in unemployment and long-term unemployment. Youth unemployment has been falling now for five quarters. It is not falling fast enough but a raft of measures, including improved vocational education and an expansion of the apprenticeship scheme, have been designed specifically to tackle that long-standing issue.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the best ways of helping people on the minimum wage to improve their income would be to raise the threshold for national insurance and consider merging national insurance and income tax? That would help employers and those on the lowest pay.

Lord Newby: My Lords, the Government have looked at merging national insurance and income tax. It is one of those ideas that is perennially discussed but every time the Government look at it they back off because it is extremely difficult to achieve. The problem with what the noble Lord’s suggests is principally the cost. However, I would remind him that the Government are introducing in the National Insurance Contributions Bill a tax-free national insurance allowance of £2,000 which will benefit every firm but particularly small firms. The Federation of Small Businesses has said that the single biggest consequence of that change will be increased employment.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord deserves an easy ride today given his other responsibilities as Liberal Chief Whip, so I will ask him a very straightforward question. Does he agree with Citizens Advice that, for many low-income families in work, any gains they make from this change to the personal allowance are swamped by the Government’s other changes to tax and benefit, and that working families are £1,600 each year worse off since this Government came to power?

Lord Newby: My Lords, we can improve the status and income of poorer families by having a robustly growing economy and an increase in average earnings and household earnings. This is now under way. Our job is to make sure that we continue it.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the Government have adopted the policy of raising the qualifying earnings threshold for auto-enrolment in line with the personal income tax threshold rather than changes in the value of earnings. This denies lower-paid workers, mainly women, the benefit of an employer pensions contribution and of course saves the Treasury the cost of tax relief. How many low-paid workers is it estimated will have lost out because of this approach during this Parliament?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I will have to write to the noble Lord with the answer to that question. However, I am sure he will agree that the raft of measures that the Government are taking on pension reform will have as one of their signal benefits that many women who have lost out on pensions in the past will gain from adequate pensions in the future.

Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill

First Reading

3.07 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.


International Development (Gender Equality) Bill

First Reading

3.07 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): I wonder whether the Chief Whip can explain how this Bill is going to be considered in Committee and on Report when every Friday has been hijacked by the Government for the European Union (Referendum) Bill.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the Companion says that First Readings are not a matter for debate. On the matter that the noble Lord raised, he referred to the hijacking of the Bill. The Government have not hijacked it. It is a Private Member’s Bill. The hijacking has been carried out by those, including the noble Lord, who have tabled an excessive number of amendments.

Bill read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Report (3rd Day)

3.08 pm.

Amendment 92

Moved by Lord Harris of Haringey)

92: Before Clause 111, insert the following new Clause—

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“Crime and disorder reduction: development control

(1) The Secretary of State shall designate a body representative of chief officers of police for the purposes of this section.

(2) A body designated under this section shall publish guidelines that specify for a particular type of development the measures that should be included in that development to promote—

(a) crime and disorder reduction, and

(b) the prevention of anti-social behaviour.

(3) Guidelines under this section shall only be produced following consultation with organisations that represent—

(a) local authorities, and

(b) persons engaged in the design and construction of developments requiring planning permission.

(4) A planning authority may, in respect of any application that it receives for planning permission, specify as a condition for the approval of that planning permission that the development concerned must follow guidelines published under this section.

(5) A planning authority may only specify a condition under subsection (4) if it is satisfied that to do so would promote—

(a) crime and disorder reduction, or

(b) the prevention of anti-social behaviour.”

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, this is the same amendment I moved at Committee stage. I will therefore rehearse the arguments for it only briefly but also, I hope, respond to the points that were made against it in Committee.

The purpose of the Government’s Bill that we are considering—I am sure the Minister will have told us this many times—is all about reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. Indeed, as we know, overall crime has declined in the past 15 years or so, and the trend in burglary is particularly marked. Yet, unmentioned in the Bill, the Government are seeking to undermine the progress that has been made. During the past two decades, new developments, including homes—both new build and refurbished—schools, play areas, hospitals and many others, have increasingly been informed by and have adopted the principles of Secured by Design.

What has been achieved under this initiative carried out under the auspices of the Association of Chief Police Officers? First, Secured by Design developments— that is, those which use products and materials that it has approved—are half as likely to be burgled, and show a reduction of 25% in criminal damage. Secondly, the additional cost of using Secured by Design standards in the average home has worked out at only £170 per dwelling. In one year alone, some 700,000 burglaries could be thwarted if appropriate security devices were installed, representing an annual saving of more than £1.97 billion. Indeed, the Association of British Insurers has estimated that the Secured by Design standards across the UK would bring more than £3.2 billion-worth of savings to the economy over 20 years. Householders who are not offered security recommendations after a burglary are 69% more likely to suffer a repeat incident than those who are offered advice.

This is a success story that is widely copied internationally. It is the subject of many academic studies testifying to its efficacy and it was the subject of much support from all corners of the House when I raised it in Committee. Why, then, if it ain’t broke, are the Government taking it to pieces anyway? The Department for Communities and Local Government

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issued a consultation document in the depths of last summer, seeking views on a recent review of building regulations and housing standards. The proposals that it put out to consultation were for a two-tiered standard for security—a basic minimum level that would be generally required and a so-called enhanced standard. The basic standard is demonstrably inadequate and has been shown to have little security benefit. Specifying stronger locks is not much of a deterrent if the door is so flimsy that it could be kicked in with one firm kick.

The requirement for the lock itself, on the basic standard recommended by the Government, is based on a 26 year-old standard. It does not even require the British Standards kitemark lock. Instead, it requires a lock with only 1,000 key variations, vulnerable to the most basic forms of attack. Even the British Standards kitemark standard, which protects against drilling and cutting—I believe that these are the technical terms involved—is having to be revised upwards to allow for two increasingly prevalent forms of attack: lock snapping and lock bumping. For those who are not familiar with these techniques, I am told that there is a handy YouTube video that tells the aspiring burglar how to do it. The Government are therefore recommending a basic standard of security that does not even meet the British Standard, even though the British Standard needs to be revised because of standard attacks that are made on locks in this country.

In Committee, the Minister made much of what a step forward it was that this proposed basic security standard would now be a core requirement. It is not much of useful core requirement if the standard is totally inadequate. In 1999 and 2006, research studies compared burglaries on estates using the security standard for locks contained in the Minister’s core standard with those using Secured by Design locks. The latter suffered 70% less crime. The Government’s core standard is woefully inadequate.

What about the so-called enhanced standard that would be available in certain circumstances? Even this would be lower than the existing Secured by Design standards. However, it could be required by a local authority only where what is described as a “compelling case” exists for this higher standard to be the norm. To make this compelling case, a local authority will have to demonstrate that the development will be subject to an elevated rate of burglary and that there will be a higher than normal impact of burglary on the tenants. It goes without saying that this test is almost impossible to pass in respect of a new development, and the test has to be applied site by site in a way that is likely to produce confusion and added uncertainty for developers, who will not know when they submit a proposal whether the authority will attempt to apply the enhanced standard.

3.15 pm

What is more, as I understand it, housing associations will be precluded from using this enhanced standard. As I have already said, this enhanced standard will not be as beneficial as the proven Secured by Design guidelines. It will not be permitted for local authorities to require those proven Secured by Design standards,

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and to apply even the enhanced standards they will have to go through a complicated process to demonstrate the compelling case required by DCLG, with all the implicit threats of action that that entails.

In fact, on Tuesday night when we last considered the Bill, the Minister spoke movingly of the Government’s commitment to localism. Here the Government are implementing a policy that is the antithesis of localism. They are preventing local authorities from deciding to use enhanced security standards—those that are recommended by our police service. The antithesis of localism: centrally driven dumbing down of standards. What is more, it is putting communities and householders at risk. It puts at risk the progress made over the past 20 years in reducing crime, especially burglary.

The Minister in Committee put forward a number of arguments that said this amendment was not necessary. He argued that there was no need to give the police a statutory duty to advise on security standards because they do this already. However, this amendment is not about giving police the power, but about giving local authorities the option to accept and act on that advice. Therefore, I am afraid the Minister misunderstood the purpose of the amendment. In Committee, the Minister argued that local authorities have powers already—as though this was a substitute—to consider the location and layout of sites. Nobody is arguing that they do not. The issue is whether they will have the power to prescribe adequate security standards to protect the residents in those locations and on those sites.

The Minister also told us that the intention of the enhanced standard was to mirror those of Secured by Design—except that the enhanced standard does not do so. In a recent meeting with Secured by Design, officials—indeed, Ministers—conceded that it was a lower standard but said that there was nothing they could do about it. Therefore, it is simply untrue for us to be told that the enhanced standard will mirror the Secured by Design standards.

In any case, access to the enhanced standard would be permitted only where there was a suitable evidence of need. Why does that requirement have to be prescribed centrally? Again, it is the antithesis of localism. Surely each local authority should be allowed to decide the standards it thinks are appropriate for its area, and if it wants to accept the advice of Secured by Design or any other recommendation put forward by the police, it can choose either to do so or not to do so. Surely that is what localism should be about and what the Government ought to be committed to.

This has all been put forward as a simplification of the planning process, with the argument that somehow Secured by Design standards have been the cause of stalled developments. What evidence is there that this has happened? None. Local authorities should be able to choose the level of security standards that they consider appropriate for the communities they represent. What is the problem that Minsters think they are going to solve by preventing that local democratic discretion?

As I said, last Tuesday the Minister told us eloquently about this Government’s commitment to localism, but that is what the amendment is about: a commitment to localism. The Bill risks the progress that has been made over the past two decades in designing out

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crime, reducing burglary and making anti-social behaviour harder being put into reverse. It is an act of vandalism—anti-social behaviour of the worst sort. It risks adding to the cost of the criminal justice system. Indeed, if we throw away the advantage that designing out crime has given us, how will our communities cope in future with a diminished police force and neighbourhood policing no more than a distant memory, while the threat of crime rises again?

Who benefits from that short-sighted policy? Only the developers, who will see an increase in their profits—and, of course, burglars. Who loses? The residents of developments that will suffer higher levels of burglary, increased vandalism and more anti-social behaviour. It is for them that I have tabled the amendment. It requires the Home Secretary to ask ACPO or a successor body to draw up Secured by Design guidelines. It requires those guidelines to be produced following appropriate consultation, and it gives local planning authorities the option of making following those guidelines a condition of any planning permission they make.

It is a localist power. It is a permissive power. The amendment gives the Government the opportunity to put prevention first. Surely, protecting people from crime is an investment: better than the spiralling cost of enforcement and better than waiting for unproven measures envisaged under the Bill. It allows the Government to put localism first—ostensibly one of their policy objectives. If locally elected councillors choose to prioritise Secured by Design, they can. If they choose not to, that, too, is their prerogative. If local people want higher security standards, they will elect local councillors accordingly.

The amendment is about localism, crime prevention and better security for communities. I beg to move.

Lord Blair of Boughton (CB): I support the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on the amendment, and declare an interest as one of the patrons of Neighbourhood Watch and Home Watch. I think that most of your Lordships will be aware of Neighbourhood Watch. It is a group of citizens who are concerned enough to have asked their chief executive to contact me to raise this matter. In other words, Neighbourhood Watch thinks that this is a pretty bad idea. That is quite important.

As a police chief, I spent a lot of hours standing next to Ministers of both parties supporting Secured by Design, so it seems odd that the Home Office now does not want to support it. I put it to the Minister that this has got caught up in the understandable concern about how ACPO itself set up a company to deliver Secured by Design. The purpose of the noble Lord’s amendment is that it will be a successor body to ACPO that will be involved in this area of policy, so I do not think that that issue arises any longer.

I said in Committee that as I understand it, or, rather, as Neighbourhood Watch understands it, the way in which the decision between ordinary and enhanced protection will be developed by a local authority is by crime mapping. The amendment is about new developments. New developments on brown or green sites will, of course, have no history of crime. Therefore, even if they are in a very difficult area, they will not get enhanced protection.

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If ever I have seen a case of spoiling a ship for a ha’porth of tar, this is it. The difference in cost is £170. If noble Lords compare that to the number of burglaries that will happen as a result of the Bill, the House may choose to support the noble Lord’s amendment.

Lord Condon (CB): My Lords, I declare my registered interest in policing. I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, broadly for the reasons that he set out, reinforced by my noble friend Lord Blair.

We have 30 years of academic underpinning for this theory. It started with notions of defensible space by Oscar Newman. That was reinforced 10 years later by Wilson and Kelling, with their broken windows theory of maintaining property at the highest standards to prevent crime, and so on.

We have 20 years’ pragmatic experience of how Secured by Design has dramatically helped to reduce crime and in particular burglary and made neighbourhoods safer. In the ongoing environment of economic challenge to policing, I think the Secured by Design mark and all that it stands for as well as all the experience we have built up remain very valuable. Sadly, I fear it would be a step backwards if we are not allowed to bring forward this amendment successfully in the terms that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has set out. I hope the Government will find that they are able to give some way on this, because the Secured by Design legacy is a very important one.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of this amendment and make three points. First, during my life, I have worked in some of London’s most insecure areas and seen insecure estates in the rest of the country. In north Brent and Brixton, crime was rife and burglary, in particular, was at a very high level. On a huge estate—I will not name it, because it has improved so much and I do not want to give it another bad name—I saw design improvements which removed some of the interconnecting corridors and looked at locks, considering the way in which the whole design process was put together so that it reduced crime substantially. If we start with design and local authorities have the option of putting design in place, we will ensure from the beginning that we do not create new estates where problems begin and residents suffer great dismay.

My second point is the localism argument, which has already been made very successfully. The third point is that anything that prevents burglary anywhere must be supported. Like other speakers, I do not understand how it is possible to assess where burglary is going to take place before an estate has gone up. In any case, people should be protected equally. Anyone who knows people who have been victims of burglaries, particularly some of the most vulnerable, will know that we should do everything in our power to prevent the emotional trauma—it is almost like rape—that they feel when they go into their homes and find tremendous damage. It is not just that things have been stolen; it is the feeling of intrusion into their lives.

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There are very good reasons to support this amendment. The technical reasons have been put clearly by the noble Lord who moved the amendment and other speakers, and I support it on those grounds.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I have been enthusiastic about designing in security for as long as I have had any involvement in planning, not just for the protection of property, but for the protection of people.

Two things confuse me about the amendment. One is that the debate, both on the last occasion and to a large extent today, seems to be about products and materials. I have always thought that designing in security starts with things such as defensible space, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and lighting, sight lines and corridors, mentioned by the noble Baroness. I am puzzled why so much of the debate has been about the strength of locks and window locks which, if they are considered anywhere, seem to be more a matter of building control than development control of the planning area.

Like many other noble Lords, I am instinctively against topdown impositions of requirements which should come about bottom up, organically, by local authorities, police and others working in partnership. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, talked about localism and I of course support that, but I would like to ask the Minister some questions relating to this. Perhaps he can explain to the House, and flesh out a little, the extent to which the security issues which we have been discussing can be taken into account in the refusal or imposition of conditions on planning consent currently made by a planning authority. Are there material considerations? I am asking whether the planning authority can currently specify as a condition the sort of security issues that we are all concerned about.

What the amendment proposes is, in a sense, statutory guidelines that would be discretionary in their application. That takes me to the second area where I confess to being a bit puzzled. I am unclear what precludes a local authority drawing up guidelines without having legislation requiring the guidelines to be there and available for the local authority to adopt at its discretion. Do we actually need something in an Act of Parliament which says, “Let’s do some work on something very sensible, but we are not even going to require it to be implemented”?

3.30 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey raised this issue in Committee, when he said that his amendment was to try to get clarity as to why the Government were seeking to make this change and to do something which was potentially so retrograde. My noble friends Lord Harris of Haringey and Lady Smith of Basildon both gave specific figures on the savings and reductions in burglary offences that had accrued, or were expected to accrue, when appropriate security devices are installed where new developments have been informed by, or have adopted, the principles of Secured by Design. My noble friend Lord Harris repeated some of those statistics today.

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In his response, the Minister said that a consultation under the auspices of the Department for Communities and Local Government had taken place, which concluded, if memory serves me right, on 27 October last year, and that the Government were considering their response. The consultation document from the DCLG suggested a two-tier standard of security: a basic minimum level that would be generally required and a so-called enhanced standard. However, as has already been said, even the “enhanced” standard would be lower than the existing Secured by Design standards, and even then it could be required by local authorities only where what is described as a “compelling” case exists for the higher standard to be the norm.

In Committee—perhaps it will be different today—the Minister was unable to say whether we would know the outcome of the consultation by the time the Bill reached Report or Third Reading. Neither was he able to say why local authorities would not even be able to go to the higher, so-called enhanced standard or give an assurance that local authorities would be able to choose their standard, and not be obliged to follow either the basic or “enhanced” standard. Nor was he able to say that the Government would provide an opportunity for Parliament to intervene before any changes in the standards are made.

As my noble friend Lord Harris has said, the Secured by Design initiative is about reducing the incidence of crime. The Government’s proposals, which have been the subject of consultation, appear to go in the opposite direction. We have heard no convincing arguments from the Minister as to why there should be a change and nothing from him to indicate that the Government’s proposals are in any way evidence-based, particularly when it comes to the impact on the level of burglaries. We will certainly support this amendment if it is put to a vote.

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not agree with me that the amendment would confer a particular status on Secured by Design or whatever body or organisation is in its lieu and that to do so in this particular context would create a quite curious structure? It is almost like an organisation that is operating on a statutory basis.

Secondly, would the noble Lord not agree with me that the police, knowledgeable though they are, are not the sole providers of intelligence on designing out criminal activity? There are many other bodies and professions which might legitimately be considered for this—the British Standards Institution would be one.

Thirdly, would the noble Lord not agree with me that the fact that there may be shortcomings in the specification of security, equipment and methodologies is not necessarily a reason for conferring a monopoly of this sort on this particular body?

Lord Rosser: I simply ask the noble Earl if he would agree with me that what is being proposed appears to put in jeopardy an arrangement, guidelines, and standards—Secured by Design—that on the basis of the figures we have heard, have had a considerable positive impact on the level of burglaries. It appears to me that the noble Earl is prepared to go along with a change that appears to put in jeopardy real progress

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that has been made through this initiative in bringing down the level of burglaries. That is a question that he should be asking himself rather than the questions that he has chosen to ask me.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, I am a victim of burglary myself, so I understand what it is about. It seems to me odd that the noble Lord feels that the proposals in the amendment are the unique and sole means of achieving what is required. With all the product availability and consultancy that there is, I do not believe that it is necessarily the case. I am particularly not sure that it is right that such an organisation should be given a statutory status and elevated position. It is, after all, a commercial operation. Would the noble Lord not agree with that?

Lord Rosser: I am not sure that the noble Earl and I should be having too lengthy a dialogue on this matter. I am not sure whether I got a very clear answer from him as to whether he accepted that what the Government are proposing may well put in jeopardy a very successful initiative, which over a period of years has had a very positive impact on the level of burglaries.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, with this amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has brought back the issue of the important role that design has to play in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. It is important to stress that the Government recognise the importance of design in crime prevention. Nothing in the current proposals is designed to weaken that. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, will accept that.

Before I respond in detail to the noble Lord’s amendment, I should like to emphasise that the housing standards review, which is the project under consultation at the moment and at the centre of the noble Lord’s concerns, was not initiated to cut standards irrespective of impact or to agree to a lowest common denominator approach. I cannot emphasise that enough. Its clear objective was to review a number of the voluntary standards—there are a number of voluntary standards—most frequently called up by local authorities. The aim was to identify opportunities for simplification, clarification and, if appropriate, those standards that are so important that they justify inclusion in a possible national standard or building regulations, which is a situation that may not always exist at present.

We are entirely supportive of the police continuing to advise local planning authorities on the layout of new development. We are all, I think, also in agreement that it is important to ensure that the police can continue to contribute their intelligence on crime to the development and implementation of standards. There will be no diminution of the role of the police in that respect. The new clause that the noble Lord proposes would place a mandatory duty on a body representing chief officers of police to publish guidelines on designing out crime that local planning authorities may then require builders to follow as a condition of granting planning permission.

As the noble Lord will be aware, the Government have spent considerable time tidying up the policing landscape to create a set of bodies with a clearly

20 Jan 2014 : Column 465

defined purpose. The Association of Chief Police Officers fulfilled an important role as the professional voice of the police service for many years, but as policing is changing, so too must ACPO. Many former functions of ACPO have transferred to the College of Policing and, in the light of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ review of ACPO, there will be further consideration of the future delivery of some additional national functions. I am not persuaded that it would be right to pre-empt those considerations by designating a new or existing body, as the noble Lord is proposing today.

Many different expert groups have a role to play in the design, building and construction of the places where we live and work. Although I recognise that the noble Lord’s intention is to ensure that guidelines are drawn up in an open and transparent way in discussion with experts, I believe it should be left to the police and others to decide on the most appropriate groups to consult according to subject area. As a matter of good design, technical building standards and standards for the design and layout of the wider built environment are often considered together. That is indeed the approach taken by Secured by Design. However, in regulatory terms, the former are the domain of building regulations while the latter are matters for planning. Of course, the role of planning and building regulations needs to be understood in the broader context of crime overall, and on that matter I should like to offer some points of clarification.

When last we discussed these matters, the noble Lord set out a range of figures to exemplify the importance of security standards in new homes. While I have no wish to extend the debate unnecessarily as these figures have become a matter of public record, I think it is only right that we ensure that they are placed in context. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, suggested that if appropriate measures were installed some 700,000 burglaries could be prevented each year saving nearly £2 billion. According to the latest crime survey estimates, not only is this more than the total number of burglaries in England and Wales in 2012-13, it reflects burglaries in both old and new housing. The housing standards review sets out standards only for new development, not existing homes. Furthermore, the housing standards review does not propose stopping bodies such as Secured by Design bringing their own standards to the market for developers to use on a voluntary basis.

In relation to the question asked by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, local authorities are currently able to impose requirements on new development in relation to security, including adopting the principles of standards such as Secured by Design. Such standards may be delivered as a condition of planning permission, provided that the condition is necessary, relevant to planning and to the development to be permitted, enforceable, precise and reasonable in other respects—in other words, fitting the considerations that planning permission requires.

3.45 pm

Local authorities will be able to continue to seek the advice of suitably qualified advisers on designing out crime in the layout of new developments. The

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noble Earl, Lord Lytton, is right to point out that a large number of professionals are able to give advice in this area. As a result of the advice given, the benefits associated with those measures are unlikely to be adversely affected. I mention this because, as with all matters, there is an issue of proportionality. Without in any way underestimating the impact of burglary on households, we should guard against overstating the potential impact of the proposals within the housing standards review. The noble Lord’s amendment suggests that a designated body of police develop guidance following consultation with local authorities, builders and developers. As I have already said, it is clear that the police should have a role in gathering intelligence and advising on standards, but while the police are experts in security, the Government are better placed to use the evidence that we are gathering in formulating standards for use either at a local or national level.

The issues are complex, which is why, both during the consultation period and during this further period of consideration, the Department for Communities and Local Government continues to work closely with the police and industry partners to review the evidence base. Indeed, Ministers met ACPO only last week. I am not, therefore, persuaded that at this time we should pre-empt ongoing work and mandate the police to produce guidance and prescribe both how it is developed and used. Such a course of action would be premature. I respectfully ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Blair of Boughton and Lord Condon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, for their support for this amendment. It is also heartening to hear that neighbourhood watch schemes around the country believe that this approach is the right one. I am also aware that quite a number of senior local authority figures of all parties have expressed support for the principle.

I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for her support for the principles behind this. Quite properly, she said that Secured by Design guidelines include such issues as defensible space, lighting, sightlines and so on and she asked about the focus on locks. The reason for the focus on locks and such practical, physical measures in the course of this debate is that that is the area where the DCLG consultation, which includes the building regulations, is designed to weaken the autonomy of local authorities to decide what they think are the most appropriate standards in their areas. This is the reverse of being top-down; it is the Government that are imposing these changes top-down and preventing individual local authorities making their choices.

I have to say that I was puzzled by the Minister’s assurance that planning law does allow these things to be included in planning approvals. My understanding, as a local authority member for 26 years, is that planning approvals may include advice but only certain things can be included as mandatory as part of planning approvals. This would not be permitted under planning law to be one of those mandatory guidelines.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, seemed to think that this was some back-door way of giving statutory

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status to a bunch of senior police officers. I have to say that I do not think that is the purpose of it. The formulation,

“The Secretary of State shall designate a body representative of”,

is quite widely used in legislation to permit, without recognising a particular body, the use of a body which is broadly representative as being able to put forward a view. It is a standard approach. He also seemed concerned that the list of the organisations that should be consulted, given in proposed new subsection (3), was not sufficient. I would be happy to accept that it would be possible to amend it further to include that.

The Minister seems to be encouraging me to bring the amendment forward again in a slightly different form. If he is saying that the amendment would be acceptable if, instead of referring to,

“a body representative of chief officers of police”,

it said, “the College of Policing”, I am quite happy to bring this forward on another occasion. Is that what he is suggesting?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: It is not what I am suggesting. I just pointed out to noble Lords what the noble Lord’s amendment said.

Lord Harris of Haringey: In that case, the points about the College of Policing were clearly rather academic.

The purpose of this amendment is to give local authorities the flexibility to set higher design standards, if that is what they want to do. The Minister has said that nothing the Government are doing is intended to weaken the security standards and that the housing standards review was not intended to bring about the lowest common denominator, but that is what it is doing, in practice. He talked about supporting the police in advising on a layout of a development, but this is not just about the layout of a development—it is about the security measures physically built into the development, which I do not believe can be part of a planning approval at present.

The Minister told us at length about the importance of tidying up the policing landscape, but that, frankly, is irrelevant. There will still be chief officers of police, unless there is some hidden agenda for the Government.

The Earl of Lytton: I apologise to the noble Lord for interrupting his flow. The Minister pointed out the difference in approach between planning and building regulations. We have heard, for instance, that certain things may not apply to social housing providers of one sort or another. Building regulations do not necessarily fall automatically within the purview of a local authority; they can be outsourced. Therefore, you can have any number of commercial companies who can provide the building control facility. The NHBC, for instance, is actually a certification process set up by—

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): I remind the noble Earl that we are at Report, and it is normal convention after the Minister just to hear from the mover of the amendment, unless there was a specific point of elucidation or clarification to be made. I feel that the noble Earl may be going into a more detailed exposition.

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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Earl has had the reprimand from the Front Bench. I was enjoying the to and fro, and would happily have answered him in detail. Of course other bodies are involved, but this enables the local authority, the elected local body, to have choice and impose when appropriate the standards that it thinks are appropriate at local level. That is what will be precluded by the Government’s approach.

The Minister talked about this proposal applying only to new developments. The point is, over time, all developments would be covered by these arrangements. That is how you get to the figures in terms of burglaries that one might be talking about. He said that it does not stop Secured by Design from bringing standards to the marketplace. But the problem is that he would not be able to require something if, at local level, local authorities thought that it was necessary. Planning law simply does not allow this to happen. I am afraid that somewhere, lost between the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Home Office, a very important principle has been destroyed—the principle that local councillors should be able to set a higher standard for security if they think that their local residents need it and crime prevention is necessary in that way.

For that reason, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

3.54 pm

Division on Amendment 92

Contents 179; Not-Contents 230.

Amendment 92 disagreed.

Division No.  1

CONTENTS

Adonis, L.

Allen of Kensington, L.

Allenby of Megiddo, V.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Armstrong of Hill Top, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L. [Teller]

Beecham, L.

Berkeley, L.

Bhattacharyya, L.

Bichard, L.

Blair of Boughton, L.

Blood, B.

Boothroyd, B.

Borrie, L.

Brennan, L.

Brookman, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Butler of Brockwell, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Carter of Coles, L.

Chandos, V.

Christopher, L.

Clark of Windermere, L.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Condon, L.

Coussins, B.

Cunningham of Felling, L.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Donaghy, B.

Drake, B.

Dubs, L.

Eames, L.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Falkland, V.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Gavron, L.

Giddens, L.

Glasman, L.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Graham of Edmonton, L.

Grenfell, L.

Griffiths of Burry Port, L.

Grocott, L.

Hanworth, V.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 469

Hardie, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Howarth of Breckland, B.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hutton of Furness, L.

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Jay of Paddington, B.

Joffe, L.

Jones of Moulsecoomb, B.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jordan, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kennedy of The Shaws, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kinnock, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Layard, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Levy, L.

Liddell of Coatdyke, B.

Liddle, L.

Lipsey, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

McAvoy, L.

McConnell of Glenscorrodale, L.

McDonagh, B.

Macdonald of Tradeston, L.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Mallalieu, B.

Martin of Springburn, L.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

Meacher, B.

Mendelsohn, L.

Mitchell, L.

Monks, L.

Moonie, L.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan, L.

Morris of Aberavon, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Morris of Yardley, B.

O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.

Ouseley, L.

Palmer, L.

Paul, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Plant of Highfield, L.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prashar, B.

Quin, B.

Quirk, L.

Radice, L.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Rendell of Babergh, B.

Richard, L.

Rogan, L.

Rooker, L.

Rosser, L.

Rowlands, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

Sawyer, L.

Scotland of Asthal, B.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Singh of Wimbledon, L.

Slim, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Smith of Finsbury, L.

Snape, L.

Soley, L.

Stern, B.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stoddart of Swindon, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taylor of Blackburn, L.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Temple-Morris, L.

Thornton, B.

Tomlinson, L.

Triesman, L.

Truscott, L.

Tunnicliffe, L. [Teller]

Turnberg, L.

Uddin, B.

Walker of Aldringham, L.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Walpole, L.

Warner, L.

Warnock, B.

Warwick of Undercliffe, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

West of Spithead, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Whitty, L.

Wigley, L.

Wilkins, B.

Williams of Elvel, L.

Wills, L.

Wood of Anfield, L.

Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Worthington, B.

Young of Hornsey, B.

NOT CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.

Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Avebury, L.

Baker of Dorking, L.

Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, B.

Balfe, L.

Barker, B.

Bates, L.

Bell, L.

Benjamin, B.

Berridge, B.

Bilimoria, L.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Borwick, L.

Bowness, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bradshaw, L.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 470

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Browning, B.

Buscombe, B.

Butler-Sloss, B.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Carrington, L.

Cathcart, E.

Chadlington, L.

Chester, Bp.

Chidgey, L.

Clancarty, E.

Clement-Jones, L.

Colwyn, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Cormack, L.

Cotter, L.

Courtown, E.

Crickhowell, L.

Crisp, L.

Cumberlege, B.

De Mauley, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dholakia, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Doocey, B.

Dundee, E.

Dykes, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eden of Winton, L.

Elton, L.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Faulks, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fellowes, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Garel-Jones, L.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Gold, L.

Goodlad, L.

Greaves, L.

Greenway, L.

Grender, B.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Hannay of Chiswick, L.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Henley, L.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Higgins, L.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Hope of Craighead, L.

Horam, L.

Howard of Lympne, L.

Howe, E.

Howell of Guildford, L.

Humphreys, B.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Hussain, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

James of Blackheath, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jenkin of Roding, L.

Jolly, B.

Jones of Birmingham, L.

Jones of Cheltenham, L.

Kerr of Kinlochard, L.

Kirkham, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Knight of Collingtree, B.

Kramer, B.

Laming, L.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lester of Herne Hill, L.

Lexden, L.

Lindsay, E.

Lingfield, L.

Liverpool, E.

Livingston of Parkhead, L.

Loomba, L.

Lothian, M.

Lucas, L.

Luke, L.

Lytton, E.

McColl of Dulwich, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

McNally, L.

Maddock, B.

Manzoor, B.

Marks of Henley-on-Thames, L.

Marlesford, L.

Mawhinney, L.

Mayhew of Twysden, L.

Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.

Miller of Hendon, B.

Montagu of Beaulieu, L.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Naseby, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Newlove, B.

Noakes, B.

Northover, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O'Loan, B.

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

Paddick, L.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Pannick, L.

Parminter, B.

Patel, L.

Patten, L.

Pearson of Rannoch, L.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Popat, L.

Randerson, B.

Rawlings, B.

Redesdale, L.

Ripon and Leeds, Bp.

Risby, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.

Roper, L.

Rowe-Beddoe, L.

Sassoon, L.

Scott of Foscote, L.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 471

Sharkey, L.

Sharman, L.

Sharples, B.

Shaw of Northstead, L.

Sheikh, L.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shipley, L.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Smith of Clifton, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Sterling of Plaistow, L.

Stevens of Ludgate, L.

Stewartby, L.

Stirrup, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Storey, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Suttie, B.

Swinfen, L.

Taverne, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L.

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Thomas of Swynnerton, L.

Thomas of Winchester, B.

Tonge, B.

Tope, L.

Trefgarne, L.

Trenchard, V.

Trimble, L.

True, L.

Trumpington, B.

Tugendhat, L.

Tyler of Enfield, B.

Tyler, L.

Ullswater, V.

Verjee, L.

Verma, B.

Wakeham, L.

Waldegrave of North Hill, L.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Warsi, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wheatcroft, B.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Crosby, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.

Wrigglesworth, L.

Wright of Richmond, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

4.08 pm

Amendment 92A

Moved by Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)

92A: Before Clause 111, insert the following new Clause—

“Long-term police authorisation requiring independent approval

(1) The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 32A (authorisations requiring judicial approval) insert—

“32AA Long-term police authorisations requiring independent approval

(1) This section applies where a relevant person has granted a long-term authorisation under section 29.

(2) The authorisation is not to take effect until such time (if any) as the relevant independent body has made an order approving the grant of the authorisation.

(3) The relevant independent body may give approval under this section to the granting of an authorisation under section 29 if, and only if, the relevant independent body is satisfied that—

(a) at the time of the grant—

(i) there were reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements of section 29(2), and any requirements imposed by virtue of section 29(7)(b) are satisfied in relation to that authorisation, and

(ii) the relevant conditions were satisfied in relation to that authorisation, and

(b) at the time when the relevant independent body is considering the matter, there remain reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements of section 29(2), and any requirements imposed by virtue of section 29(7)(b) are satisfied in relation to that authorisation.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), the relevant conditions in relation to a grant by an individual holding an office, rank or position in a relevant law enforcement agency are that—

(a) the individual was a designated person for the purposes of section 29,

(b) the grant of an authorisation was not in breach of any prohibition imposed by virtue of section 29(7)(a) or any restriction imposed by virtue of section 30(3), and

20 Jan 2014 : Column 472

(c) any other conditions that may be provided for by the Secretary of State were satisfied.

(5) In this section—

“relevant law enforcement authority” means—

(a) a police force in the United Kingdom, and

(b) the National Crime Agency;

“relevant judicial authority” means—

(a) in relation to England and Wales, the High Court of Justice in England and Wales,

(b) in relation to Scotland, the Court of Session, and

(c) in relation to Northern Ireland, the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland;

“relevant person” means—

(a) an individual holding an office, rank or position in a police force in the United Kingdom, and

(b) an individual holding an office, rank or position in the National Crime Agency.

(6) In this section—

“relevant independent body” must be defined by the Home Secretary in a motion passed by both Houses of Parliament before this section is enacted;

“long-term” must be defined by the Home Secretary in a motion passed by both Houses of Parliament before this section is enacted.””

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, Amendment 92A, in the name of my noble friend Lord Rosser and myself, would make provision on “Long-term police authorisations requiring independent approval”—in other words, police authorisation for covert or undercover operations. The Minister knows of our concerns and interest in this issue, as we flagged it up at Second Reading and my noble friend Lord Rosser proposed a very similar amendment in Committee as well. I know that the Minister agrees with us that meaningful action has to be taken to address how covert police operations are authorised and managed, but it seems to us that the Bill provides the ideal opportunity to address the issue, given that it is the Government’s flagship Bill on crime and policing.

I welcome the Government’s recognition that there is an issue here. In his letter to my noble friend Lord Rosser on 21 December, the Minister outlines the powers that the Government are taking and have taken already, so the Government recognise that changes have to be made. I welcome those changes and do not decry them, but they do not go far enough in addressing the seriousness of the problem to provide the degree of oversight and monitoring that we feel is necessary. I do not think that it is enough to give guarantees or assurances if people are to have confidence that such operations are properly authorised and monitored when they are ongoing. I shall come on to explain the differences that we have.

I reiterate the point made by my noble friend Lord Rosser in Committee that we support undercover policing and recognise that it is essential in dealing with organised crime and terrorism. We recognise the dedication and bravery of those officers who undertake this work, but we can only repeat that such operations must be subject to the highest of ethical and operational standards. That is essential both for their operational effectiveness and for public confidence, which is why we place such store on getting accountability absolutely right in this area.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 473

My noble friend gave two examples in Committee that drive home how those changes must be made and why action must be taken to address the problem that any suspected criminality must be dealt with proportionately and not in excess of what is required. I do not want to repeat what was said in Committee, but I shall outline those two cases briefly.

The first case is that of Mark Kennedy, known in his undercover name as Mark “Flash” Stone, who as a police officer infiltrated left-wing protest groups over a period of seven years. These groups were involved in lawful demonstrations—there is no evidence that they were involved in crime. In that role, he had relationships with women in the protest movement and travelled to eco protests across Europe.

When HMIC reviewed Mark Kennedy’s activities and those of other undercover officers, it stated that his actions led to the collapse of a trial of environmental protestors. The report said that he defied management instructions, but it was never clear what those management instructions were. Indeed, he took the view that his superiors knew what his activities were, so there seems to be a lack of clarification on whether his actions were authorised or whether he just thought that somebody knew about them so it was okay to behave in the way that he did. The HMIC report also suggested that an independent body should be required to authorise such undercover operations, as he had been inadequately supervised and the oversight had to be strengthened.

In such cases, we question not only the ethics of Mr Kennedy and others, but the proportionality of their actions and their cost. I do not know whether there has ever been an assessment of the costs involved in such cases, but clearly neither the costs nor the methods—the ethics—could be justified.

The other case referred to by my noble friend Lord Rosser involved the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, who is now a Member of your Lordships’ House. After her son was murdered in a racist attack, Peter Francis, who was then an undercover police officer and a member of the highly controversial special demonstrations squad, was part of an operation—Peter Francis said—to spy on and attempt to smear the Lawrence family. Those actions in all cases are totally unacceptable.

I also refer noble Lords to a book by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, “The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police”, which illustrates the extent of the problems. There have been a number of cases in which women were conned by these men—seven police officers, acting under cover—into believing that they were having a genuine relationship. They had sexual relationships that in a number of cases led to children being born. It appears that those men, who had been acting under cover, shed their responsibility to their children as easily and as quickly as they shed their undercover identities.

I know that the Government have brought forward secondary legislation to deal with the issue through an order, which Damian Green in the other place said would enhance oversight. However, I have two concerns. First, I do not think that secondary legislation gives this House the opportunity fully to examine the proposals

20 Jan 2014 : Column 474

before it. It would have been helpful to have included any such proposals in the Bill, as we could then have had the opportunity to fully discuss whether the measures were appropriate. I think that the Government’s proposals go a long way towards dealing with the problem, so I welcome them, but they do not go far enough. We are not convinced that the Surveillance Commissioners are really the appropriate body to provide independent oversight.

4.15 pm

The amendment would also leave open the period of time involved. We envisage that any operation of three months—or possibly six months, but certainly much less than the 12 months proposed by the Government—should be subject to independent oversight. To say that the only operations that could be subject to or require independent oversight and authorisation would be those lasting more than 12 months seems to us to be completely inadequate. A lot can happen in those 12 months. In the least case those involved could have formed relationships and had a child, given what has happened in the past. We propose a much shorter period, of possibly three or six months, to be decided by both Houses.

We believe that this amendment would protect the integrity of the investigation. It would avoid the problems that we have had in other cases, which have fallen because the integrity of the evidence has been compromised. The amendment would also protect the integrity of the officers because, if operations are checked after three or six months—I am relaxed on that; I would prefer three months, but six is not impossible—that will offer protection to the officers involved, in that the required checks and balances, the monitoring and the reporting back, will have taken place. That would provide for genuine oversight and accountability.

The Government have admitted there is a problem and have sought to address it, but they really have not done so adequately. I hope that the noble Lord can look at the measures we are proposing. I hope that he will also accept that the issue is better dealt with in this Bill rather than in secondary legislation, which the Government have brought forward and took effect on 1 January, as we feel that does not seriously address our very real and grave concerns over how to deal with this problem.

Lord Condon (CB): My Lords, I refer your Lordships to my registered interest in policing. I should also add that I was Metropolitan Police Commissioner for seven years and that embraced the time of the allegations the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has referred to in relation to the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence.

I have enormous sympathy for the reasons why the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has moved this amendment. Clearly, change is needed and the balance has to be redrawn between the need for undercover policing to provide protection for the wider community and the avoidance of the abuses that have clearly taken place in the past.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has raised the issue of the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, perhaps I can place on record—fully aware of the consequences

20 Jan 2014 : Column 475

if I were to mislead your Lordships’ House—that at no time during my time as commissioner did I approve, authorise, acquiesce or have any knowledge of, or give any encouragement to, any of the actions suggested by Peter Francis in his book. Investigations are currently under way to try to establish the truth of all those matters. If I, as commissioner for seven years, had no knowledge of the sort of allegations that have been made by Peter Francis in his book—assuming that he has made those allegations on, hopefully, the basis of some element of truth—that shows that there is a need for reform and for much closer scrutiny of these operations. I am now in my 15th year of retirement so I am long past knowing what the current environment is like, but I still sense an enormous need and momentum for change, which is shared by the Government and the Opposition.

So, although I have enormous sympathy for the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, I look to the Minister to say how the Government are responding to these issues. I sense that the Government are well and truly on this case, so I will listen to the Minister’s response before I make a judgment about whether or not I am able to support the amendment.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, I wish to raise a point on the wording of the amendment. Three definitions are set out in subsection (5), one of which is “relevant judicial authority”. I have no complaint about the definition itself, but I cannot find anywhere in the proposed new clause where that phrase is used and is in need of definition. I may be wrong. Obviously, this comes after a section where independent approval may be needed, but I would like to be persuaded that the definition in the subsection is relevant to the clause we are being invited to approve.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP): My Lords, although I have not been involved in these cases, I have been involved in the examination of these kinds of cases when I was a member of a police authority in London for 12 years and I still sit on the police committee at City Hall.

Something like the amendment is absolutely necessary because, putting aside the civil rights, human rights and civil liberties of the women and the people involved in the environmental movement whose lives have been trespassed upon for no information and without subsequent charges against them—these were innocent women who were trespassed against—you have to think about the civil liberties and human rights of the police officers involved. Again and again, officers were embedded within environmental groups for long periods of time. It was not like getting into a drug cartel or organised crime of some kind; this was a quite different kind of policing. The police officers have suffered quite deeply afterwards. It is very easy when you are embedded for three months or six months to get to like the people you are working with and to understand what their motivation is, and many officers have come out of this quite damaged and unable to work any further.

There is also an argument about the cost of the court cases in which some of these police officers were involved—they went to court and were charged as

20 Jan 2014 : Column 476

protestors and were either convicted or not convicted—because those cases are now being overturned. Two cases will be coming up in the next two weeks in London on this issue. It is costing us a fortune and justice is not being done. We need an independent way of judging and assessing whether or not this kind of action is necessary. It is time that the Metropolitan Police understood how important this is and I hope that the Government will approve the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, we had the opportunity to consider the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Relevant Sources) Order 2013, which the Minister sent round after the previous debate and is now in force, as I understand it. Any of us could have prayed against it.

We need to understand as a House that we are not at the point in the development of this—“work” seems to be the wrong term—matter that one might think from looking at the amendment. That is not to say that I do not have sympathy with the amendment. One of the times when I was most shocked at work since becoming a Member of your Lordships’ House was on hearing recordings of the testimonies of women, and their families, who have been affected by activities under CHISRS. I remember the family of one woman saying, “We treated this man as our prospective son-in-law; we welcomed him into our family”. It was very moving.

That causes me to say that what matters more than anything—although I do not know how you deal with it other than by putting formal technical oversight in place—is a change in practice and culture. The police need to take that matter on board but you cannot write that into legislation in that way.

The 12-month period for approval before review is required seems on the long side and I look forward to the Minister explaining it to the House. As I say, we should have questioned some time ago—I am as much at fault as anyone—why 12 months was chosen, rather than six months or even three months.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this has been a worthwhile debate, although we have discussed this matter before. As the noble Lords know, the statutory instrument has come into effect, so we are in a different regulatory regime from the one we were in when we discussed this in Committee. In no way do the Government endorse activities to which the attention of the House has been drawn in the speeches of noble Lords. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment. I agree that covert techniques are sometimes necessary to protect the public from harm or to prevent or detect crime. I think all noble Lords will accept that. These techniques need, however, to be closely supervised and constantly reassessed to ensure that they are justified.

Undercover deployments are authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. RIPA provides a strong set of safeguards. As I said in Committee, we have recently brought forward secondary legislation, further enhancing this oversight of undercover deployments by law enforcement agencies. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Covert Human Intelligence Sources: Relevant Sources) Order 2013 came into effect on 1 January 2014.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 477

I was a little concerned that, in our debate last time, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, might not have been aware of this order, so, following the debate in Committee, I wrote on 21 December 2013 to draw it to his attention and to that of the noble Baroness. As a negative instrument, there was the normal opportunity for the Opposition or any noble Lord to pray against the order, perhaps on the ground that its provisions fell short of what was needed. Unfortunately, however, it is a matter of record that no such step was taken. The order, which has now been in force for some three weeks, provides a number of additional safeguards to ensure that the technique is used only when it is just to do so. I will give some examples of what I mean.

First, law enforcement agencies must notify the Office of Surveillance Commissioners, all retired senior judges, of all undercover deployment by law enforcement officers. Secondly, an authorisation can be renewed beyond 12 months only with the prior approval of a surveillance commissioner, who, I remind your Lordships, is someone who has held senior judicial office. It may be that the original deployment is not authorised for 12 months. Thereafter, if it is to be renewed at 12 months, a surveillance commissioner will be required to pre-approve all renewals for long-term deployments every 12 months.

In addition, we have increased the rank of authorising officer. Deployments of undercover law enforcement officers now need to be authorised at assistant chief constable level or equivalent. Any deployments lasting longer than 12 months will be authorised by a chief constable or equivalent as well as by a surveillance commissioner. The seniority of those who are now required to authorise these deployments is an indication of how seriously the Government take proper oversight of undercover law enforcement activity. I hope I can reassure my noble friend Lady Hamwee that all authorisations are notified to the commissioners at the outset. They monitor the cases during their normal inspections. Each case is approved specifically after that 12-month interval. It reflects the existing legislation and implements the HMIC recommendation to increase oversight of long-term deployments. As I have said, deployments can be for shorter terms, but they still have to be notified to surveillance commissioners.

We believe that the new arrangements will create a regime that contains considerable safeguards while not hampering operational effectiveness. We should allow them to bed down and be given a chance to prove themselves. We will of course keep them under review. Given these recent changes, I do not believe that this amendment, well intentioned as it is, is required. I therefore invite the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

4.30 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon: Perhaps I should explain to the noble Baroness and the Minister why we did not pray against the order when it was laid. The order made changes that improved the position and it would have been rather churlish for us to say at that time, “We’re going to pray against this because it doesn’t go far enough”. The order has improved the position, but I have a serious issue with the 12-month period. I know that the Minister said that we should give the

20 Jan 2014 : Column 478

new regulations, which came into force on 1 January, the opportunity to bed down, but why not get it right first time? This legislation provides us with the opportunity to do so. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that it is about getting the balance right. A 12-month undercover operation is a long undercover operation. If there is no independent monitoring and approval before that 12-month period comes to end, a lot can happen. This amendment is about the integrity of the operation concerned and ensuring that nothing is going wrong. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, if the integrity of an operation is compromised, it can mean that a court case fails. We have seen that in other cases involving long-term covert operations. That is a very serious matter. Further, those who have been undercover have thought that activities were authorised when they had not been explicitly authorised. It goes back to authorisation by commission or omission—it seems to have been authorisation by omission in the cases of some undercover operators.

I take the point that the order represents an improvement, but the fact that 12 months can elapse before any further oversight or independent monitoring take place represents a serious error. For that reason, I hope that the Minister will understand why I feel the need to test the will of the House on this issue.

4.33 pm

Division on Amendment 92A

Contents 165; Not-Contents 241.

Amendment 92A disagreed.

Division No.  2

CONTENTS

Adonis, L.

Allen of Kensington, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Armstrong of Hill Top, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L. [Teller]

Beecham, L.

Berkeley, L.

Bhattacharyya, L.

Blood, B.

Boothroyd, B.

Borrie, L.

Brennan, L.

Brookman, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Butler of Brockwell, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Carter of Coles, L.

Chandos, V.

Christopher, L.

Clancarty, E.

Clark of Windermere, L.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Cunningham of Felling, L.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Donaghy, B.

Drake, B.

Dubs, L.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Gavron, L.

Gibson of Market Rasen, B.

Giddens, L.

Glasman, L.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Grenfell, L.

Grey-Thompson, B.

Griffiths of Burry Port, L.

Grocott, L.

Hanworth, V.

Hardie, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollins, B.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 479

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Jay of Paddington, B.

Joffe, L.

Jones of Moulsecoomb, B.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jordan, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kennedy of The Shaws, B.

Kidron, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kinnock, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Levy, L.

Liddell of Coatdyke, B.

Lipsey, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Low of Dalston, L.

Lytton, E.

McAvoy, L.

McConnell of Glenscorrodale, L.

McDonagh, B.

Macdonald of Tradeston, L.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Mallalieu, B.

Martin of Springburn, L.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

Mendelsohn, L.

Mitchell, L.

Monks, L.

Moonie, L.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan, L.

Morris of Aberavon, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Morris of Yardley, B.

O'Loan, B.

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.

Ouseley, L.

Pannick, L.

Patel, L.

Paul, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Plant of Highfield, L.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prescott, L.

Quin, B.

Radice, L.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Rendell of Babergh, B.

Richard, L.

Ripon and Leeds, Bp.

Rooker, L.

Rosser, L.

Rowlands, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

Sawyer, L.

Scotland of Asthal, B.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Smith of Finsbury, L.

Snape, L.

Soley, L.

Stern, B.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stoddart of Swindon, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taylor of Blackburn, L.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Temple-Morris, L.

Thornton, B.

Tomlinson, L.

Tunnicliffe, L. [Teller]

Turnberg, L.

Uddin, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Walpole, L.

Warner, L.

Warwick of Undercliffe, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

West of Spithead, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Whitty, L.

Wigley, L.

Wilkins, B.

Wills, L.

Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Worthington, B.

NOT CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.

Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]

Arran, E.

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Avebury, L.

Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, B.

Balfe, L.

Barker, B.

Bates, L.

Bell, L.

Benjamin, B.

Berridge, B.

Best, L.

Bichard, L.

Bilimoria, L.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Borwick, L.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Bowness, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bradshaw, L.

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Browning, B.

Buscombe, B.

Byford, B.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Carrington, L.

Cathcart, E.

Cavendish of Furness, L.

Chadlington, L.

Chester, Bp.

Chidgey, L.

Clement-Jones, L.

Colwyn, L.

Condon, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Cormack, L.

20 Jan 2014 : Column 480

Cotter, L.

Courtown, E.

Crickhowell, L.

Crisp, L.

Cumberlege, B.

De Mauley, L.

Dear, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dholakia, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Doocey, B.

Dundee, E.

Dykes, L.

Eames, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eden of Winton, L.

Elton, L.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Faulks, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fellowes, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Fowler, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Garel-Jones, L.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Goodlad, L.

Greengross, B.

Greenway, L.

Grender, B.

Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Harris of Peckham, L.

Henley, L.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Higgins, L.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

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Hope of Craighead, L.

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Hussein-Ece, B.

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James of Blackheath, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

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Jolly, B.

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4.45 pm

Clause 128: Appointment of chief officers of police

Amendment 92B

Moved by Lord Blair of Boughton

92B: Clause 128, page 99, line 27, at end insert “subject to the successful completion of developed (or equivalent) security vetting”

Lord Blair of Boughton: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 92B but I will also address a different and very important matter which has arisen in recent correspondence with the Minister about this amendment. I have given notice to the Minister that I believe the matter may need to be discussed on Third Reading, which is why I am raising it now.

I turn first to the amendment. Noble Lords may recall that a longer amendment to this clause, then Clause 126, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, and myself, was discussed on 4 December last year. The noble Lord, Lord Condon, and I now return to the same issue in a much more restricted but still very significant way. The issue needs a certain amount of explanation and, as it is concerned with national security, it is not trivial. It is concerned to ensure that no one can be appointed to the post of Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis without being subjected to developed or equivalent security vetting. Its context is the whole of Clause 128, which, like its predecessor, deals with a complete innovation for British policing—the appointment of suitably qualified police chiefs from abroad to senior posts in policing in England and Wales.

I repeat what I said on the last occasion, that neither the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who will speak later, nor I have any objections in principle to the appointment of senior officers from abroad, notably those from Commonwealth countries, to UK police positions. To object would be hypocritical in that senior UK officers have reasonably often and recently commanded police forces in Commonwealth countries including Australia. However, we are concerned about the Met Commissioner.

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Our original amendment arose because, however well meant, the measure appeared to raise a serious concern when it was applied to three very senior Metropolitan Police posts, namely those of the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the assistant commissioner specialist operations, who are all deeply embedded in the national security structure of the United Kingdom. We therefore sought an explanation from the Minister of how this could occur when these postholders need to be security cleared to a very high level, known as developed vetting, a process difficult to achieve when it involves a foreign national.

I think that the Minister will recall that an interesting and at times somewhat unusual debate followed. The principal development was that in winding up he produced one surprise and one promise. The surprise was that the then Clause 126 referred only to the commissioner and to provincial chief constables but not to other metropolitan ranks, however senior. The promise was about vetting, the subject of today’s amendment. The Minister said:

“I reassure noble Lords that, whatever nationality restrictions are imposed, no appointment would be made by this or any future Home Secretary that would put national security at risk. We would always expect the successful candidate to undergo the appropriate vetting procedures. If an applicant cannot be vetted, they will not be appointed”.—[Official Report, 4/12/14; col. 328.]

The Minister agreed to write to me so I did not press the amendment but reserved the right to return to the matter at Report; and he did indeed write to me on 23 December, copying the letter to a number of other interested Members of your Lordships’ House. The letter absolutely confirmed what he had said in the debate about vetting in these terms:

“Turning to the substance of your concerns, as I indicated in the debate, there is no legal requirement for the Commissioner of the MPS or the chief constables of police forces outside London to be British citizens. However, we would always expect successful candidates to undergo the appropriate vetting procedures. There is no provision in legislation to say when this should be subject to developed vetting. A decision is made … on the type of information an individual will have access to. We would expect the Commissioner and chief constables to undergo developed vetting”.

As that is fairly clear, and given that the Minister indicated both on the Floor of the House and in correspondence that a successful conclusion to the developed vetting process would be required for such an appointment to the post of commissioner, I might be forgiven for hoping that the Minister would accept this amendment today. But no—he wrote to me last Friday to say that he would not. He will speak for himself, but he seems to have given three reasons. First, it would be inappropriate to have developed vetting on the face of the Bill in case the scheme should be renamed or its criteria changed. Secondly, he does not think it appropriate to single out the commissioner’s post alone for such a measure. Thirdly, he does not believe that primary legislation is where a level of vetting should be set out. I hope he will think that that is a fair summary of his position.

I believe that the Minister’s first objection is already covered by the amendment’s being drawn slightly wider to refer to “developed (or equivalent) … vetting”, to take into account a future change in nomenclature or, as I will come to shortly, a reliance on foreign vetting by certain friendly powers.

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On the Minister’s second and third objections, this clause as a whole represents an entirely new departure for UK policing. In itself that is fine, but within this legislation sits one position of a different order to the rest, and the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and I believe that that needs to be recognised in the Bill. The commissioner’s responsibilities are of a completely different category to those of other chief constables. He or she sits close to the very heart of the UK’s national security apparatus. Appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, he or she is in overall charge of all national counterterrorism police activity. He or she sits in the Cabinet Office briefing room during national emergencies and has direct personal responsibility for the protection of the Queen, the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, other senior Ministers and some ambassadors to the UK.

When I first raised this matter with the Minister he remarked that no one had previously exposed concern about security issues—which, put another way round, means that the Home Office had not considered the difference between the duties of this postholder and those of other chief constables. I believe that not only consideration but action is necessary. If legislation allowing this post to be held by a foreign national is to be passed then surely the law should require—and it should be firmly in the Bill—that such an appointment should be subject to the very vetting which the Minister says it will.

I turn more briefly to my second point, which refers to something that may have to be addressed at Third Reading. The noble Lord’s same letter of 23 December contained another surprise, albeit one to which he had referred briefly but had not been able to confirm during the previous debate. The letter stated that there is,

“currently no requirement for candidates for appointment as Deputy or Assistant Commissioner to have served as a constable in the UK, so the changes made by clause 126 are not relevant so far as those posts are concerned”.

That was very surprising indeed to the four Members of your Lordships’ House who have been Metropolitan Police Commissioners and who were present at the debate on 4 December, and it is very surprising now. The deputy commissioner, also appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, is—as the phrase has it—a heartbeat away from being the commissioner, and has the same powers and responsibilities in the absence of the commissioner. But it gets worse. I have spoken to the current commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and it appears that this situation now pertains to all of the 35 or 40 chief officers of the Metropolitan Police, of commander and deputy assistant commissioner rank as well as those more senior. None of them has to have any previous police experience. Both Sir Bernard and the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, regard this situation as totally untenable, as do I.

Senior police positions are not that different from any other significant professional position. If you, like me, would prefer the pilot of your aircraft or the brain surgeon to whom you have been referred to have some relevant experience, then perhaps you will understand why I have written to the Minister to ask him to do three things—to arrange for his officials to discover

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whether this position exists in law, not only in the Metropolitan Police but also to assistant and deputy chief constables outside London; to consult the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London; and to bring to the House a suitable new clause to rectify this anomaly at Third Reading. I have taken the liberty of suggesting to him a form of wording for a short new clause to address this.

It is not clear when the requirement to have served as a police officer beforehand ceased to be necessary for an appointment as a chief officer, but it has never been so important before. The replacement of police authorities by police and crime commissioners outside London and by the mayor’s office for policing in the capital has placed enormous patronage in the hands of individual politicians and the commanding officer, whom they appoint and can dismiss. I hope that the Minister will agree to the proposal to rectify this at Third Reading when he replies.

Returning now to the amendment, I should point out that this whole proposal is widely regarded within the police service as having been concerned with the desire in some quarters to appoint the widely respected former commissioner of the New York Police Department, Bill Bratton, as the Met Commissioner. Wherever that desire may have come from, it has been frustrated as he has just been reappointed to the NYPD and is no longer available. However, Bill Bratton, as I will make clear, is still relevant.

I said earlier that I would mention foreign vetting. In closing, perhaps I may offer one further piece of advice to the Minister. In his letter to me of 23 December he suggested that foreign vetting might be an alternative to developed vetting. He said:

“There is no bar to foreign citizens undergoing developed vetting, nor is there a requirement to have a British parent, but a 10 year residency is usually required.

The UK Government has a reciprocal agreement with Governments of some EU and NATO countries whereby we would recognise their vetting as being an equivalent to ours. Decisions will need to be made on a case by case basis”.

I am not so sure. If “case by case” includes Bill Bratton, I would advise the Minister not to rely on his example. After he was forced to resign from the NYPD in the 1990s, he was appointed chief of the Los Angeles police department. Shortly after his arrival, Bill Bratton appointed a Mr John Miller as his chief officer in charge of counterterrorism. To say the least, this was an unusual appointment—although only the kind of one that, unless we change things right across the command ranks of the Met, might happen here—in that John Miller’s previous role had been as head of press and public relations for the NYPD. Before that he had been a senior journalist with ABC News and was very well known for being the last American journalist to interview Osama bin Laden in 1998. In his new post in Los Angeles, it was necessary for Mr Miller to be vetted by the US authorities. When I visited John in his office in Los Angeles there was a prominent photograph on his wall of him with Osama bin Laden, taken during that interview. John told me that the photograph had been there when he had been visited by the FBI vetting officers to consider his suitability for such an important counterterrorism post. They had not asked about the photograph. His

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appointment was, however, approved. The moral of this story is that it may not be wise to rely on foreign vetting as an alternative to this amendment.

I hope the Minister will recognise that the amendment is designed to enshrine in law exactly what he has said on the Floor of this House and in correspondence. I hope he sees how important the issue is and that he will now accept the amendment. I beg to move.


5 pm

Lord Marlesford (Con): The noble Lord made an important point about it never having been the practice that somebody could be commissioner or hold a similar post without having been a police constable. Presumably when Lord Trenchard, formerly Marshal of the Royal Air Force, was appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, he had not had previous police experience.

Lord Blair of Boughton: The noble Lord makes a good point. It was only in the 1970s that the first commissioner who had been a police officer was appointed. Perhaps I should have said that in the past 45 years there has not been one. I certainly accept that the great and the good took those positions in earlier periods.

Lord Condon: My Lords, I added my name to the amendment broadly for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Blair set out. This issue is beginning to feel unnecessarily adversarial, and I do not think it needs to be. I hope that we will move rapidly to agreement. I certainly have no wish to block the appointment of an appropriate man or woman with experience in a foreign police force to the post of commissioner.

My point throughout has been only to draw to attention to the fact that, having been a chief constable and the commissioner, I know that in relation to national security and to the protection of Her Majesty, the line of succession and senior politicians, the posts are of a totally different magnitude. The commissioner holds a unique position at the centre of national security issues and in the protection of the monarch. My desire throughout has been simply to draw attention to that distinction and to ensure that if an overseas officer or someone with overseas police experience is appointed to the commissioner’s post in future, we will have taken due cognisance of the difference, the importance and the significance of the security roles et cetera.

I am sure that the Minister and his ministerial colleagues are well aware of the issue now and are seeking to find a form of words that will bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. I hope that it will not be necessary to go to a Division on this issue. If it were, I would probably feel the need to support my noble friend Lord Blair, but I hope that the Minister will say enough to reassure me.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, the Minister may recall that on a previous occasion, when this matter came up in relation to Clause 126, I spoke very briefly in support of the amendment that was then being proposed. The reason I spoke was because two

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Members of this House, who are not present this evening, made speeches which—to put it as gently as I can—cast doubt on the confidence one should have in the police. I got to my feet not because I agreed with them but because it seemed to me that there was an underlying issue that ought to be mentioned. It is public confidence. It may well be that, because of the very high profile of the posts we are talking about, particularly the post of commissioner, public confidence will be of the greatest importance. For that reason, which I hope the Minister will recall was discussed last time, I will make the same point again, this time in relation to this much more focused and, I hope, more helpful amendment.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister did not think I would pass up this opportunity. This is an interesting amendment. I was quite surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Blair, say that the Minister was going to resist the amendment, because when I read it, especially after our previous debate, I assumed, possibly wrongly, that it reflected what the Minister had said in previous debates and therefore set out the position for clarity in the Bill. Clearly, nobody in your Lordships’ House has criticised in any way the possibility of a police officer from overseas, suitably qualified, becoming a chief constable or the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. That is not at issue.

What is at issue is that they should be subject to the same conditions and rules as any member of the UK police force. I am surprised if the Minister does not think that there should be an explanation or guarantee of some form of appropriate security vetting, in the same place as the Bill says that a police officer from an approved overseas police force can be appointed. The change is being made in the Bill; I would have thought, therefore, that any qualification to that change should also be made in the Bill.

I entirely agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give some reassurance on this, and will take it away and come back at Third Reading with something that is appropriate and addresses the concerns that have been expressed. I do not think that it is unreasonable. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, made a very strong point about public confidence. It serves public confidence well to understand that if a police officer comes from overseas, particularly in the role of commissioner, which is a counterterrorism role unlike any other chief constable role in the entire country, they will be subject to the same kind and level of vetting as any police officer taking the job from within the UK.

I hope that there has been some misunderstanding or error in the report that the Minister intends to resist the amendment. He has his piece of paper there; I hope it does not say that. I hope he will want to think again and come back. I think that he will have got a sense from your Lordships’ House that there is widespread support for what seems to be a very moderate clarification, and I hope that he can accept it.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this has been a useful debate. I see this as an area of principle. I somewhat regret that the noble Lord, Lord Blair,

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addressed the issue ad hominem; I think that that was a little unnecessary. The Government take this matter seriously—and take his amendment seriously, too. As I said when responding to similar concerns in Committee, I agree that it is essential that those who are appointed as police officers undergo vetting appropriate to the role they are undertaking. I reinforce that view today. I am grateful to the noble Lord for reflecting on that debate and, in constructing his new amendment, taking the arguments I presented into consideration.

However, while vetting is vital, I do not believe that primary legislation is the place to set out the level of vetting. It is not the place where the level of vetting should be determined. Nor do I see the case for singling out just one chief officer post—namely that of Metropolitan Police Commissioner. As I said in Committee, no Home Secretary—also an appointee of Her Majesty—would make an appointment to the post of Metropolitan Police Commissioner that would put national security at risk. Furthermore, naming,

“developed (or equivalent) security vetting”,

as the requisite standard in primary legislation could be a hostage to fortune. Were the name or criteria for this type of vetting to change, this requirement could become outdated.

However, I have listened very carefully to the arguments that the noble Lord put forward, and there may be some merit in setting out vetting requirements in regulations. It is right for the College of Policing, as the body that sets the standards for policing, to take the lead role in considering whether to propose such regulations. As noble Lords will recall, Clause 111 makes statutory provision for its formal role in the preparation or approval of regulations. I will undertake to draw this matter to the attention of the college.

The noble Lord also highlighted the possibility that in a few years’ time we could find that all the chief officer equivalent posts in the Metropolitan Police, and indeed in other forces, could be filled by persons who have previously never served as a police officer in the UK. I have to say that such a possibility is, at best, theoretical, and I think that the noble Lord would admit that. Under the existing law, it could already be the case that every officer from commander through to deputy commissioner could be a person with no previous policing experience in the UK. That was not the case when the noble Lord, Lord Blair, was commissioner and, in practice, I see no possibility whatever of that happening in future.

We simply do not need legislation to preclude such a possibility. It has never been a legal requirement for the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or for deputy or assistant chief constables in other forces in England and Wales to have been a constable in the UK or a British national. As I indicated, these are not really matters for primary legislation; they are matters that the College of Policing may wish to advise on as matters for regulations—or they are matters that can be stipulated when a particular appointment is advertised. We remain of the view that an amendment to the Police Act 1996 is not required and, accordingly, I cannot undertake to bring forward a Third Reading amendment.

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It will be for the Home Secretary to make decisions on the eligibility of applicants for appointment as Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and for the commissioner and chief constables in every other force to decide in relation to other senior posts. It is right that the Home Secretary and police chiefs should be trusted to decide who is best qualified and most appropriate to fill those roles. I cannot undertake to bring forward a Third Reading amendment on this issue, as I said.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Blair, will accept that the issues he has raised are not new. They would have arisen whether or not Clause 128 was in this Bill. He is right to raise these matters, but questions about the appropriate vetting of senior officers and about the relevant previous experience of such officers on appointment should not be a matter for primary legislation. However, I will draw this debate to the attention of the College of Policing. It may be that the college will come forward with regulations in future. Accordingly, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Blair of Boughton: My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken in this debate. I hope that the Minister did not think that I was being ad hominem about him as I certainly was not. In the circumstances of the Minister deciding to bring this to the attention of the College of Policing and asking it to consider what level of vetting should be required for the post of commissioner—if that is what he is saying—I shall, in a moment, ask leave to withdraw the amendment. However, I suggest to the Minister that the idea that a person could be appointed to a senior police position who has never previously been a police officer is pretty difficult to contemplate. I was never suggesting that all 35 would be like that as I cannot imagine anybody doing that. However, just the possibility that somebody who has never previously been a police officer could be appointed deputy chief constable seems to be a pretty odd state of affairs. Perhaps the Minister and I could talk about that outside the Chamber just to see whether that is not also something about which we could ask him specifically to ask the College of Policing. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 92B withdrawn.

5.15 pm

Amendment 93

Moved by Lord Marlesford

93: After Clause 131, insert the following new Clause—

“Littering from vehicles

Civil penalty for littering from vehicles

(1) A littering contravention in relation to a vehicle occurs when a person inside the vehicle acts in contravention of section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (offence of leaving litter).

(2) A civil enforcement officer may impose a civil penalty if a littering contravention under subsection (1) has taken place.

(3) The registered keeper of the vehicle shall for the purposes of section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 be treated as knowingly causing the littering contravention whether or not he gave any instruction for this to be done and shall be the recipient for a civil penalty under subsection (2).

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(4) A civil penalty is not payable under this section by the owner of a vehicle if that vehicle is—

(a) a public service vehicle, within the meaning of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981;

(b) a hackney carriage licensed under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 or the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869;

(c) a vehicle licensed under section 48 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (licensing of private hire vehicles);

and the person acting in contravention under this section is a passenger in that vehicle.

(5) The amount of a civil penalty under subsection (2) is to be specified in regulations.

(6) The procedure for imposing a civil penalty on a person and for recovery of costs is to be set out in regulations.

(7) The regulations must, in particular, require the responsible authority to give the person written notice specifying—

(a) the amount of the penalty,

(b) the reasons for imposing it, and

(c) the date by which and manner in which it is to be paid.

(8) Regulations may—

(a) give a person on whom a civil penalty is imposed a right to appeal against the decision to an adjudicator;

(b) specify the grounds on which a person may request an appeal;

(c) specify the time within which a person must request an appeal;

(d) make provision for and in connection with the appointment of adjudicators;

(e) make further provision about appeals (including provision as to the powers available on an appeal).

(9) The registered keeper of the vehicle for the purposes of this section shall be taken to be the person in whose name the vehicle was registered under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 at the time of the contravention.

(10) A civil enforcement officer under this section must be—

(a) an individual employed by the responsible authority, or

(b) where the authority has made arrangements with any person for the purposes of this section, an individual employed by that person to act as a civil enforcement officer.

(11) A vehicle for the purposes of this section is a motor vehicle as defined in section 185(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.”

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, I am bringing back as Amendment 93 on littering from vehicles an amendment that we discussed in Committee. I remind your Lordships of the need for the amendment, which was discussed very fully in Committee. It is a sad fact that Britain is a particularly dirty country in terms of litter. Not only do we compare very unfavourably with most of our peer group in Europe, we sadly compare unfavourably with a number of other countries that are much less privileged than us but make much more effort to see that there is not litter. The contribution to litter by people throwing litter out of vehicles is a serious and significant part of the problem of littering.

The purpose of my amendment is to close a loophole. Although littering from vehicles is a criminal offence, nothing can be done under the present law unless it is possible to identify exactly who threw the litter out of the vehicle. I am trying to supplement that arrangement—not replace it—by saying that if litter is thrown from a vehicle, then the keeper of that vehicle should be subject to a civil penalty on rather the same

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basis as a keeper of an unwisely parked vehicle is subject to a fine of £80 or so and it is up to them whether they recover it from the person who was driving the vehicle. It is a civil offence intended as a deterrent.

This argument has been put forward for a very long while by CPRE—perhaps I should declare an interest as having once been the national chairman of CPRE for five years—and the Keep Britain Tidy group. They are both very keen on it. I introduced a Private Member’s Bill earlier this year for the same purpose. Both that Bill and my amendment in Committee received widespread support—virtually universal support—in the House from the Back Benches and from the noble Baroness on the Labour Front Bench, whom I would particularly like to thank. It is not a party-political matter in any sense. It is purely a matter of being able to do something that will actually resolve the situation.

Obviously, the amendment has been around a long time, but I know that there have been differing views inside Whitehall as to whether it should happen. There tends to be an inclination by civil servants in one department to take up a position and be reluctant, perhaps, to change their position. This sometimes causes a problem, with Ministers having either to overrule them or to accept their advice. Life is busy and there is often an inclination to have a quiet life. I am afraid that this is too important for Ministers to have a quiet life over it.

I have had very constructive and helpful discussions with the Minister on several occasions since Committee. I had a final and very useful discussion on Thursday last week, at which he advised me that the Government accepted the principle of what I wanted to do, but rather than accept the amendment as such—and I quite understand this, because it is late in the day to accept the amendment or amend the amendment—they wanted to do it by taking powers to make an order to achieve the objective. The Minister has indicated to me that he will be doing that at Third Reading. He will be introducing to the Bill powers to make an order that will enable the issuing of a civil penalty for littering from vehicles where it is not possible for there to be a prosecution.

I do not disagree at all that in general littering should be a criminal offence. There are some very serious examples of littering—for example, fly-tipping and things such as that. Therefore, I am not in any sense divided from the Government by this. All that did divide us, but I think no longer does, is that there should be a supplementary provision for civil penalties, which will provide a deterrent for people who at the moment feel that they can perfectly happily and safely chuck stuff out of vehicles without anybody being able to do anything about it.

I am very aware that having a power to make an order is not of itself enough. What is needed is to make the order. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that the Government will be on the lookout to ensure that there is no “Yes Minister” scenario to delay matters. I experienced this once before on an amendment that I put forward to introduce an electronic firearms register. It took a very long time but it went through and worked extremely well, I am glad to say.

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There are other examples. I remember being involved in the Private Member’s Bill on the Parliament Square issue. Again, an awful lot of arguments were put forward as to why it could not and should not be done, but I think that your Lordships realise how much better Parliament Square is now than it was before without in any way having reduced the facilities for lobbying, which we all support. However, that is a quite different matter. I hope that my noble friend will ensure that the order is in place at the very latest by May 2015, a date of some relevance on the political calendar.

Finally, I was lucky enough at one time to have as a political master someone from whom I learnt an enormous amount—Ernest Marples. He was a brilliant Minister but he always had a great adage: “It is not what you say that matters; it is what you do”. With that, I beg to move.

Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury (Con): My Lords, I support the motive behind the amendment of my noble friend Lord Marlesford. I think that everyone agrees that litter is a scourge and that it is getting worse. Were it not for the street cleaners, who are the unsung heroes of our local communities, we would realise how terrible is the amount of litter that is thrown and discarded. It is partly a matter of disfiguring the environment but it also poses a potential serous danger to other drivers on roads. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give a very sympathetic response to my noble friend’s amendment.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, having fought some of the battle with my noble friend and neighbour on this matter, I just wish to commend to your Lordships the constant pressure that my noble friend has brought to bear on this simple issue.

I draw just one thing to the attention of the Minister, who I understand is going to be extremely helpful: this is a symbol of trying to do the things that everybody wants done. The most frustrating thing in life is that there are many things which everybody wants done but which the Government always find impossible to do. I am afraid that the phrase “Better not, Minister” is one of the most dangerous that civil servants tend to use. Often, one should say, “Better to do things, Minister”. It is better to try and better to see whether we can solve this problem rather than have constant debates of this kind.

Therefore, if, as it appears, the Minister is going to be accommodating, I am sure that he will be accommodating quickly. That will show my noble friend Lord Marlesford that his pressure for sensible, moderate and reasonable changes in the law has again been successful, and I hope that your Lordships’ House will congratulate him on it.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, as one who spoke at the Second Reading of my noble friend’s admirable Bill, I want to say how much we appreciate his persistence in good causes. He did a very splendid job for five years as chairman of the CPRE and when he gave up that particular job he did not give up the interests that went with it: keeping a cleaner, tidier and more beautiful Britain. Having been a constituency MP, I know that

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when people indiscriminately chuck things out of the windows of their cars, some of the loveliest reaches of the countryside can be truly defaced.

My noble friend had a brief word with me before this debate and I am delighted to hear that the Minister has been—not at all surprisingly—both engaged and helpful in this cause. I hope that at the end of this debate we will have the confirmation in Hansard of that helpfulness and can go forward, make those people who despoil our country guilty of what they do and ensure that they are suitably reprimanded.

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, I spoke on the last occasion that my noble friend brought this matter forward and I am delighted at the outcome. I add only one thing. I do not often put down Parliamentary Questions these days, but if I do not see an order appearing, I will put down Parliamentary Questions and will do so, if necessary, with increasing frequency as that memorable date in May 2015 approaches.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I rise briefly, having supported the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, when he raised this issue in Committee and at Second Reading. He is wise not to rely on the Private Member’s Bill route at present, since we have a number of Fridays when we are discussing just one Bill, which crowds out every other Bill that noble Lords wish to bring forward. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Deben, about “Better not, Minister”, or “Better, Minister”. I think that the phrase in the “Yes Minister” series—which I heard myself as a Minister—was, “That’s very courageous, Minister”, which, from civil servants, is not praise. I hope that the Minister has not had to be too courageous in accepting the principle behind this amendment.

I want to raise a couple of thoughts, because this is a big issue. The cost to councils is enormous. I come from a generation that came home from school or from shopping with our hands stuffed full of any litter we had had during the day. Sadly, that is not always the case now. Sometimes the methods used are not entirely appropriate, although the problem has to be dealt with.

I have one concern. As I understand it, the Minister will bring forward an order-making power at Third Reading, but I take the comments from noble Lords opposite that we need assurance that the order will not be delayed and will be fairly swift. We all know how long orders can take. Given that they are unamendable—though they have to be consulted on—it should not take too long. If the Minister can give assurances or any guidelines on the timescale in which he expects to bring the order forward, that would be helpful. Otherwise, I am delighted with the news that the Minister accepts the principle of this amendment.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I have sat listening to noble Lords’ expectations thinking, “No pressure, then”, so I hope that I do not disappoint noble Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing forward his amendment. All noble Lords share his concern about littering; indeed, as all who have spoken in this debate have said, it is anti-social, causes a nuisance, is an eyesore for the communities in

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which we live and can cause harm to the environment and, potentially, other road users. It is unacceptable behaviour and should be treated as such.

My noble friend describes his amendment as a simple measure to “fix” a problem. I have not heard the words quoted by my noble friend Lord Deben—“Better not, Minister”—in all my time, albeit brief, in ministerial office, although he of course had a longer time in office and perhaps had to deal with slightly more weighty matters than I have. When my colleagues who work with me on this Bill talk to me, they demand not “courage” or sensitivity to other considerations that they do not believe to be justified; I find them remarkably supportive and they have been very supportive on this measure.

5.30 pm

However, I think that my noble friend Lord Marlesford will accept that the problem is quite difficult to fix in legislative terms. The House will know that similar powers are being enacted through local legislation in London. This amendment would extend the application of the law to registered keepers of vehicles countrywide.

If my noble friend’s amendment were to proceed, it would be necessary to consider whether it would be a matter that is reserved to Westminster or one that is devolved. For example, the subject matter of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and other road traffic matters are reserved under the Scotland Act 1998, but responsibility for matters relating to the environment is generally devolved to all three of the UK’s devolved Administrations. We can already see some of the complexities that arise.

Our colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should therefore have the opportunity to consider whether or how a civil penalties regime should apply to them, and how to deal with cross-border issues if they decide to take a different approach to that in England. Given that there is now insufficient time to secure any necessary legislative consent motion, my instinct is that any provision at this stage ought to be confined to England only.