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House of Lords

Tuesday, 2 June 2015.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Introduction: Lord Bridges of Headley

2.39 pm

James George Robert Bridges MBE, having been created Baron Bridges of Headley, of Headley Heath in the County of Surrey, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Strathclyde and Baroness Hogg, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Lord Prior of Brampton

2.44 pm

The Honourable David Gifford Leathes Prior, having been created Baron Prior of Brampton, of Swannington in the County of Norfolk, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Hamilton of Epsom and Lord Kakkar, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Oaths and Affirmations

2.48 pm

Several noble Lords took the oath or made the solemn affirmation, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Death of a Member: Lord Griffiths


2.51 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D’Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, on 30 May. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble and learned Lord’s family and friends.

Airports: London


2.52 pm

Asked by Lord Spicer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Sir Howard Davies’ recommendations for London’s airports should be accepted, what assessment they have made of proposals to develop an airport in the Thames estuary already discounted by Sir Howard’s commission.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated at the CBI annual dinner on 20 May, when the Government receive the Airports Commission’s final report, we will take the decision to address the country’s aviation capacity requirements. We will consider the commission’s full body of work, including its conclusions on the Thames estuary, and decide how and at what pace to respond to any recommendation that the commission may make.

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, the Government could have said that they have no plans to build what would be one of the largest airports in the world, and stick it in the middle of one of the best and most famous rivers in the world. They could have said whether that is their position but they have not done so, and therefore I have to ask the Minister: why?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: It was the previous Government who set up the Airports Commission to explore all options and it is right that we wait until it has produced its report. I say to my noble friend that perhaps he will not have to wait much longer.

Lord Clinton-Davis (Lab): If British aviation is to thrive, does the Minister not agree that an early decision about the siting of our airports is absolutely essential? He has not said anything about when the Government will make up their mind. It is all very well to wait for a report, but does he not have some indication already about the suitability of Gatwick or Heathrow? I personally support Heathrow but it is vital that we do something about that, and do it quickly.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Government recognise the challenge of capacity and the need to make a decision, but it is also right that if you set up a commission, you wait for its result—its independent decision—and act accordingly. As I said in my opening remarks, and as my right honourable friend the Chancellor has said, as soon as the report has been received the Government will seek to make their decision on the recommendations that they receive.

Lord Hylton (CB): What consideration, if any, is being given to the development of Filton aerodrome in Bristol as an international airport, given that it was large enough to take Concorde jets and that it has excellent communication by rail to London?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The noble Lord raises important points. Our regional airports and our regional aviation capacity are an important part of the overall offering of UK plc. Certainly we are working across the country to ensure that all airports reach their true potential and that the UK is, as it rightly should be, a place where people come to do business for the right reasons. We shall be looking at all our airport capacity across the country. I will certainly take back to the department the mention he made of Bristol.

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Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords, are the Government not aware that a decision is being taken currently and has been taking place for some time? The traffic is going to Schiphol and Frankfurt, so we had better get a move on or it will all have gone there and we shall have only a local, European airport at London.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: When my noble friend says that we should get a move on, I always seek to act accordingly. As I said previously, the report is due shortly. However, I would just say to my noble friend that the UK remains, after the US and China, the third-largest area in terms of aviation, which is something we seek to protect and develop. Indeed, London currently provides connections to 360 destinations weekly across the world, which is unrivalled across Europe.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, the block on getting a move on was clearly the general election. The noble Lord may have noticed that that is now over, so we can expect an early decision on this issue. Will the Minister confirm that it is government policy that the only runway that will be approved and developed in this Parliament will be that recommended by the Davies commission, whose report we all await, and that there are no circumstances in which the Government would approve expansion in any area which Davies does not recommend?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As I have said already, we will await the report of the commission. I am mindful of the fact that the noble Lord said that after the election, an incoming Labour Government would consider the report. I am delighted to say that, as the whole House and indeed the whole country recognises, it is an incoming and new Conservative Government who will be acting on the report.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): Could the Minister inform the House whether there have been discussions with the National Assembly for Wales over the development of Cardiff Airport, given that its runway is large enough to take jumbos and that the engine-servicing facility at Caerphilly has been there for some time?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As I have already said, regional airports are part and parcel of the offering, but on that specific issue I will write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Bradshaw (LD): Will the Minister tell us, when the commission reports and makes whatever recommendation it makes, what further legal steps are necessary before anybody can start work?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Once we have received the commission’s report, the Government will consider its recommendations and report accordingly. In terms of specific legal steps, that obviously depends on what option is pursued. That will be made clearer once the commission’s report has been published.

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Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): My Lords, would the noble Lord answer the question that was posed by my Front Bench?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: One part of the question was about the new Government, which is a Conservative one—and we will act in accordance with the commission’s report. It is somewhat incredible for noble Lords opposite to suggest that after the Government have commissioned an independent report, which is due imminently, we should not actually wait for its recommendations. We will not have to wait long.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, 99 years and two days ago, Admiral Jellicoe made a decision in less than a minute to deploy 28 battleships on the right flank, which stopped him losing a battle which could have lost the war for Britain. Six years does seem an incredibly long time, with all this information, to make a decision which seems fairly straightforward in reality.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I always find the noble Lord’s lessons in history extremely enlightening. As I said, we will wait for the report; once it is published, the Government will respond accordingly.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): Could the Minister try to answer the question? If the Davies commission recommends only one new runway, will that be the only runway that the Government consider or are there other runways that might go forward as well?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, patience is a virtue, and I would ask the noble Lord to be patient. The commission is going to report very shortly and he will have his answer then—and the Government’s support accordingly.

Humanist Marriages


3 pm

Asked by Baroness Thornton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to give legal recognition to humanist marriages in England and Wales, and if so, by what date.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): My Lords, the previous Government consulted on whether the law should be changed to allow non-religious belief organisations, including humanists, to conduct legal marriages. They concluded that there were broader implications for marriage law and asked the Law Commission whether it would conduct a review of the law on marriage ceremonies. The Law Commission is now undertaking a preliminary scoping study and is due to report by December. The Government will then consider the next steps.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): It is quite remarkable that the Government felt that humanist marriages were such a threat that they had to call in the Law Commission

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to do their work. I do not think that the Minister's explanation is really very convincing. Why should the review delay humanist marriages, given that legal recognition is a simple measure, as has been proved in Scotland? Would he care to write and explain to my children why they would have to go to Scotland if they wished to have a legally recognised humanist marriage ceremony?

Lord Faulks: As the noble Baroness and the House will be aware, there is nothing to prevent humanists getting married and then having a humanist ceremony.

Baroness Thornton: In two ceremonies!

Lord Faulks: The quarrel, as I understand it—if the noble Baroness will allow me to continue—is that it is felt that both those ceremonies should take place at the same time. There having been a consultation, there was no consensus across the key stakeholders. The consultation raises a number of significant issues of a broader nature; in particular, the National Panel for Registration was concerned about the risk of forced and sham marriages. That is also a concern, incidentally, in Scotland, where there is a different system, based on the celebrant rather than the registration buildings and where there is also concern and a consultation about that very issue.

Baroness Meacher (CB): During the 10 years of humanist marriages in Scotland, some 20,000 such marriages have taken place, which is more than the number of Catholic marriages and, by the end of the year, will number more than Church of Scotland marriages. Will the Minister agree to look into the popular demand for such marriages in England and Wales with a view to implementing the legislation that the previous Government passed, on the assumption of a recommendation to implement by the Law Commission?

Lord Faulks: I can assure the noble Baroness that the Law Commission will talk to officials in Scotland on the issue as part of its scoping work on marriage law reform in England and Wales. In Scotland, Ministers were concerned about the qualifying requirements for a celebrant; they are concerned about the reputation, dignity and solemnity of marriage as well as combating sham marriages and civil partnerships. Although, of course, it must be immensely frustrating for those who want a humanist marriage at the same time as the celebration, this is part of an overall consideration by the Government as to the way forward.

Baroness Warsi (Con): My Lords, the practice of polygamy is a growing issue in the United Kingdom. Will my noble friend confirm that an Islamic marriage in the United Kingdom is not legally recognised and say what the Government intend to do to move towards legal recognition? That would provide essential protection specifically for women on the breakdown of that marriage and would also, as a by-product, deal with the issue of bigamy.

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Lord Faulks: My noble friend is no doubt correct about the real worry of polygamy. Certainly, that is a matter of concern for the Government. We are looking, as I indicated generally, at what is necessary to have appropriate formalities as to marriage, and I shall convey my noble friend’s concern to the Government.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): Will the Minister say whether there are any practical barriers to the legalisation of humanist marriages? After all, at the other end of the spectrum people are perfectly free to have humanist funerals. I have been to quite a few very moving ceremonies. Surely couples who want a humanist celebration of their marriage should be allowed that freedom of choice.

Lord Faulks: There are limited legal requirements in relation to the registration of death, and anyone is free to mark the passing of an individual by whatever means they like, including in a humanist ceremony. For many hundreds of years marriage in England and Wales has been based on having taken place in a registered building, and there needs to be serious thought about the implications of changing the law.

Lord Hughes of Woodside (Lab): In his earlier reply, the Minister said that “key stakeholders”—plural—were being consulted. Since this refers to humanist marriages, who other than humanists are key stakeholders in this issue?

Lord Faulks: Certainly humanists are key stakeholders. They took a significant part in the consultation. More than 60% of responses were from humanists or individuals who responded as part of a perfectly appropriate campaign, and I can assure the noble Lord that they will be consulted.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, as a Christian who found the changes we made to the meaning of marriage in the previous Parliament somewhat difficult, I completely accept that the law has now been changed. I find it difficult to understand any logical objection to what the noble Baroness is calling for this afternoon. I hope that we can have an early decision on this and hope that my noble friend can reassure me.

Baroness Whitaker (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Faulks: I understand what my noble friend says about the approach to marriage which this House approved in the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Act. It was a significant achievement of the Government. I understand the sense of frustration that he may feel that the Government are not moving swiftly enough. I assure my noble friend that while due speed will be shown in looking at this, because of the wider implications, it is necessary to consider this matter thoroughly.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I apologise for my eagerness to ask the Minister my question, which may have seemed discourteous. Does he not recall that there was a substantial measure of support for the legal recognition

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of humanist marriage and does he not therefore think it would be just to allow it the same grace that is allowed to the Jewish and Quaker communities?

Lord Faulks: The exception for the Jewish and Quaker communities is based on the state of affairs in 1753. I agree that there are certain anomalies based on historical facts. There is no feeling on the part of the Government to discriminate against humanist marriages. It is simply a question of looking at the matter overall so that we can make our law consistent.

Industry: International Investment


3.08 pm

Asked by Lord Lea of Crondall

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the United Kingdom’s market share of international investment in the manufacturing and service industries under the European Union’s existing regulatory regime.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): My Lords, the UK has cemented its strong position for attracting foreign direct investment in Europe, being ranked by the OECD as the number one destination in 2014. The OECD’s estimates show that the UK received $72 billion of foreign direct investment flows.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): I thank the Minister for that reply. This illustrates that under the existing EU rules—and I could say the same about other matters under the existing rules—Germany and France have 25% higher productivity than we do. German exports are three times greater than ours. It is therefore not the so-called EU red tape that stops them doing that. That leads to two questions. First, is it not clear that our economic redemption in this country lies in our own hands even under, broadly, the existing EU rules, which we played a major part in writing?

Secondly, in order that the debate on the referendum on us staying in or getting out is evidence-based rather than just claim and counterclaim, not least on the impact of international investment, do Her Majesty’s Government agree that our electorate are entitled to hear objective assessments from a body such as the Office for Budget Responsibility rather than simply leaving them at the mercy of the objectivity of the Daily Mail?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, improving productivity is indeed one of the key economic challenges for this Parliament. By the Budget, we will have published our productivity plan. Evidence is always useful and important in public policy, but the EU needs to change and become more competitive and the Prime Minister is determined to deliver that through the referendum that we promised to the British people.

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Baroness Kramer (LD): My Lords, this House will be aware that many small and medium-sized British companies depend on being the supply chain to foreign-owned companies located in the UK because of our membership of the EU. Is the Minister able to give me an assessment of their contribution to our GDP and how much would be at risk if we were to leave the EU?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The noble Baroness makes a very important point about the supply chain. The truth is that there are not a lot of data on these sorts of things, but I will take away the point that she makes and perhaps talk to her further about it.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, would the Minister be very kind and answer the final part of the question from the noble Lord, Lord Lea, which was what intention the Government have of providing objective information to the electorate on a whole range of issues relating to the forthcoming referendum, of which this is an important one? What are they actually going to do about it, given that there is no legal base for providing that information in the referendum Bill?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: As noble Lords will have seen, the Prime Minister has already started to discuss his plans for reform and renegotiation with his EU colleagues and associated analysis. We expect to set out some further details at the European Council meeting at the end of June.

Lord Mendelsohn (Lab): Does the Minister agree with me that the UK’s long-term performance under successive Governments in attracting foreign direct investment has been vital? Given that the increase in FDI in the last five years has grown faster than the UK economy and GDP per head, does she agree that this recent performance raises questions about the potential contribution of foreign direct investment to UK economic performance? Could she explain why we appear to see very little impact on productivity from rising levels of foreign direct investment and what changes are required to the inward investment strategy?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The noble Lord is right to congratulate the country on the improvements in foreign direct investment. One should pay tribute to companies such as Nissan, Tata and a whole load of smaller companies for coming to the UK, taking advantage of our flexibilities and low tax rates to do so.

The issue of productivity is a bit of a dilemma, which is why my right honourable friend the Chancellor has said that he will publish a productivity plan to make Britain work better, building on the good start made in education and skills, deregulation and so on that we discussed in the previous Parliament.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that over the years neither the department of trade nor the “invest in Britain” agency has given membership of the European Union as one of the 14 reasons to invest in this country? The reasons

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given are more likely to be language, time zone, educated workforce et cetera. Is it not true that foreign investors and indeed clients know that if we left the EU our trade with it would continue, if only because we are its largest client?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I note with interest what the noble Lord says, and I agree that all the things he has listed are vital reasons as to why people want to invest in Britain. We have unique labour flexibility, it is easy to set up business here compared with other countries—as I know from having been a business person for 17 years—and we have a good, welcoming tax regime and very good education.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend not accept that it would be a good idea to provide objective information so that we can have a sensible debate in the forthcoming referendum? Should we not be conscious that the scaremongering tactics that were used in the Scottish referendum proved deeply counterproductive, and that those who wish to remain in the European Union would be wise not to spread the myth that Britain cannot survive alone, using its relationships with the Commonwealth and elsewhere to maintain our prosperity and employment?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, my noble friend makes many good points, some of which I agree with. I look forward to further debates on these issues in the coming weeks and months.

Lord Brookman (Lab): My Lords, not everything in the garden is as rosy as the Minister has pronounced. Tata Steel, which she mentioned earlier, is withdrawing pensions from its employees, which did not come in for blue-collar workers until 1973, so there will be a call for strike action for the first time in many years in that vital industry. Not everything is perfect at the moment.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I agree with the noble Lord that the car industry is vital, and I have been very much encouraged by how it has been changed and revived due to foreign investment but also to the brilliance and innovation of our country. There are always issues as industries change, and he rightly highlights one of them.



3.16 pm

Asked by Lord Moynihan

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent arrests of FIFA officials relating to charges of corruption.

The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government welcome the investigations that are now under way into the allegations of bribery and corruption. These revelations have shown how important it is for sports bodies to uphold the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability. International

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bodies should be no different, and that is particularly true for an organisation such as FIFA. The Government also fully back the FA’s position that change and reform are urgently needed at the top of FIFA, including its leadership.

Lord Moynihan (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend agree that resolving the crisis of governance in FIFA can best be achieved through its pockets, and where individuals are guilty of corruption, through prison? Will he ask his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to call in the FIFA sponsors which have significant business interests in the United Kingdom and to make absolutely clear to them the importance of adopting FTSE 100 governance standards when determining investments in FIFA? Does he agree that such action is preferable to resorting to boycotts of major sporting events, which will principally serve to damage home nation footballers and fans of the game, not least because some prominent European delegates voted in favour of Sepp Blatter’s re-election?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those questions. He mentioned first a factor relating to sponsors, and I will certainly raise it with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. As my noble friend will be aware, my right honourable friend has already spoken of the need for sponsors to consider the reputational risk of continued association with FIFA, as well as the strong message it will send FIFA if they withdraw. Although that is ultimately a decision for the sponsors, I am sure they will not be in any doubt about the Government’s view of FIFA under Blatter’s leadership. My noble friend also mentioned a boycott of the World Cup. We agree that withdrawal from FIFA competitions by the FA should not happen at the expense of the players and fans, particularly if such a boycott is unlikely to achieve the aims of bringing reform to FIFA.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I agree totally with the noble Lord’s stressing of the importance of sponsorship. Yesterday the Secretary of State said in the other place that no options should be ruled out at this stage. Why cannot the Government therefore agree with my honourable friend’s recommendation in the other place that there should be an urgent summit that would bring together the football authorities, the British sponsors and, more importantly, the broadcasters?

The Earl of Courtown: I thank the noble Lord for that question, which I think he asked yesterday, and I am afraid he is going to get a similar answer today. We do have this common position with all the parties involved that change is needed in FIFA, including at the very top. We will continue to work with sponsors, the home nation football associations and our counterparts in Europe. I must add that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State spoke to Mr Greg Dyke last week and yesterday, and he will do so again before Mr Dyke goes to Germany for the Champions League final next weekend, when there will be a congress before the match.

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Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is absolutely right to press for reform of FIFA? Does he recognise that one of FIFA’s successes is the development of soccer in Asia and Africa? Will he ensure that any reform does not lead to a retrenchment in that respect, because there is a sign in this country that football is becoming more a business than a sport?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite correct. The Government’s view is that reform of FIFA is urgently needed, as I said before, but it should not be, and it is not, at the expense of football development across the world. That would suggest that only Sepp Blatter can develop football, and not others; that is clearly not the case. I should also like to highlight the fantastic work that the FA and the Premiership are doing overseas to develop the game at grass-roots level.

Baroness Doocey (LD): My Lords—

Viscount Ridley (Con): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, we have not yet heard from the Liberal Democrat Benches, so on this occasion we should hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey.

Baroness Doocey: My Lords, earlier this year I made a very modest transfer to my son’s account in New York, using one of the banks mentioned in the US indictment. I had to jump through hoops in order to persuade the bank that this was a legitimate transaction. Can the Minister assure the House that the Serious Fraud Office will conduct a forensic investigation into why vast sums of money were paid to corrupt FIFA officials via the British banking system, without any alarm bells seemingly being sounded in any of the banks concerned?

The Earl of Courtown: The noble Baroness is quite right—sometimes, when an individual wants to make a bank transfer between different countries, they do have to jump through hoops. Yes, noble Lords can rest assured that the SFO is taking a keen interest in what is happening. It has not opened a formal criminal investigation, but it continues actively to assess material in its possession.

Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.23 pm

A Bill to prohibit the advertising of prostitution; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Howe of Idlicote (on behalf of Lord McColl of Dulwich), read a first time and ordered to be printed.

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Succession to Peerages Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.23 pm

A Bill to amend the law regarding succession to peerages; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Trefgarne, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.23 pm

A Bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Dholakia, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Mesothelioma (Amendment) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.24 pm

A Bill to amend the Mesothelioma Act 2014.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Alton of Liverpool, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Planning (Subterranean Development) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.24 pm

A Bill to make provision for the presumption against the granting of planning permission in respect of subterranean development where certain conditions apply; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Dubs, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Queen’s Speech

Debate (4th Day)

3.24 pm

Moved on Wednesday 27 May byBaroness Bottomley of Nettlestone

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.

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Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, before we hear my noble friend’s opening speech, I remind the House that there is an advisory speaking time of seven minutes. Last night we finished at 10 minutes to midnight because not every noble Lord abided by the advisory speaking time. Therefore, I ask—perhaps plead with—noble Lords to pay attention to this advisory time.

3.25 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, it is a privilege to open this debate following Her Majesty’s gracious Speech. I do so with the added honour of being able to speak from the Dispatch Box and address this House for the first time since I took up a position as a Minister in this Government. I am confident of a constructive and lively debate on local government, home affairs, energy, the environment and agriculture, and I look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and to the valedictory speech of my noble friend Lord Eden. I also extend my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, on her appointment as Leader of the Opposition in this House.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I turn, first, to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, covering local government, devolution within England and housing.

In order to boost economic growth and rebalance the economy, closing the decades-old economic gap between the north and the south, the gracious Speech includes a Bill to deliver radical devolution to the great cities of England. The Bill will put in place the primary legislative framework to enable us to deliver deals devolving major powers to cities, alongside providing for a metro mayor to act as a powerful point of accountability. This will include delivering the historic deal for Greater Manchester. These deals will allow cities to take greater control of and responsibility for the key things that make a city work, be they transport, skills or housing, and boost local growth. In conjunction with existing legislation, this will also allow us to empower our towns and counties with devolution deals across the country, helping to create thousands of jobs for people and greater prosperity for the areas.

The gracious Speech also includes a Bill to support home ownership and give more people the chance to own their own home. This Bill is a key part of delivering the ambitious housing package in the Government’s manifesto. It will extend the right-to-buy levels of discount to housing association tenants, helping thousands of people and families who aspire to home ownership. To date, more than 33,000 new homeowners have been created since the right-to-buy scheme was reinvigorated in 2012, and every additional home sold is being replaced with a new affordable home for a social tenant. This has ensured that more council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years.

The Bill will also take forward a range of measures to increase the supply of housing. It will reform the statutory planning framework to support the delivery of 200,000 starter homes, to be made available to

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first-time buyers under 40. The Bill will bring forward measures to require local authorities to dispose of high-value vacant council houses as they become vacant to fund new affordable homes, simplify and speed up the neighbourhood planning process, and take forward the right-to-build scheme and statutory register of brownfield land.

With almost 90% of people aspiring to own their own home—a percentage that has been steady for more than two decades—it is right that the Government take action to encourage and enable home ownership. I know that there is a range of views across this House on the merits of these ideas but we must be of one mind that home ownership should not be a distant dream for our children.

I will move on to matters of home affairs and turn to the counterextremism Bill. Our pluralistic values make Britain a great place to live. They mean that we are free to live how we choose, wear what we choose, worship according to our beliefs and take advantage of our world-class education and employment opportunities. Extremists try to undermine these values. Their poisonous views have no place in modern Britain. We will no longer tolerate those who promote hatred, intolerance and division. We will create a new partnership of every person and organisation in this country to defeat them. I am sure that the whole House will join me in deploring the fact that, in Britain today, people suffer hatred and violence because of their race, religion or sexuality; women are denied equal access to rights that most take for granted; and children are taught to despise the values that we should be proud to live by. That is why the Government are taking forward a comprehensive new counterextremism strategy to defeat all forms of extremism, violent and non-violent, Islamist and neo-Nazi. As part of our strategy, the gracious Speech contains a counterextremism Bill, which will strengthen our powers to confront extremism and protect the public.

I turn now to the immigration Bill. To cut net migration we need to ensure that we have a tough system that does not tolerate illegal migration. The successful implementation of the Immigration Act 2014 has already started to have a positive impact. More than 800 foreign criminals are being deported under the “deport now, appeal later” measures, and the introduction of the immigration health surcharge means that migrants are now making a direct financial contribution to the NHS. The immigration Bill will build on these reforms to complete the work of strengthening our controls against illegal immigration and supporting working people.

The gracious Speech also contained a commitment to bring forward legislation on communications data. As your Lordships will be aware, this is unfinished business from the previous Parliament. The legislation will cover the full range of investigatory powers and build on the review that has been undertaken by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC. His report will be published shortly and the Government will want to reflect upon it, as I am sure will all noble Lords. There will be a full consultation on the legislation and this is a matter of the greatest importance. We must ensure that law enforcement and intelligence officers have the tools that they need to keep the public safe.

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The gracious Speech includes a Bill introduced in your Lordships’ House last Thursday to provide for a blanket ban on the supply of new psychoactive substances. During the previous Parliament, we took a number of significant steps to tackle the harms caused by these unknown and untested substances. In particular, we strengthened the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to provide for temporary class drug orders. Using these and other powers in the Act, we banned more than 500 new psychoactive substances. However, with these existing powers we are always playing catch-up, banning new psychoactive substances on a reactive, substance-by-substance basis, while the suppliers always stay one step ahead and create new substances outside existing controls. The introduction of a blanket ban in the Bill will ensure that law enforcement agencies have the necessary criminal and civil powers to put an end to this trade and protect our young people from the harm caused by these untested, unregulated substances.

The gracious Speech includes a Bill to reform the police and criminal justice system. We are all fortunate in this country to have the finest police men and women in the world, who, on a daily basis, put their personal safety on the line to protect ours. During the last Government, we took steps to make the police more transparent and more accountable to their communities. In this Parliament, we want to finish the job. The Bill will reform the police complaints and disciplinary systems; it will put a stop to people remaining on bail for months or even years with no independent oversight; it will ensure that 17 year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; and it will improve the response to those experiencing mental health conditions.

These measures will ensure that the police are more accountable for the decisions they take. They will ensure that the public are able to act when they feel that the police fall short of the standards that they expect. They will ensure that police honesty and integrity are protected, and that corruption and misconduct are rooted out. The Bill will continue to reform the criminal justice system to protect the public better, build confidence and improve efficiency.

Finally, on important matters of the UK’s energy supply, the gracious Speech includes an energy Bill. The Bill will give the Oil and Gas Authority the powers it needs to become a robust, independent and effective regulator. It will ensure that the UK’s continental shelf resources are developed and key infrastructure is well managed to secure the maximum amount of economically recoverable oil and gas from UK waters.

The energy Bill will also make changes in relation to new onshore wind farm applications. The majority of the population does not live in the vicinity of a wind farm. For those who do, we have seen many examples of local community groups vigorously opposing wind farm developments for a variety of reasons. The energy Bill will give local authorities and local people more power to decide whether a wind farm is built in their area.

The measures set out by Her Majesty last week will help this Government support working people, keep Britain on the road to economic recovery and give everyone the best chance of living a fulfilling and good life.

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3.36 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind comments and welcome her to her new position. She and I spent many happy hours debating at the Dispatch Box and, listening to this list of Bills, I am sure that she has many happy hours ahead of her as well. We would have liked a little more detail on the extremism Bill and the housing Bill, but no doubt those will come during the debate.

Many commentators have referred to this Queen’s Speech as the first from a new Conservative Government for 23 years. That may well be, but it fails to recognise how successful the Conservative Party was in getting its way during the coalition years. All of us remember the bedroom tax; the bargain-basement sale of Royal Mail; tax cuts for the wealthiest; and cuts in legal aid, including, most horribly, even for victims of domestic violence. We saw under the last Government the marketisation of our NHS, which paved the way for handing so much more of it into private hands, and the massive hike in tuition fees. So this Queen’s Speech is not the first tentative steps of a party out of government for almost two decades, as some have reported, but it most certainly is the bold stride of a party that wants to build on the work that it has already started.

It is also a Queen’s Speech from a party that faces a new challenge. For the first time in history, a Conservative Government do not have an automatic majority in your Lordships’ House. To my colleagues on the Labour Benches, that does not sound too daunting: no Labour Government have ever had a majority in this Chamber, so we know what it is like. We know the challenges and responsibilities that it brings. During the last Labour Government, we lost around 500 Divisions—30% of all votes. In the last Parliament, with a significant coalition government majority, Ministers still lost 100 Divisions.

But we do not want to play the numbers game to see how many defeats we can now inflict on the Government with the new increase in opposition numbers. This Chamber, as we are all aware, is about far more than that. We are about ensuring better and more effective legislation. We are also about making sure that legislation is properly considered. We have a responsibility to ensure that our expertise is brought to bear on government proposals.

There will be times when we agree with the Government. There will be other times when the detail that we have is inadequate or insufficient and greater thought will have to be given to impact and implementation. There will be others still where we have a fundamental disagreement on principle.

On these Benches, we are used to working across the Chamber on issues of common interest to improve legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Bates, knows from our debates over many hours, we have always been ready to discuss and negotiate—as indeed has he. It is not insignificant that when we debated the counterterrorism Bill in the last Parliament, the Government accepted or brought forward 40 amendments following weeks of debate in the other place where the Government resisted amendments including those that they accepted here in your Lordships’ House.

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As my noble friend Lady Royall made clear last week, we, as a responsible Opposition, will continue to respect the principles of the Salisbury convention. However, the Government have to recognise that this House will fulfil its obligation of scrutinising and revising legislation. There is a challenge here for Ministers. In the last Parliament we were too often disappointed by ministerial responses. Comforted by their political majority—with notable and very welcome exceptions—some Ministers failed to adequately explain, engage or properly answer questions. We heard some of that at Question Time today—and it cannot continue.

The role of scrutinising legislation and holding the Government to account is the primary focus of this House. As I have said, it is not merely a numbers game but the constitutional role of the second Chamber. David Cameron should not think that he can railroad ill-thought out, ineffective or damaging legislation by using his narrow Commons majority to ignore the views and guidance of this House. Neither should he seek to create an avalanche of more Peers to make up the perceived difference.

In many cases the Conservative manifesto contained inadequate detail for us to fully understand the exact intentions of the Bills being brought forward. A prime example is the much-touted £12 billion-worth of cuts to the social security budget. I read in the press today that Ministers are still arguing about where and when the axe is going to fall. Will it be on child benefit; housing benefits; disability benefits; or a cut in the carer’s allowance? When is it going to happen? In two, three, four years’ time? At some point the Government will need to work it out. I am confident that today’s debate, with its impressive list of speakers, will identify a number of areas where the Government should welcome detailed scrutiny and seriously consider improvements.

Alongside the valedictory speech today of the noble Lord, Lord Eden, we will also hear maiden speeches from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, both of whom have valuable expertise—the right reverend Prelate through his work on homelessness and the noble Lord from his long-standing experience across the housing sector, including his time as head of the Homes and Communities Agency. The noble Lord has an insight into what our country needs in this key policy area. I look forward to his contribution and I hope that the Government will heed his wise advice.

This country needs a housing Bill, but the one being offered by the Government does nothing to address the greatest housing shortage for a generation. Ministers have to explain how forcing housing associations to sell off their stock at a knock-down discount is going to help those young people who fear that they will never have a home of their own, whether to rent or buy. This is not innovative thinking. This is a rehash of 1980s policy when times and circumstances were very different. When Margaret Thatcher introduced the right to buy for council housing, the waiting lists of those looking to rent were a fraction of what they are today. For those looking to buy, it was so much easier to get a mortgage, including from local councils, and it was still possible to earn an average wage and

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buy a home. While those sales undoubtedly benefited some, it was, has been and continues to be a nightmare for others. So we need the detail. Will the Government learn from the mistakes of the past or merely repeat them?

On the environment, many of us remember the Prime Minister’s pledge—probably in an overexuberant moment of delirium after he had hugged a husky—to be the greenest Government ever. Few believe he succeeded. The Queen’s Speech does not demonstrate a commitment to tackling climate change or air pollution when the UK has one of the worst records of any EU country for exceeding pollution limits, putting thousands of lives at risk.

On agriculture, the absence of an effective food and farming strategy is very worrying. The farming industry makes an enormous contribution to our economy and it needs co-ordinated government support.

The noble Lord, Lord Bates, has proved himself to be a very hard-working Minister on Home Office legislation and he has his work cut out in this Parliament. On immigration, the Government will have to clarify how a number of proposals will work in practice. Of course we support measures to tackle illegal immigration and deport foreign criminals—but, again, the Government are tough on rhetoric and weak on action. What of that pledge to cut net migration? Not only does it exclude illegal immigration, but the Government’s criteria would claim success when highly qualified professionals leave the UK to use their skills elsewhere and fee-paying foreign students choose not to come to the UK but instead go to study in China or the US. That would be a net fall in migration; a success for the Government, but of no help whatever to the UK or our economy.

In addition, around 500 fewer foreign criminals are being deported every year than under the last Labour Government, while at the same time we have seen substantial cuts in the UK Border Force. Mr Cameron may look very fetching to some in his police-issue Kevlar jacket as he joins the police on a raid to arrest exploited migrant workers, but that is no replacement for effective legislation. Many of these workers live in a twilight world of poverty and fear, and tackling that exploitation must be a priority, with action taken against those responsible. Legitimate, law-abiding businesses and local workers are paying the price for the Government’s failure, so I ask Ministers: will the Government reconsider the proposals put forward by us in the last Parliament to tackle this issue?

We have an extremism Bill, and we all understand that extremist statements that incite, encourage and support violence are dangerous and divisive, and have no place in a civilised society. Tackling the issue demands wisdom as well as calm and intelligent thought. When debating the extremism Bill, we will need to give careful consideration to exactly what new powers are to be brought in; a clear definition of extremism, including who actually defines it; and to ensure that any laws are used only for the purposes for which they are intended. Ministers will have to clarify what action will be taken to strengthen the community-led prevention work that was cut during the last Parliament.

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We await the proposals, but perhaps I may highlight one serious issue, which is the commitment that Ofcom’s role should be strengthened,

“so that tough measures can be taken against channels that broadcast extremist content”.

That raises so many questions. I will look back and refer to the history of this. Most of us in this House will remember the 1988 regulations that banned the broadcasting of interviews with a number of organisations in Northern Ireland. Did it work? The broadcasters kept to the letter of the law, using actors to lip-sync to interviews. It was a farce and completely ineffective, and it was eventually dropped after six years.

On policing, we will challenge the Government to recognise the shocking impact of their policies during the last Parliament. The most senior counterterrorism officer in the UK, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, has warned that the loss of mainstream policing teams and cuts in neighbourhood policing undermine counterterrorism work. In Essex, we no longer have any 24-hour police stations—not one—and we have 600 fewer officers than in 2010. Close to my home in Basildon is a large, clear road sign directing residents to the local police station. I went to the opening not that long ago. But do not bother turning up today, because the sign has lasted longer than the police station, which is now closed. Under the Government of a party that claims to be the party of law and order, police morale has never been lower—and these are the men and women who we need and expect to be at the top of their game.

We must tackle extremism in all its forms, whether Islamist extremism linked to the rise of ISIL, hate crime, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. But the measures must be proportionate and effective, with checks and balances to prevent abuse.

The Conservative manifesto stated:

“New legislation will modernise the law on communications data”.

In the last Parliament, we debated and passed temporary emergency legislation on the collection and use of such data, then returned to the issue during the counterterrorism Bill. Some noble Lords will recall our criticisms of the Government in bringing forward inadequate, disproportionate and deeply flawed legislation at the start of the Parliament. Then, despite an excellent and balanced report from the Joint Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, the Government failed to do anything to address the deficiencies in existing legislation.

Times have changed. Some people may look back with nostalgia to the Cold War, but the days when a man in a gabardine mac and a trilby kept watch while his colleague unscrewed the telephone to install a bug and hide a microphone in the plant pot have long gone. Those involved in terrorism, or in serious and organised crimes like drug and people trafficking, international fraud, hard core pornography, paedophilia and child sexual abuse, do so today with a sophistication and technical knowledge that many of us would struggle to comprehend.

Those who are victims of such crimes experience horrors that we can only imagine. We have a duty therefore to tackle such crime, but that can never mean

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that there are no boundaries as to how we do so. Citizens are entitled to seek security, safety and privacy, and there is a responsible balance to be met. Any legislation must be proportionate, necessary and effective, and its use limited to its necessity. There must be adequate and effective checks and balances to prevent abuse or misuse, but where that occurs there must be severe penalties for those who do so.

This is my first speech in this House as Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, finally, perhaps I may add a couple of thank-yous as well as an indication of how I intend to lead from these Benches. I very gratefully thank the members of the Labour group who have shown great faith in electing me, especially those many friends and colleagues who nominated me. But there is one individual to whom I and my colleagues in this House owe a debt of gratitude: my noble friend Lady Royall, or “Jan” as she is known to us all, from whom I have learnt much in my five years in this House. I know that it is a cliché, but those who heard her response to the Queen’s Speech last week will have seen that she really does leave a big pair of shoes to fill. I can only hope that I will go some way to doing that. There are similarities between us, and not just the ginger hair. As some noble Lords may have spotted, Basildon is an anagram of Blaisdon.

I have asserted that Labour will abide by the broad principles of the Salisbury convention, but I believe that the Government, and indeed the Prime Minister, have some way to go to learn how to work with this House and with Peers of all parties and none. If Mr Cameron and his Ministers choose not to, and instead seek to railroad through legislation not specified in the Conservative manifesto, we will be robust in our challenges and ready to take them to the wire in the interests of good government and good legislation.

3.51 pm

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, before I start my speech today, I want to say a few words about Charles Kennedy. Many on these Benches knew Charles very well and his loss is being felt acutely by Liberal Democrats across the country. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. As many others have said, Charles was an extraordinary communicator. His passion for social justice and Liberal Democrat values inspired not only those on these Benches but people of all parties and of none, not least because of his principled stand against the Iraq war.

For him to die so young is a loss not just to the Liberal Democrats but to political life across the board. He will be sadly missed. I am told by colleagues who were here at the time that during the late night ping-pong on control orders during the passage of the then Prevention of Terrorism Bill, Charles appeared at 5 am to tell weary Lib Dem Peers to keep up the good fight on what was one of the biggest battles on the protection of civil liberties of the new Labour years. Remembering his commitment to protecting rights and civil liberties is perhaps the most fitting tribute as we discuss these issues today.

I intend to concentrate on some of the home affairs issues outlined in the Queen’s Speech. My colleagues will cover other aspects. One of the first Bills that this House will be asked to consider is the Psychoactive

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Substances Bill, which will outlaw not just specific so-called legal highs but anything and everything that has a mind-altering effect unless it is specifically listed as being exempt or is covered by other legislation such as the Misuse of Drugs Act.

I believe that an authoritarian approach, where blanket laws prohibit everything unless the Government allow it, sets a potentially dangerous precedent. The Bill is well meaning, with the current practice of selling so-called legal highs on the high street, one molecule different from a banned substance, in packets marked “not fit for human consumption”, is a nonsense. But we must ask ourselves, what is the purpose of this Bill? If the purpose, as it surely should be, is to prevent harm, the misuse of drugs should be treated as a health issue and not a criminal one.

We have seen from our experience with those drugs already classified as illegal that making dealing in those substances a criminal offence simply pushes the trade underground into the hands of criminals where there is even less control over quality, active ingredients and who can purchase them, all of which significantly increases the potential for harm. There should at least be consistency and some basis in science. If the Government are to exempt mind-altering substances on the basis of relative harm, as they intend to do with alcohol and tobacco, should they not also look at exempting substances currently covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act, and at synthetic mind-altering substances that are clinically proven to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco? Surely licensing, regulation, education and treatment are the positive ways forward, rather than criminalising even more of our young people. This Bill would simply add to the confusion surrounding the attempts to protect people from the harm caused by misusing drugs and push pleasure-seekers into the hands of criminals.

We will also be presented with a new investigatory powers Bill. We only recently reconsidered the draft communications data Bill when another attempt was made to introduce it as an amendment to a counterterrorism Bill before this House. We had a long and informed debate on the issues and we decided that we were content with the reviews that are currently under way by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and others. I argued then, and I will continue to argue, that the powers the Government seek to convey on the police and the security services would seriously impinge on individual rights to privacy while failing to deliver what the police and the security services actually need.

In short, terrorists are using internet-based encrypted methods of communication that cannot be deciphered without the support and co-operation of those providing the services, most of whom are based beyond British jurisdiction. Currently, international co-operation and agreement enable the police and the security services to present their evidence to overseas service providers, who, if convinced by that evidence, voluntarily give up the information. International co-operation and agreement are the way forward, not giving the police and security services blanket access to our private data. At the same time as the Government seek to erode personal privacy with their new investigatory powers Bill, they

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could also diminish citizens’ ability to take action against the agencies of the state for infringing such rights were the Human Rights Act to be repealed.

There has been much discussion and coverage of the European Union Referendum Bill. To date, the focus has almost exclusively been on the negative impact on the economy, not only of leaving the EU but of the damage caused by the uncertainty over a referendum that could result in the UK’s exit. What need to be brought to the fore—as the right honourable Kenneth Clarke MP did at the weekend in an interview on the BBC’s “Sunday Politics”—are the significant European-wide crime-fighting initiatives that are currently in place, ranging from serious and organised cybercrime to the abuse of children and human trafficking, all of which could also be placed in jeopardy by our leaving the European Union.

We then have the extremism Bill, the need for which was trailed by the Prime Minster during the election campaign, when he said:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”.

As far as policing is concerned, if the Government intend to inflict further cuts on the police service, we will have seriously to reconsider the whole basis on which British policing is based: policing by consent. I hope that the Government do not sleepwalk into undermining that principle.

Overall, the Government have all the hallmarks of an authoritarian, anti-libertarian, inward-looking Administration who would rather peddle crowd-pleasing, superficial, nationalistic policies than seek genuine solutions to the real problems facing this country and its people. I hope to be proved wrong. I am justifiably proud of what the Liberal Democrats achieved in the last coalition Government and I intend to be equally proud of what the Liberal Democrats will do now that we are freed from the shackles of coalition. In an election poster, the Liberal Democrats were portrayed as an iron fist in a velvet glove. My Lords, the gloves are off.

3.59 pm

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for introducing it. I look forward to the two maiden speeches and the valedictory speech of the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton.

No contribution from a practising chartered surveyor would be complete without a comment on housing and development, and I declare my interests. If, as we are told, there is a significant deficit in housing completions, there are one or two things to bear in mind. First, there is a shortage of skills in both the construction worker and backroom technician sectors which cannot be remedied overnight. Then, if one is going to build a lot of housing in growth areas, some greenfield land will need to be used. However, many local planning authorities perceive that their electorates will not support that. Terms such as “sustainability” and “localism” are used as weapons, just as “environment” used to be in times past.

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Rapid increases in house prices are fuelled by a relative shortage but many would profit from these rapid rises, including existing owners, mortgage lenders and foreign investors to mention but three. The marginal cost of taxation, regulatory compliance, the community infrastructure levy, affordable housing, community benefits and so on in a quite risky financial model of development economics can have a material effect on the cost base. This needs to be monitored constantly. I well remember the late 1970s when the development land tax caused the effective failure of the land supply.

When we build, we need decent standards. I still see serious shortcomings in the quality control under some of the self-assessing construction warranty schemes where normal local authority building control supervision is perfectly legally bypassed. We are also building properties that are too complex for normal occupiers to use effectively. They are too cramped in living space and have too little communal amenity space. This is cheapening the product for first-time buyers. Talking of cheap, I observe that if one offers affordable housing and the option to purchase at a discount later on, a long queue will form and demand is not necessarily the same as need. Staying on that, I hope that the proceeds of any housing association right to buy will indeed be reinvested in the sector and not appropriated for other things as the council house proceeds were in 2000.

We have a common desire for a fairer, more just society and my second theme relates to this. In the Queen’s Speech debate last year, I drew attention to the shortcomings of the police—an institution that should be one of our most trusted, cherished and honourable public services. There still remains much to be done and I welcome the commitment in the gracious Speech and the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in that respect. However, if the police lack accountability, so do some other sectors. I am constantly told that local authorities—I declare an interest as a vice-president of the LGA—are among the greatest snoopers and eavesdroppers into the affairs of the citizen. What are we doing about that?

Our institutions are in many ways no better than the standards of society at large, where individual gain and lack of responsibility seem to have supplanted collective care and conscience. My father used to quote Aristotle. For example, “that which is owned in common belongs to nobody” was one of his favourite quotes. In relation to some legal advice he once received, he quoted Aristotle’s words, “where there is muddle and confusion, dishonesty stalks close behind”. How true. Throw away the rulebook and anything becomes possible. In complex situations moral depravity may even become undetectable.

My recent experiences in the planning field as a professional have been unedifying. Obtaining listed building consent to replace a gutter on a client’s building included 10 months of official delay, muddle and incompetence. I will stop short of naming the authority in question. HMRC itself appears to be a player and gamer of the system, to the point where it is impossible to know whether one is dealing with the objective administrator of a tax code or an aggressive commercial undertaking that is like some of the utility companies. That should stop.

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Then we have areas of what seem to me to be complete lawlessness. I refer to situations where the elderly and vulnerable are fleeced of their assets, of their financial freedom and dignity, with apparent impunity. I have had recent direct experience of this, where the normal safeguards appear to have been dispensed with and family beneficiaries have been largely cut out of a will that favoured some friendly neighbour. On further inquiry, it became clear that this is a growing phenomenon, perpetrated by a range of people, from avaricious kinfolk to opportunistic neighbours and unrelated conmen. If adverse influence does not work, it is frighteningly easy to forge a signature, impersonate an old person, make a bogus will or obtain by deception a power of attorney, which one can do online via a government website. What is it about, “Thou shalt not steal or bear false witness or covet” that is misunderstood in modern society? The fact is, there is a better defence against money laundering than there is against abuse of the elderly or the young, and the problem, as I see it, is growing. Because of privacy and other repercussions, nobody dares mention their suspicions so we have a society in which these things are everyone’s concern but apparently none of one’s individual business.

Perhaps this problem is just a matter of little public interest that can readily be dealt with by those affected through civil action—I wish. The courts are clogged to the point of dysfunction, with delays, huge costs and some mismanagement. The very pillar of the 1940s reforms to the welfare state, which included fair access to justice, has crumbled. There is no such access now. There is clear injustice where there is inadequate access to these things. All these things have consequences for public confidence and trust, ultimately, in the rule of law. In a fair society, these issues and others like them need to be addressed, not by wholesale new regulation so much as by streamlining what we already have. That is the message I wish to give to the House today.

4.07 pm

Lord Blencathra (Con): My Lords, I will try to deliver my speech from this position. I am testing a new medication and I want to push it—and myself—to the limit. I pray for your Lordships’ understanding if I have to finish my seven minutes from a sedentary position.

Perhaps I might also add to the tribute paid by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to Charles Kennedy and be the first Conservative in this House to do so. The Prime Minister was right: he was taken from us far too young. In terms of returning a record number of MPs, he was the most successful leader the Liberal Democrats have ever had. I also pay tribute to the fact that he, more than anyone else, laid to rest the myth of the dour Highland Scot. There was nothing dour about Charles Kennedy. Having served with him in the other place, I know we shall all miss him.

I welcome most of the Bills announced in the gracious Speech—if I understand them correctly. In particular, I welcome the investigatory powers Bill if it is a rewrite of RIPA, which is now discredited and not fit for purpose. We need a new RIPA that incorporates the conclusions of the Joint Select Committee I was

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privileged to chair and the recommendations of David Anderson QC. However, I am concerned that in the big media briefing pack issued by No. 10 last Wednesday, the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which naturally was very supportive of everything the security services wanted, was included as a key background paper—but not my Select Committee report. I am not precious about it but I hope that that does not indicate any backsliding by the Home Office on its excellent redraft of the original, discredited snoopers’ charter.

I remind my noble friend the Minister that our committee had Members from both Houses and all parties and none. We had widely differing views, which we probably still have, but we ended up with a unanimous report. We achieved that because we agreed that we could not have some general, wide-ranging, inexplicable and obscure powers for the security services, which would make it impossible for us in Parliament sensibly to amend and vote on each power requested. That original obscure draft caused the widespread revolt against the Bill, so we concluded that if the key contentious elements, such as the collection of weblogs and third-party data, and new definitions of subscriber and communications data, were set out individually and clearly that would permit Members in both Houses to vote on these powers. They would have the stamp of informed parliamentary authority. Of course, the Government may be afraid that they would lose one of these powers but I honestly believe that if we come clean on exactly what the police and security services want, Parliament will narrowly agree.

What would be utterly unacceptable, I say to my noble friend, would be to pass some obscure powers and then have the Security Service pop up in a year’s time and say, “Aha, we have the power to do this, that and the other. Didn’t you realise it when you passed that vague clause?”. We have recently seen how the Americans have suddenly woken up to the fact that they have been lied to by the NSA. As the Times says today:

“Intelligence services should not be given a free pass, here or in the United States … The intelligence and security services … need to become much more open about their role and intentions. If they do, the public will be reassured”.

I think we would be reassured also. I hope therefore that the Bill will take up our other suggestion for a mechanism for rapid amendment as technology changes and create a standing committee to advise on that.

I turn now to the extremism Bill, and I choose my words very carefully. I support this measure, provided that it specifically targets the real problem of extremism and not all radicals. I consider myself a bit of a radical in some ways, and so do many noble Lords, so radicalism per se is not the problem. Instead the words “radicalisation” and “extremism” are euphemisms for the words we dare not mention: namely, political Islamism—the ideology—or Islamofascism. I do not often agree with Tony Blair, but I agree with what he said in April 2014. He said:

“At the root of the crisis lies a radicalised and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message. The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation. And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively”.

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In March, the Home Secretary announced a completely new strategy. She said:

“This strategy aims to tackle the whole spectrum of extremism, violent and non-violent, ideological and non-ideological, Islamist and neo-Nazi—hate and fear in all their forms”.

My fear about the Bill, therefore, is that the Home Office will want to appear to be even-handed, catching all extremists, and not target the real problem of politicised Islamism, the ideology. But where do the problems really lie? Do we have Buddhist suicide bombers? Are there Free Presbyterians beheading Roman Catholics in Benbecula? Are there jihadi Jehovah’s Witnesses? Of course not, so who then deserves to be caught in this wide net of extremists?

The other vile ideologies that I can think of are the BNP, neo-Nazis, UK Uncut, various other anarchists, all permutations of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Socialist Workers Party. They would all like to bring down our liberal western democracy but, while we abhor their views and despise their expression of them, are they really a serious problem? As far as I can see from their websites, their active members have not got the guts or the guile, the wit or the wisdom—or a united religious fervour—to organise anything that threatens our liberal democracy. They have no coherent philosophy, except that they seem to hate each other even more than the country they despise. What really threatens our democratic way of life is a desire by political Islamists to impose a theocracy that would replace all the democratic rule of law that we have developed over 500 years in this country. It would impose the same brutality that Christianity imposed when it operated on Old Testament teachings of “an eye for an eye”, rather than loving one’s neighbour as oneself.

The Home Secretary went on to say that,

“the foundation stone of our new strategy is the proud promotion of British values. These values—such as regard for the rule of law, participation in and acceptance of democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities—are supported by the overwhelming majority of British people”.

So my worry is that a generalist, catch-all definition of extremism will result in some idiot police forces arresting a couple of ladies from the WI and a traditionalist Church of England vicar who has said something radical —for example, that he actually believes in God. I justify the term “idiot police force” by reminding noble Lords that after the appalling Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, Wiltshire police sprang into action and demanded to know the names of local people in the village of Corsham who had bought the commemorative edition.

We have seen how police forces up and down the country, unfortunately, have ignored reports of thousands of children being raped and raped again because they did not want to offend a section of society. We cannot trust them to use properly any wide, generalist powers we may have in this Bill, and we need to spell out exactly what and who we want them to target.

I believe that, as legislators, we have a duty not just to spell out clearly the philosophy of British values but to give clear and unequivocal guidance to those who will have to enforce our intentions. We cannot afford to get this wrong, not only because we will miss the real extremists we need to catch but because we will then prejudice the British public against our efforts if

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our police forces persist in failing to take appropriate action against them. I look forward to seeing the text of the Bill in due course.

4.16 pm

Lord Layard (Lab): The Government said in the gracious Speech that they will seek effective global co-operation to combat climate change, including at the Paris negotiations in December. That is very welcome, and of course Britain has a great reputation as a world leader on climate change. But suppose this Government, or any other, commit themselves to a target for the reduction of greenhouse gases; how can they be sure of delivering the target? By far the surest way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is for clean energy to become less costly to produce than dirty energy. That is the central proposition: clean energy must be cheaper to produce than dirty energy. It is a purely technological problem; in fact, it is the biggest single technological problem facing humanity today.

On current forecasts, the world’s rise in temperature will exceed 2 degrees centigrade within the next 30 years. Once that happens, it will eventually lead to a 6-metre rise in sea level. It is that scary story that has made world leaders commit to stopping the rise in temperature before it hits 2 degrees centigrade. But of course that can be achieved only by an unprecedented rate of technical progress in reducing the cost of clean energy. At present, we are mainly relying on the private sector to deliver that. However, given the urgency of the situation, we have to say that the progress being made is simply not fast enough. The forecasts are terrifying.

In the past when nations have been faced with existential crises, they have called on the scientific community to engage in major, focused, publicly funded programmes of research and development. Good examples are the Manhattan Project and the Apollo moonshot programme. That is what we need today—that kind of focused, publicly led research and development effort to tackle climate change. That is why seven authors, six of whom are Members of this House, have come together in recent months to propose a so-called global Apollo programme to tackle climate change. The Government are taking that on board, in a way that I will describe in a moment, but let me first describe the proposal.

The proposal is not dissimilar from the moonshot and has three components. First, there is a 10-year target: within 10 years we must have base-load electricity from renewables that is cheaper than it is from coals. Secondly, there is the scale: all nations are being invited to join, but any Government who join must commit to spending, each year, 0.02% of GDP within the framework of the programme. Our country is in fact spending about that amount at the moment, which is £350 million per year. Thirdly, there is the framework within which the money is to be spent.

This is being based on what has happened, in a way that many people do not realise, in the semiconductor industry over the past three decades. It is not a mystery that the price has come plummeting: it is the result of a concerted effort. The Semiconductor Technology Roadmap Committee makes an international technology road map for semiconductors each year that identifies

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the blockages to reducing the price, and it commissions research to unblock those obstacles. The majority of the money has come from the public sector, but the whole effort is a public/private partnership in which allocation is done jointly by government and businesses. It has been enormously effective and is obviously the only way in which we can have a chance of averting the disaster that faces us. The main areas for research are renewable energy generation and, even more importantly, the storage of it for the times when it is needed, the market and the methods of distribution.

The Government have adopted this proposal, I am happy to say, except for the scale of the expenditure, on which they are at present reserving their position until the comprehensive spending review. With that reservation, they are putting the proposal to the G7 leaders meeting in Bavaria this weekend. Of course, it is vital that they commit themselves to that expenditure as soon as possible, and it is really important that that happens before the October date of the comprehensive spending review, or whenever it is. Unless we have a government commitment on this issue, we cannot provide the leadership that would turn this into a major British initiative of real world historical importance.

I quote Sir David Attenborough, who argues that this is at last,

“an authoritative, practical and comprehensible plan that could avert the catastrophe that is threatening our planet”.

I earnestly hope that the Government can give it the highest priority and act on it within the next few weeks to give it their complete backing.

4.22 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I, too, congratulate both Ministers on their promotions. As a colleague said, the noble Lord is no ordinary Conservative—therefore, my congratulations are rather warmer. I also congratulate the noble Baroness. It was no surprise at all to me that she was elected unopposed.

The last debate in the last Parliament was on indefinite immigration detention, a topic which certainly deserves further attention—but there are so many topics and so little time today. Humane treatment is intrinsically right and important, and so are human rights. The Conservatives should be proud of their predecessors’ post-war achievements. Yesterday, I came into the Chamber as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said this, putting it much better than I can. Whether we are talking about the convention or the court, I react against the idea of a British Bill of Rights, because that suggests that anything that is not British is inferior. Rights are rights, including rights for people whom we might not like very much. They are not something earned, and the term “deserve” has no place in our politics.

Reference is also made to “spurious” human rights and “bogus” asylum seekers—a similar kind of approach. Neither term is appropriate, unless and until, through proper process, they have been found to be so. Careless language can too easily validate xenophobia—and so, I fear, may some of the policies on immigration, but let us give them the benefit of the doubt and see what the detail is. Illegal working is already illegal, and seizing wages is unlikely to do more than to drive people further underground. As for cracking down on landlords,

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why should there not be a focus on the conditions endured by exploited occupants? Given the targets or ambitions for immigration numbers, it is ironic that the Conservatives talk up the problems of immigration. It must confirm a belief, which an awful lot of people hold, that the proportion of immigrants in our population is much higher than it actually is.

I accept that perceptions are important, and I accept the need to address the detail of people’s concerns; so, for instance, a requirement that recruitment agencies must recruit within the UK as well as abroad is sensible. I have a particular question about the labour market enforcement agency. I wonder whether the Minister can make clear how it fits into the review of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Are there different remits, or what? It is natural, too, to resent immigrants pitching up and immediately claiming benefits, although I know that they do so much less than the indigenous community.

Our policy must not raise expectations about reforms that cannot be met. The Conservative manifesto refers to a visa system which puts British people first:

“Across the spectrum, from the student route to the family and work routes”.

There are different views on how to achieve that. As one example, I believe—as I have said before, and will go on saying—that the family visa rules that do not support British citizens married to non-Britons with British children do not achieve this. Fluent English, which is also mentioned, is indeed a means to integration —I put it that way; not that a lack of it is a bar. But that raises questions about the availability and accessibility of the teaching of English.

We talked about integration and community cohesion a good deal during the passage of the Counter-terrorism and Security Act. I am sad that the nuanced, lower-key, persuasive approach to the counternarrative to terrorism does not seem to find a place in what we know so far about the extremism Bill. As has already been said by more than one noble Lord, during the passage of that Act we debated what the definition of extremism might be, but without reaching a conclusion. On banning orders and the proscription of organisations which fall short of existing thresholds, we need to take extreme care not to infringe that British value—freedom of speech. The counterextremism strategy is expected shortly. Can the Minister tell us what consultation is taking place, or will take place, on the construction of that strategy?

I hope we will be able to continue to address issues that we addressed in the previous Parliament, particularly on modern slavery, overseas domestic workers, supply chains and creating a tort of exploitation to allow for civil claims, which was dealt with in an amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. We might also consider whether some of the young people who are going to conflict areas are, in a sense, trafficked. All this is very complex and needs a lot of sensitivity.

I shall say one word for now, and say more next week, on new psychoactive substances. If dealing with them is as easy as imposing a blanket ban, why did we go through so many hoops in the last Parliament?

All this requires resources, so a law to preclude raising income tax was one of the things that caused me to shout at my radio during April. My radio came

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in for a lot of abuse in April. I also abused it—and this is relevant to community cohesion—when I heard the policy on the right to buy social housing. It will be funded, and new properties provided, through the sale of all those high-value properties whose value local authorities, flush with cash, have failed to recognise and realise over the past few years. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, on the coverage of his comments yesterday on this issue.

I did a word search in the Conservative manifesto and the word “passionately” is used only once, and that was in respect of a belief in home ownership. Of course I recognise the convention about the manifesto on which the Government were elected, and indeed that the Government are no longer “encumbered”—the Home Secretary’s term—by the coalition. Time will tell whether in addressing the detail of legislation, where the devil may reside, this House will be concerned with its workability or something more subversive.

4.30 pm

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I thank your Lordships for the opportunity to participate in this debate, for the warmth of your welcome and for the practical help and support given to me, as to every new Member, by the excellent officers and staff of this House.

A number of noble Lords know that, before becoming Bishop of Salisbury in 2011, I was for 16 years the vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, where, as a near neighbour to Parliament, I formed a mostly good view of it. For example, Mr Robert Andrews was a homeless man who for 35 years spent the morning in St Martin’s and the afternoon in the Central Lobby of Parliament hoping to petition Her Majesty the Queen about a matter of defence and national importance. He died on Christmas Day in 1997 in Piccadilly, having had lunch in the day centre at St Martin’s. Those present at his funeral, including about 70 from both Houses, with staff and officers, pieced his fractured life together by placing a flower in a vase and saying one thing that they knew about him. I was impressed by how much people in Parliament cared for an isolated mentally ill person in ways that crossed social and political boundaries.

Every parish priest and bishop knows what it is to care for the whole community. It is a great aim for the Government, as set out at the start of Her Majesty’s gracious Speech, to,

“legislate in the interests of everyone in our country”,


“adopt a one-nation approach”.

The success of that will be one of the measures by which the Government are judged.

The role of the Lords spiritual is distinctive and, we hope, helpful to the workings of this House. We are non-partisan in a political process. Our underlying concern is with the integration of beliefs and values that guide what we do, make our spirituality and animate us as human beings. We take the long view when the pressures are often to the short term.

Our society is not confident in handling matters of religion and belief, yet we live in a world in which 80% of people identify themselves as part of a religious

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group, 2.2 billion of them Christians. The church is local everywhere. Last week, I was part of a small delegation with Christian Aid to Malawi. There, the poorest experience the harsh effects of climate change, and were investing time and effort in a response to deforestation, soil erosion, drought and flooding. For more than 40 years, the diocese of Salisbury has had strong links with the Anglican Church in South Sudan and Sudan. They teach us what it is to live as neighbours in a fragile world.

In facing the big issues, the church has deep roots and can contribute particularly on matters to do with character, values and identity, which will be so vital in the debates about our national identity and what it is to be British, European and global citizens.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is that fire-like energy and life-giving breath or wind that animates people. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit gave communication to people of different languages, by which we find our place with one another under God —the very opposite of Babel. In John’s Gospel the spirit is also called the Paraclete, translated as “intercessor” and “advocate”. Every priest and bishop will want to be intercessor and advocate, especially for the poor, whose voice is not easily heard. The spirit is also the “comforter”—literally, that which strengthens us. Your Lordships might remember that in the Bayeux tapestry Bishop Odo is depicted comforting his men, strengthening his men, by pushing them with a spear from behind.

For the Church of England, I chair the Committee for Ministry of and Among Deaf and Disabled People, and I am the lead bishop on the environment. The need for welfare reform is widely accepted, but the spiritual as well as the practical test is whether the reforms comfort and strengthen people. Welfare is not always giving people a hand up; sometimes we have a duty of care. That is particularly true for those who are disabled. Do the reforms strengthen people? A touchstone for legislation would be the golden rule in all the world’s religions that we should do to others as we would have them do to us.

In response to the economic difficulties of the 1980s, my predecessor as vicar of St Martin’s, Canon Geoffrey Brown, who died last Thursday, established a business. He engaged the church with the world of work. It created employment at a time of unemployment and saw profit as something that can be good, both in the way it is produced and in the way it is used and distributed for the good of all. Geoffrey Brown’s vision continues to bear much fruit in that open and inclusive church: the spirit of good business is good for all.

Your Lordships may have seen the four original copies of Magna Carta when they were displayed in this House earlier this year as part of the 800th anniversary. Everyone agreed that Salisbury Cathedral’s is by far the best. Power has to be held to account by the rule of law—that is the main point of Magna Carta. However, there is also a compelling link between Magna Carta and the modern tradition of human rights—an important theme in our world and of this Parliament.

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. The Government emphasise the virtue of paying off our financial debts for the sake of future

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generations. They must also remember that we are running at an ecological deficit that cannot be sustained. The issues connected with climate change are the greatest moral issues of our day. Like some others, I wonder about the potential of a green Magna Carta.

The journey through Paris and the UN climate change summit at the end of the year must further our commitment toward fair, ambitious, accountable and binding climate change agreements, nationally and internationally. By 2020, Scotland will be producing the equivalent of 100% renewable energy. Renewable energy, not just oil and fossil fuels, will be a key part of debates about the future of the United Kingdom. This will be a challenge to us English, whose need for energy will not be met without the determined commitment on the part of government, not just local communities, to renewable sources of energy, including wind.

Like bad King John, Bishop Odo did not leave a good reputation. Nevertheless, I look forward to comforting and strengthening the Government, like Bishop Odo comforting his troops, not with a spear but with a shepherd’s crook.

4.38 pm

Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, I applaud the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury on his excellent maiden speech. It is an honour to be able to welcome him to your Lordships’ House and on behalf of noble Lords to recognise his wide range of interests and areas of expertise: not only the environment but also the needs of disabled people, including deaf people—which he mentioned in his maiden speech—music, and areas of particular interest to me, namely ethics, psychotherapy and counselling. Many of us will be seeking his support in the months ahead.

On the subject of my contribution today, I welcome the opportunity presented by the Psychoactive Substances Bill to have a detailed debate over the coming weeks about how best to reduce the importation and use of high-risk psychoactive substances. To many, this seems a narrow, rather insignificant issue, but it touches on one of the four major global issues of the 21st century. These are terrorism and security; climate change; the destruction of our seas through pollution; and last but not least, international crime, including very substantial levels of drug-related crime and associated violence and corruption.

The UK has one of the toughest drug policies, yet one of the highest levels of high-risk drug use of any western European country. My perspective on the proposed Bill is informed by the inquiry into new psychoactive substances that we undertook for the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform. We considered evidence from more than 30 organisations, including ACPO, the ACMD and other government bodies, professional associations and very senior medical and scientific experts. The evidence showed that to reduce the use of NPS, any policy must take account of the interaction between the markets for traditional and new drugs. I have to say that I am not convinced that the proposed law yet does that.

One aspect of the Bill I strongly applaud is the apparent aim to limit the proposed ban to the import or supply of NPS, while avoiding criminalising the

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users of these drugs if they are not also an importer. Drug policies that avoid criminalising young people have tangible benefits to individuals, families and communities, and do not lead to increased levels of addiction. The challenge of responding to the growing use of psychoactive substances offers an opportunity for government to develop policy on the basis of scientific evidence about effective strategies for the first time for 50 years.

Last year, this House debated the European Commission’s regulation on new psychoactive substances. The Government persuaded Parliament to opt out of that regulation because of a strong belief in subsidiarity. I happen to agree that subsidiarity should be the default position, but drugs is one of four key areas where we really do need policy that reaches across national borders. I therefore hope that the proposed Bill can be brought as far as possible into line with the regulation.

What would that mean in practice? The regulation which has been approved by the European Parliament but not yet by the Council, introduces a policy of action proportionate to the level of social, health and safety risks of the drug. That is absolutely critical if the provision is to be taken seriously. Substances that pose severe risks will be submitted to permanent market restriction. The Commission document recognises the harms these substances can cause to the health and safety of individuals; we know they can cause death, injury and disease.

The risk of the proposed ban on “head shop” sales of psychoactive substances is that young people will turn to back-street dealers or the internet, both of which are even less responsible than “head shops”. It has been suggested to me that the Bill could therefore increase the risks to young people, unless we can mitigate those risks.

A blanket ban on new psychoactive substances could prove a serious impediment to UK university-based research into the physiological properties of such substances. Such research is needed before clinical trials can take place. We need to address this issue when we consider the Bill.

Psychoactive substances have other, legitimate uses. The Commission’s regulation specifically takes account of the fact that individual national measures such as those proposed by the Government disrupt trade in legitimate uses of these substances. We will have to look at that issue. Adjusting the Bill to bring it more into line with the regulation would ensure the free movement of psychoactive substances for commercial, industrial, scientific and medical purposes, while providing a graduated and proportionate set of restriction measures for substances posing risks. I wholeheartedly support such controls.

The key point is that a blanket ban will not achieve the Government’s objective. It will not bring about the reduction in the overall use of dangerous drugs that we all want to see. The government agencies that gave evidence to our inquiry made it clear that it is not possible to intercept more than a tiny fraction of the legal highs coming through in packages from China and India to people’s homes. The best hope is that if government policy were logical and sensible, young

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people might take it seriously. If reasonably harmless psychoactive substances were legal and the more risky ones—one might call them the more dangerous ones—were banned, young people would take note. They do not want to harm themselves but they do not know what they are doing, and I do not think that this Bill necessarily helps.

I look forward to working with the Minister, as I have done before, in a constructive way to generate a Bill which will create a safer world for our young people.

4.45 pm

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury on a wonderful speech and I look forward immensely to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. I declare an interest as chair of Broadland Housing Association.

I fought Great Yarmouth in the 1970s. Then, every large village and small town in its large rural hinterland had a dozen council homes, sustaining the village school, shops and local services. They are virtually all gone, sold into the private rented sector or as second homes. Most have not been replaced. Without my housing association, many local people would have nothing to rent at all. This matters because, although we have three types of housing tenure in this country, we have one housing market and one housing crisis. With owner-occupation, between 1997 and 2012 wages went up by 55% but house prices by 200%, so people have lingered longer in the private rented sector, which has become mostly a parasitic tenure of buy to let, not build to let, and the stock that we need has not been added. If anyone needs right to buy, it is private tenants.

As for social housing, 2.5 million homes were sold under right to buy and only one in 10 has been replaced, so waiting lists approach 5 million. Therefore, we have across all sectors a crisis of scarcity.

Housing associations have taken the strain. Mostly they are charities, some with roots going back to 19th-century philanthropy, and they are framed by charity legislation going back to the days of Elizabeth I. Half of housing association property was built by traditional housing associations such as mine, sometimes on land from bequests by local benefactors. The other half of housing association property was transferred from local authorities, becoming what we call stock transfer housing associations.

Housing associations were originally favoured by Tory Governments over council housing precisely because as private bodies they were, according to the then Minister, William Waldegrave, in 1988, freed “from the inevitable constraints” of being within the public sector and public accounts. Yet in the last five years we have been battered. In Norfolk, our capital grant was cut from £40,000 a property to less than £16,000, which does not even pay for the land, so few can build. Our tenants struggle with arrears and evictions as they face layers of cuts to their housing benefit, their prospective disability benefits and their council tax support—the same people hit three, four or five times over. With a more fragile rent roll, the banks that fund

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us are queasy. It is going to get worse because the Government plan to seize our assets—the assets of independent charities.

The Queen’s Speech proposes right to buy for housing association tenants who, after three years of perhaps £5,000 a year rent—£15,000 in all—qualify for a discount of £40,000 to £50,000, rising to 70% of the house value. I repeat: 70%. As housing associations cannot fund these discounts and remain solvent, they will instead be financed by the forced sale of the best council houses. The Daily Telegraph has denounced this as,

“economically illiterate and morally wrong”.

Councils, council tenants and the desperate on waiting lists will be asset-stripped to fund huge discounts for those who are already better off and better housed than they are, simply to change their tenure, adding not one extra home. On the contrary, two social homes to rent will be forcibly sold to fund the discount on the purchase of just one of them.

There are 220,000 tenants who could exercise their RTB, costing £11.6 billion in discounts. Maybe many more will buy, if middle-aged children use their pension freedoms to help their 80 year-old parents buy. They would enjoy a huge capital windfall on the death of their parents.

Let us stay with that £11.6 billion figure. Think of it. It is enough to fund three years of the Barnett formula. It is enough to increase defence spending by 6%. It is enough, indeed, to protect the vulnerable from £12 billion of welfare cuts. If local authorities really could realise and keep £11.6 billion from sales, would they—would we?—really want to spend it on unearned giveaways to the well-housed and their children? Would they instead want to build a million shared-ownership homes, helping five times as many families to buy? Or might they even want to help fund social care for the elderly, relieving huge pressures on the NHS? If localism means anything at all, councils should have that choice.

It gets worse. Within five years, those homes will start to be sold for quick gains, just like council houses before them. Less than a third—only 29%—of council houses sold under right to buy are still occupied by former tenants. The rest have been sold on, half into the PRS. Therefore, councils pay for tenants to live in their old housing stock at treble the former rent and hugely increased housing benefit bills.

Housing associations are charities, not public authorities. Their £60 billion mortgage debt is not on the public accounts any more than landlords’ mortgages are. They are independent charities, many of which are a century old, financed often by gifts from local benefactors. Would we accept the Government asset-stripping Eton or Winchester to fund academies? Perhaps the NHS would like the endowments of medical charities to pay for the drugs bill. Or perhaps we would accept National Trust assets being used to restore this Palace of Westminster. Consult your lawyers—that is my advice.

The answer to the housing crisis in all tenures is simple: double our housing starts to meet our rising birth rates, smaller households and increased longevity. We all want as many who wish and can to buy. As council leader, I built for sale with attached mortgages.

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But those earning £14,000 a year in a minimum-wage job also need decent, affordable homes. HAs must build, not be forced to sell two rented homes to finance one RTB discount.

I have 10 questions for the Minister—not for today, but I would be grateful for the fullest answers in writing as we consider further action. What is the legal basis of the Government’s right to seize the assets of independent charities, given that they will have to unpick myriad overlapping laws that go back centuries?

As this turns HAs into public bodies, do the Government accept that we would have instantly added £60 billion-plus to the PSBR?

What estimates have the Government made of the additional HB costs that follow and will that have to be funded by still further welfare cuts beyond the £12 billion?

What costings have the Government done on the viability of funding HA discounts by forcing local authorities to sell off their best council house property? What do the Government assume about turnover? Only £5 billion may be raised in forced sales to meet that £11.6 billion cost, because the most attractive council houses do not become vacant.

What happens to those local authorities, half of which have no council houses to sell because they have stock-transferred them already into housing associations? Who then pays for the discounts? The Government have said that RTB will be funded by council house sales in their area. Is that a district, a county, a region, or will the wealthier London postcodes fund us all?

Will local authorities still owning council housing be subsidising those without any or, instead, will the stock-transfer housing associations have to sell off their own more valuable property, thus losing two of their homes to fund the discount on one of them?

We currently have two discount schemes, right to buy and right to acquire, with very different discounts. Will the Government scrap the right to acquire or run both schemes alongside each other, with identical tenants getting hugely different discounts?

Will there be a cost floor, so no housing association is required to sell below its cost of provision, a problem if an older tenant moves into a new property with accumulated discount rights?

Will compensation be paid on the open market value of the lost property? What about the landlord’s stream of income underpinning their business plans? Who covers the time gap between an HA sale and council sales required to fund the discount?

Will there be protection for rural communities with, let us say, a population of under 3,000 and for areas of outstanding natural beauty, where every sale will soon become a second home? Answers, please, in writing.

Finally, a few verdicts: the CBI says that right to buy,

“doesn’t solve the problem of … the supply of affordable homes”.

The IFS is withering, saying that the scheme is,

“a significant giveaway to … tenants”,


“would worsen the UK’s underlying public finance position”.

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As for the credit rating agencies, Moody’s says that the measure could,

“potentially impair housing associations’ balance sheets and future borrowing capacity”.

Boris Johnson describes it as “the height of insanity”. Finally, Peabody’s chief executive says:

“Peabody’s assets belong to us. They are not the government’s to sell”.

I hope that this Bill never makes it to the Lords. If it does, I hope that this House will take it apart.

4.56 pm

Lord Eden of Winton (Con) (Valedictory Speech): My Lords—

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Eden of Winton: Thank you, my Lords. Towards the end of the last Session, under the terms of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014, I gave notice of my intention to retire on 11 June. I hesitated long before interrupting this debate with what is now called a valedictory since I know that it places rather unfortunate constraints on free movement in this House, but I felt that the precedent had already been set.

We have had four marvellous valedictories. The first was made as long ago as October 2014 by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. That was a truly memorable speech on his part and it set the pattern, form and tone for other such speeches to follow. He was well followed by three other speeches, from my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby. Two other noble Lords whose retirement was announced only yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden, have retired without making valedictory speeches, but I hope that all those who have gone ahead will realise how very much they are missed from this House.

I cannot begin to match their record of service, but what I can say is that the real reason for my going is that I have spent about two-thirds of my life so far in and around the Palace of Westminster and I thought that it was about time that I tried my hand at doing something else while I could still count marbles. My decision to retire, therefore, has nothing to do with my age. True, if all goes according to plan, I shall be 90 in September. Well, there is nothing particularly magical about that; it is just another milestone. Let us consider for a moment those 90 year-old stars that still shine so brightly in our midst. Most brilliant of all—in fact, a veritable galaxy in his own right—is that great man, my noble friend Lord Carrington, whom I was so pleased to see in his place earlier today. None can match his extraordinary career and outstanding record of service to this House and the nation. It will be well known to noble Lords that my noble friend Lord Carrington has been frequently called upon to give the memorial address at services at St Margaret’s, Westminster, and elsewhere. After one such occasion I congratulated him but said, “What really troubles me is who we are going to choose to do it for you whenever that time comes”. “Don’t worry, old boy”, he replied with a chuckle, “I’ve already written it”.

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The point of retirement is that it clearly paves the way for good people to come in one’s place. I mention two who have already made their contributions as maiden speeches in the earlier stages of this response to the Queen’s Speech debate—my noble friend Lady Helic and the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane. They made magnificent speeches and will clearly make valuable contributions to this House.

As noble Lords will know, anyone who enters the political arena and embarks upon a political career will need a modicum of good luck. I was fortunate at the outset in that I was selected to fight two by-elections within three months—one I lost, the other I won. As a result, in February 1954, when Sir Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister, I became the youngest Member, for a short time, in the House of Commons.

I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my constituents, who were extraordinarily long suffering. They put up with me for a long time—29 years—and they were immensely supportive, encouraging and loyal. Bournemouth was extremely well served by a great local newspaper, the Daily Echo, which was most generous in its coverage of my activities and most skilful in its interpretation of my speeches. It is good that the old constituency is now well represented by the able and hard-working Conor Burns, a first-class MP, who was rightly given a resounding vote of confidence at the last general election.

Without doubt the high point of my time in the Commons—apart from the chairmanship of two Select Committees, which was valuable experience—was when I was asked by Ted Heath to be a member of his Government in two Ministries. They were not easy times, to put it mildly. Sir Edward Heath was a complex and challenging character but I greatly valued his friendship. At the end of my time in the Commons, Margaret Thatcher asked me to be her personal assistant in the 1983 general election. Unlike the caricature so frequently represented of her, she was a wonderful person to work for—inspiring, considerate, straightforward and sensitive. Having served both Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, I saw and came to understand both sides.

I turn briefly to the subject area of today’s debate. I am encouraged by the wonderful maiden speech we have just heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury to say a word about the world environment. However, as I introduced a debate on this subject in March this year, I shall content myself with only one sentence: I deplore the continued destruction of rainforests across the globe. Insufficient recognition is given to how serious the situation is. There is little comprehension of the fact that trees are absolutely vital to sustain life on earth.

I shall touch on one other issue in the gracious Speech. It states:

“Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism”.

I hope that the Government will turn their spotlight on the harsh and hard-hearted treatment of so many Muslim women in this country. They are often dealt with severely, and the actions in doing so are justified according to the doctrine of sharia law. But it is UK law which should guide and control these matters and

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dictate what is right in this country, not sharia law. The cause of these women has for some years been championed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, a most courageous campaigner. She has tabled Questions for Written Answer and yesterday she presented a Bill to the House which I hope will give the Government an opportunity to listen more closely to what she has been saying and to follow the actions that she has suggested.

Before I conclude, I must acknowledge how much is contributed to our life here by all those who serve us at every level over such a wide range of functions. By way of illustration, I will mention three individuals who are well known to many of your Lordships. In the Bishops’ Bar, fun, laughter and merriment are rarely absent, and that is largely thanks to the magnificent Marva James and Angela Dell. In the Peers’ Dining Room, there is the incomparable Mary Rose Cormack, who is a seemingly unstoppable whirlwind of energy and efficiency. I thank them, and in fact I thank all the officers and staff wherever they work and whoever they are, because they all matter to us here. I thank them for their constant cheerfulness and unfailing courtesy.

And now, as my noble friend Lord Tebbit might say, it is time for me to get on my bike. Since 1923, when my uncle was elected to the Commons, there has always been an Eden in Parliament. Before him, from the 17th century onwards, the family has produced generations of Members of Parliament, mostly for the county of Durham. The tradition of public service in the Armed Forces, in diplomacy, in the church, in politics and in social work is deeply embedded in our family genes. I am glad to say that our banner will still be borne aloft in the immensely capable hands of my noble kinsman Lord Henley.

My purpose for interrupting this debate was really just to thank all noble Lords wherever they sit in the House for so generously accepting me here throughout the 32 years that I have been around the place. From now on I shall be watching from the sidelines the continuing good work and careful scrutiny that noble Lords give to legislation and the excellent debates in which they take part. It therefore remains for me to say only this: good luck for the future, whatever it may be, and goodbye.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

5.09 pm

Lord Wakeham (Con): My Lords, it is not for my noble friend to say thank you, it is for us to thank him for all the years of service that he has given to this House: roughly 60 years in all, about half in the House of Commons and half in the House of Lords. He mentioned a number of positions that he has held in that time. A glance at Who’s Who will show that that was just a sample of the many jobs he has done in service to our country in Parliament over those years.

I have known the noble Lord for the bulk of those 60 years. I knew him long before I became a Member of Parliament, as a matter of fact. By coincidence, I was invited to speak at a dinner in his constituency in

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Bournemouth in 1983. During that day, the end of the Parliament, which was to be the end of my noble friend’s time in the Commons, was announced. Therefore, the dinner that I attended was on his last day as a Member of Parliament. I mention that because I discovered that evening how much his constituents appreciated all the service he had given them over 30 years. He has given great service to our nation, and he has done it with the charm, wit and friendship that I, and I am sure many others, have appreciated. It is our very great desire to pay this tribute to him for all his service, not only to Parliament but to the whole nation. I hope that he will watch our proceedings for many years to come.

I do not want to be nostalgic for more than a second or two, but I remember the 1992 general election when I was put in charge of Conservative Central Office during the election campaign. We were behind in the polls for pretty well the whole of the campaign. We did not know whether it was wise to do so or not but we stuck to our guns and we won that election with a majority of 21. One of the young men helping me at that time was a young fellow called David Cameron. I learned a great deal from him during the election campaign and I hope that he learned a little from me.

As soon as the election was over, I was shunted into your Lordships’ House as the Leader. The first big debate I had to do anything about was the debate on the Queen’s Speech. In those days, the Leader of the House always wound up the debate on the last day; that was the tradition. I went to Willie Whitelaw, who had been the Leader some time before, to ask his advice as to what I should say and do. He said, “It’s all pretty straightforward. It doesn’t matter very much what you say during the debate as long as you mention by name everybody who has taken part”. I do not know whether you got away with that in those days, but he got away with it and I like to think that I got away with it as well. But I think that those days have gone.

More seriously, energy is right at the heart of our economic policy, and the purpose of my remarks is to ask the Government to look at the position that we seem to have got ourselves into. It is more than 25 years ago since I privatised the electricity industry. When we privatised it, our objective for the industry and for the millions of private customers was to create a successful and competitive industry. We converted one great state corporation into 16 or 17 independent distribution companies with five or six generating companies and into a market that others from within the United Kingdom and from abroad could and were encouraged to enter. It was a great success. Professor Littlechild, the first regulator, has estimated that privatisation produced net benefits over the first three years of some £23 billion. In the first 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, productivity in the industry doubled. Since then, all those benefits have been lost. Dieter Helm, the leading energy economist from Oxford University, says that it is quite hard to make a case as bad as what the industry is now. It is so bad that Helm said recently that even the old state Central Electricity Generating Board would actually be better than what we currently have. What we did 25 years ago seems in effect to have been completely destroyed.

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What has gone wrong? I have to say that I am not sufficiently up to date in these things to be able to give all the answers. This is the first time that I have spoken on energy in the 25 years since I was a Secretary of State. There are a number of things that cause me concern. First, the vertical and horizontal consolidation of the industry into the six big energy companies massively reduced the opportunities for competition. If I had been the Secretary of State I would not easily have agreed to these changes, but I do not suppose that they are the whole reason. Secondly, the way in which the Government have intervened to support renewable energy has been a mistake and has killed off any attempt at a competitive market. It is simply not possible to have a competitive market if the Government subsidise near zero marginal cost of output.

My plea to the Government is therefore to review the whole system and make it more competitive and transparent than it is now. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Layard, who is not in his place at the moment, that one of the things that is vital is more research into how we can produce renewable energy that can compete. I am not against renewable energy. Indeed, I was the Secretary of State who brought in the original support for renewable energy. When we set it up, the first test we made was: could this form of energy ever be profitable? If the view was that it could, then there was a case for a level of subsidy to bring that forward quicker. However, if it could never be profitable it was doubtful whether it was ever right to subsidise it. Any project can be made profitable if sufficient subsidy is given to it, but that is not the way forward.

The Secretary of State needs to look at these projects afresh. She could well do that now: the considerable fall in the price of oil and fossil fuels, together with the emergence of fracking, makes the economics of what may have seemed reasonable some years ago not at all acceptable today. It has been argued that the cost of the generating capacity to replace the old nuclear and coal stations with a combination of renewable generators and the necessary back-up of conventional generators is more than double what would be necessary if we did not have to deal with the intermittent output from renewables. This is a massive extra cost.

There is also the substantial extra cost to the grid of the transmissions to connect remote onshore wind farms and even more costly offshore capacity. That in itself has been estimated to cost an extra £6 billion a year, even allowing for the fuel saved. I am sure that the Government have to look at these things again. There are further problems, because renewables can increase output at virtually no marginal cost when the sun shines and the wind blows. This must make it very difficult for conventional generators to operate sensibly. All this has to be dealt with in the context of a very understandable controversy in a country where many power stations are in areas of outstanding natural beauty. Whatever view we take on the need for renewables —and I agree very much that more research needs to be done—it must be properly costed in a system that is competitive and transparent. That is the only way forward.

Lastly, I am delighted that, in any review of energy policy, proper consideration will be given to the role of nuclear power. I am sure that there should be a much

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bigger role for nuclear power, which is potentially the best renewable project of all. I wish the new Secretary of State well in her responsibilities, but she has to tackle some very formidable problems.

5.19 pm

Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, I wish to concentrate on matters relating to home affairs in the gracious Speech. My starting point is that the many calls from the public and politicians for tough punishments for that minority of offenders convicted of crimes involving violence, drugs or sex are not incompatible with the desire to see fewer offenders in prison; it is simply to say that, as a society, we should be aiming to send fewer people to prison.

A number of the specific announcements contained in the Queen’s Speech will make useful improvements to the criminal justice system. The proposal to put the rights of victims of crime, which are currently enshrined in a non-statutory victims’ code, on a statutory footing will receive widespread support. I welcome a number of the proposals in the proposed policing and criminal justice Bill, particularly the limitations on the use and length of police bail and measures to reduce the use of police cells as a place of safety for mentally ill people.

I also welcome legislation to tackle the problem of “legal highs”. I am pleased to see that the proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill will not include an offence of personal possession of these drugs. It is both more humane and more effective to channel drug users into treatment and education programmes rather than into the criminal justice system. We should reserve criminal penalties for those who exploit users by manufacturing and trading in drugs.

Although I welcome some of the specific announcements in the Queen’s Speech, I am bound to say that I would like to see a far more radical approach to address the serious challenges facing our criminal justice system. The size of our prison population, which stood at 84,372 in mid-May, remains a national disgrace. At the end of March 2015, 70 of the 117 prisons in England and Wales were holding more prisoners than they were built for. This country now has 149 prisoners for every 100,000 people in the general population, compared with 100 in France and 77 in Germany.

Far too many offenders are still sent into custody for short sentences and are released after no more than a few months. These sentences serve very little useful purpose. They are far too short for sustained rehabilitation programmes but long enough for offenders to lose their jobs and homes and make them more likely to reoffend. Fifty-eight per cent of these prisoners are reconvicted within a year of release and many of them return to prison repeatedly for short sentences in a pointless and depressing revolving-door process.

The coalition Government legislated to provide post-release supervision for short-term prisoners, which is undoubtedly a step forward. However, most of these offenders would be better dealt with by community orders. Offenders given community orders have a reoffending rate seven percentage points lower than that for similar offenders given short prison sentences. Community orders can provide a longer period of

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supervision and more intensive work to change offending behaviour than can relatively short periods of post-release supervision.

The penal system, like other public services, has had to face significant spending cuts over the past few years as the price of the country’s recovery from the economic crisis. As a result, over the last four years the number of prison staff in public sector prisons has fallen by 29%—this means nearly 13,000 fewer staff. The amount of purposeful activity in prisons has fallen in consequence, as the reports of the Chief Inspector of Prisons have repeatedly made clear.

We know that budgets are now set to tighten further as the Chancellor seeks another £13 billion of cuts to Whitehall departments, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that the Ministry of Justice budget will reduce by one-third. When resources are so stretched we need to make sure that we are using them in the best possible way. We need to rethink an approach that spends such a high proportion of its resources on custodial measures which produce high reoffending rates. The Government should legislate to make sentencing guidelines take into account the capacity of the prison system. The proposal was first made by the Carter report on the prison system in 2007 and it still makes sense.

At a time when all the other public services have to work within the reality of limited resources, there is no reason why the courts should be exempt. Sentencing guidelines should scale down the number and length of prison sentences, except for the most serious crimes. They should remove prison as an option for low-level, non-violent crimes. Courts should be prohibited from using prisons except for dangerous offenders unless they have first tried an intensive community supervision programme. We should also convert the sentences of the many IPP prisoners who remain in our prisons, even though the sentence was rightly abolished by the coalition, by converting them into determinate sentences once they have served a period equivalent to double their tariff.

We also need a clear strategy to reduce the use of imprisonment for women. Most of the women we send to prison are neither violent nor dangerous, and most of them have few previous convictions. Imprisoned women have high rates of mental disorder, histories of abuse, addiction problems and personal distress arising from separation from their children. I supported the coalition Government’s move to set up an expert advisory board on women’s imprisonment. However, we should now go further to establish a women’s justice board to set improved standards for women’s community sentences, resettlement and rehabilitation, mental health services, family contact, and culturally appropriate support for foreign national women in our prisons.

We should do more to keep restorative justice at the forefront of sentences and make sure that it becomes a central part of our criminal justice system. Research has shown that 27% fewer crimes are committed by offenders who have experienced restorative conferencing than those who have not.

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A great deal remains to be done to eliminate racial discrimination from the criminal justice process. The disproportionate use of stop and search is even more extreme than it was when the Stephen Lawrence inquiry reported, and the proportion of the prison population from racial minorities is now higher than it was then: 10% of British nationals in prison are black, compared with 2.8% of the general population, and 6% are Asian. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the number of black people in prison is now more disproportionate in the United Kingdom than in the United States.

Finally, as I have repeatedly urged in this House, we should also raise this country’s unusually low age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12. It would be more effective and more humane to deal with offenders under that age in family courts, as other European countries do. A strategy along these lines would help to move this country away from its unenviable position of having the highest prison population in western Europe. In doing so, it would help to concentrate our limited resources on the measures that are most likely to protect the public by rehabilitating offenders and reducing reoffending.

5.28 pm

Lord Laird (Non-Afl): My Lords, under the heading of home affairs I want to look at two issues that could affect the human rights of the citizens of the UK. Mention of human rights is included in the gracious Speech, and I wish to look at the activities that are under the heading of Prism.

I want to put on record that I am an admirer of the USA, coming as I do from the Ulster Scots community, which to date has provided 17 Presidents of the United States and many others who were responsible for the formation of that nation as a beacon of independent thinking and freedom. I raise this issue more in sorrow than in anger. My understanding is that Prism is a mass surveillance programme operated in many countries, including the UK. I also understand that it is no part of any scheme operated by the UK information-gathering agencies. Instead, the programme is run by nine major internet companies registered in the UK, which are wholly owned by US parent corporations. They have been required by the US Government to intercept and obtain information from their clients in every field of communications technology that they provide. The Government have known about this activity since 2013, according to the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in a letter of June that year. Interestingly, Sir Anthony May QC, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, told the PM in a report of 8 April 2014 that warrantless interception was a criminal offence. He also pointed out that the theft of data was a breach of Article 8 of the human rights convention of 1948.

Coming very close to home, data collected through Prism from your Lordships’ House is stored in the Irish Republic and the Netherlands, according to a letter to John Hemming, then an MP, from the Foreign Secretary on 2 September 2014. When I made inquiries into the Dublin storage, I was informed by someone who should know that the protection against Prism is internally described as being like two cans and a bit of string. Dublin is wide open to data theft.

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In the parchment copy of the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, a document in which Ulster Scots people had a vital role, a paragraph goes thus:

“Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us”.

In the light of that paragraph, it is interesting to note that the American Senate is very much exercised in the processing of information gathered in the US, as witnessed by last Sunday’s special sitting when it stopped the practice at home. Members of the Intelligence and Security Committee have told inquirers that Prism is a US issue. However, if it is still in operation in the UK it is an issue for this Government. It is a criminal offence, according to Sir Anthony May QC. Who tells us that Prism runs in the UK? The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which ruled in December last and in February in the Liberty case that data obtained by the National Security Agency via Prism in the UK, and supplied to GCHQ, were unlawfully obtained. I hope that in this Session HMG will take all necessary steps to regularise the position and to keep your Lordships’ House informed as much as possible.

I turn to another human rights issue. The Irish are a very likeable people, except when some of them are involved in politics. Unfortunately, they allow themselves to get carried away into the Celtic mist. We must be aware of their behaviour and make allowances in HMG’s decision-making. One such mist already seems to surround the area of human rights for those who live in the part of the United Kingdom called Northern Ireland. To some of us, it seems that busloads of so-called experts descend on our Province and offer us advice on human rights. If these experts were gardeners offering to work in my garden, I would take a common-sense approach by checking over their garden before I allowed them into mine. Let me apply that process to human rights, always bearing in mind that the Belfast agreement of 1998 has much to say on the topic and is often recited to us as an example.

The Belfast agreement of 10 April 1998, in the section under “Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity” on page 31 and in paragraph 3, lists steps by the Irish Government comparable to those for HMG. In this, the Irish Government pledged measures that will ensure at least an equivalent amount of protection of human rights as pertains in Northern Ireland. Let us take some simple, recent examples in the Republic that could affect family life. To this day, anyone seeking state funding to provide clothing for a child’s religious activities, or a couple who seek counselling about marriage, will receive state help, but only if they are, according to the law, of the majority community in religious terms. When it comes to buying a house, to this day the rights listed on page 23 of the Belfast agreement to freely choose one’s place of residence do not apply in the Republic. In areas of that state, property can be sold only to those with a qualification in the Irish language. This discriminates against non-Irish people such as me. The Irish Parliament agreed to pay for the compensation and expenses of children caught up in abuse by church organisations but only if it is the Roman Catholic Church.

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I was a member of the Stormont Parliament, which was abolished in 1972 at the behest of the Irish. That Parliament operated under legislation set out in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Under this, and rightly, if it legislated against anyone on the grounds of religion, the Bill was null and void under Section 5 of that Act. Administration by the Northern Ireland Parliament with the same purpose was null and void under Section 8. The Irish Parliament has no such restriction, however, yet they criticise the UK for its bad record on human rights. Recently the position would have become laughable if it was not so serious. The Irish are telling the world that the UK agreed a Human Rights Act as part of the Belfast agreement of April 1998. The Act referred to was put in place only in November 1998, so how could the UK give an undertaking to something that had not at that stage materialised? How can the Irish claim that Sinn Fein must have a say in changes to the Human Rights Act because they agreed to the Belfast agreement, when the Act was not in the agreement?

I will be most interested in the consultations on human rights outlined in the Queen’s Speech. A simple question will be: why does one part of any country require more human rights than another? I ask HMG to examine the human rights in the Irish Republic. After all, HMG underwrote the implementation of the agreement in the Republic as well as the UK—a point that is often forgotten—to appease the Irish Government.

5.37 pm

Viscount Ridley (Con): My Lords, I join others in paying tribute to the magnificent valedictory speech of my noble friend Lord Eden and the fine maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury. I want to address my remarks to energy, by echoing some of what my noble friend Lord Wakeham said. In doing so, I declare my interests in energy as listed in the register, including interests in coal mining in Northumberland.

I welcome the fact that the gracious Speech includes a special emphasis on security of energy supplies because that is a crucial question. The Conservative manifesto promised to,

“guarantee clean, affordable and secure energy supplies”,

and in that context the Science and Technology Committee, on which I sit, very recently produced a report, ably chaired by my noble friend Lord Selborne, on the resilience of the electricity supply. It would make good reading for the Minister because it said that the trilemma between security, affordability and decarbonisation is effectively insoluble in the current state of technology. If you want security, you have to pay extra for it whether by spare capacity, demand-side response, storage or emergency reserve. Wind could provide us with all our energy securely if we all had gigantic batteries in our houses, which lasted for several days when the wind did not work, but it would be ludicrously expensive. If you want to decarbonise on top of that then you have to pay even more for it. You cannot have all three at the same time in the current state of technology. Does the Minister, or do his colleagues if he wishes to pass this on to those more directly involved, agree with the conclusions of that report?

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I would like to make the case that target-driven decarbonisation has made energy less affordable and less secure, and that the poor have borne the burden of this during the last five years. How else do we explain the deal that was signed for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station? Let me emphasise that, like my noble friend Lord Wakeham, I am very pro-nuclear. It is a wonderful technology but in this case we may have made a mistake. How do we explain that except by admitting that affordability has been sacrificed to decarbonisation? Hinkley C is a poor deal for the British people. The cost has gone from £5 billion to £16 billion to £24 billion. That is 30% more per megawatt of capacity than the cost of the same technology as it is being built in France today. We could have got 10 times as much electricity from gas-fired power stations for that cost.

Areva’s EPR—the European pressurised water reactor—is a flawed technology: not one has been built to time or budget anywhere in the world. The EPR at Flamanville is five years behind schedule, the one at Olkiluoto in Finland is 10 years behind schedule and already delays are setting in with the third one, which is being built in China. The Flamanville one may be abandoned altogether after serious anomalies were recently found in the reactor vessel. Areva is a French, state-owned company that posted losses last year of €4.8 billion—more than its entire market value—and is being sued for €2 billion in Finland.

The French and Chinese Governments will earn between £65 billion and £85 billion of dividends from British consumers during the lifetime of Hinkley C, according to the contract. Hinkley’s electricity will be expensive: roughly twice what people pay today by the time it opens in the 2020s. Under the coalition, Energy Ministers argued that this would be okay because that would be competitive with gas prices by the mid-2020s, because gas prices were bound to rise as gas ran out. However, gas prices have gone down and gas is not running out, so the gap is growing ever larger. Can my noble friend say what financial guarantees are in place if EDF starts the project and then pulls out, and what guarantees are EDF and Areva giving to avoid a repeat of the Flamanville and Olkiluoto problems?

I emphasise again that I am not arguing against nuclear. Far from it, I think it has a huge future in delivering affordable and decarbonised energy eventually, along with other technologies. There are two other nuclear new-build projects making good progress in this country: Hitachi at Wylfa and Oldbury, and Toshiba at Moorside in Cumbria. Then there are small modular reactors, molten salt reactors and all sorts of other technologies coming along for nuclear that will help to make it more affordable, more secure and decarbonised. My case is that, in our rush to decarbonise, we may have backed the wrong horse. As a policy, picking winners is rightly considered to be a mistake, but at the moment in energy policy we are not even picking winners; we are picking losers. Given that the Conservative Party is now the party of working people, can we have an assurance that we will pay more attention to affordability of energy than we have done in the last five years?

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