In all this, the Government will not be short of advice and pressure. The Woodland Trust is determined not just to plant new woodlands but to protect old and particularly ancient woodlands from threats posed by schemes such as HS2. The Trees and Design Action Group, TDAG, is a charity embracing a host of organisations and companies interested and qualified in the planting and care of trees in the urban landscape. The Natural Capital Committee advises the Government on large-scale projects and the national macroeconomic benefits derived from trees. The Arboricultural Association has in its members a wealth of knowledge about the practical aspects of planting and caring for trees and is often the first to spot the signs of disease. The Forestry Commission has now to wear many more hats than that of pure forestry. Just a few days ago, at a London tree awards ceremony, I heard an excellent presentation by its director, Ian Gambles, on the London i-Tree eco project. Time does not permit me to elaborate, but this is the largest tree survey of its kind in the world and is expected to have a transformational impact on how London’s urban forest is recognised and managed.

This brings me to the question of which Minister has responsibility for urban trees. In answer to a Parliamentary Question that I put down earlier this year I was told that:

“No single Government department is responsible for the planting of trees in the urban environment”.

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I believe that the time has come to draw all these threads together and consider having an individual Minister responsible for urban trees.

I want to say a word about biosecurity and quarantine, as was touched on briefly by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset. The ravages of Dutch elm disease, imported on logs from Canada in the 1960s, robbed us of all our great elm trees. Ash dieback is now threatening to have the same terrible effect, with diseased imported trees again involved and no remedy in sight except the depressing policy of “managed decline”. We have other problems of foreign origin threatening our native trees, such as the oak processionary moth. A disease of plane trees is now rampant in France. I invite you to imagine London, its streets, squares and parks, without its London plane trees. Box blight, of South American origin, is causing the ripping apart of some of our most famous gardens and has now been found in our woodlands. In southern Italy, a bacterial disease that hails from the Americas is sweeping through thousands of acres of olives.

Modern trading in and transporting of plants has made the threat to our trees frightening. There are two things that we can and must do. First, we must grow more of what we can grow. Secondly, and more importantly, we must put in place with the utmost urgency a strict quarantine regime that will prevent plants being imported and immediately sold, scattered and planted all over the country. In answer to another Parliamentary Question that I put down last July I was told by Defra that the number of plants, bare root and container, imported into the UK in 2012-13 was 2.5 million. By 2013-14—that is the planting season—this had risen to 3 million, an increase of half a million trees and plants. Unlike our European neighbours, where most of our imported trees come from, we are an island, with all the biosecurity advantages that that gives us. We should use them to the full. I acknowledge that there are some existing rules and regulations, but they are far from watertight. We must have a sensible quarantine system in place without delay. We do not have to devise it from scratch: some nurseries are already implementing their own. Allied to this, we must have rigidly enforced traceability so that any infected plants can rapidly be tracked down and destroyed.

I acknowledge that the nation’s tree budget is not in the same league as defence, the NHS or education, but it must be substantial and it must be enough. It seems inevitable that, as our country grows, growth now is everything: we must build, build, build. But if we want to keep the heart of our country for future generations and keep the hearts of our towns and cities, we must have the wisdom, the foresight and the funding to plant, plant, plant: to plant our trees and, having planted, care for them.

9 pm

Lord Patel of Bradford (Lab): My Lords, two Mayday calls were made last year and I am pleased that both have been heard by the Home Secretary. I hope that Mrs May can make it a third this year.

During last year’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, I raised concerns about 17 year-olds taken into custody by the police and treated as adults rather than children. I highlighted the case of Joe Lawton, who in 2012

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took his own life. His father found him dead with a police charge sheet at his feet. Two days earlier, Joe had been held in a police cell overnight on suspicion of drink-driving. Joe was 17. I also spoke of 17 year-old Edward Thornber, who in 2011 was caught with 50p worth of cannabis. Distraught at the thought of life with a criminal record, he hanged himself. Those two children were robbed of their future, and their families robbed of sharing it and seeing their children reach adulthood.

Those cases, along with the legal challenge mounted by 17 year-old Hughes Cousins-Chang, who was kept in custody for 12 hours, during which he underwent the ordeal of a strip search before being released without charge, led to the Home Secretary changing the PACE Code C, which I warmly welcomed, but I warned of two issues: first, the lack of additional resources going to local government to deal with this change, especially given that around 75,000 17 year-olds are taken into police custody every year; and, secondly, anomalies that remained, including under Section 65, where although an intimate search on a 16 year-old in relation to a suspected drugs offence requires both individual and parental consent, such body cavity searches can be carried out on a 17 year-old girl without her parents ever knowing. I am pleased to hear that the Home Secretary, Mrs May, heard that Mayday call and has promised to ensure through the policing and criminal justice legislation announced in the gracious Speech that such anomalies will be removed and that 17 year-olds will be treated as children under all the provisions of PACE.

The second Mayday call came from Paul Netherton, assistant chief constable at Devon & Cornwall Police, who in November last year took to Twitter to express his frustration and voice concerns for the welfare of a 16 year-old girl who had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, but with no bed available had spent two days in a cell at Torquay police station. Later, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary highlighted a case in Nottinghamshire where a 16 year-old girl was detained for 52 hours in a central police custody suite before being transferred to a healthcare setting. For the first 44 hours in custody, she went without food or water.

I think that Mrs May has heard that Mayday call, too. At the Police Federation conference this May, she promised to ban the use of police cells as places of safety for under-18s with mental health problems. I understand that the legislation has three other aims: to further reduce the use of police cells in the case of adults, which is good; to reduce the current 72-hour maximum period of detention; and to extend the power to detain under Section 136 to any place other than a private residence. I welcome Mrs May’s aims and look forward to seeing the detail in the Bill.

However, two immediate issues come to mind which I hope Ministers will be able to answer during the passage of the Bill, although it would be helpful if the Minister could shed some light on the matter today. First, will vulnerable people be discharged from custody to the streets if the reduced time is up and no hospital bed or other appropriate place has been found? Could this inadvertently result in families and partners being placed at risk? Secondly, what assurances will there be

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that any other place is safe and appropriate? I am sure that these and other issues will be debated during the course of the Bill and satisfactory and workable solutions found.

Progress on two Mayday calls has been made. My Mayday call to Mrs May for this year is of equal urgency and severity but for which I have yet to hear any firm proposals from the Government. Every year, hundreds of deaths occur in police custody, prisons and psychiatric hospitals that are later deemed to have been preventable. Last February an excellent report, Preventing Death in Detention of Adults with Mental Health Conditions, was published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The report highlights that between 2010 and 2013, 367 adults with mental health conditions died of non-natural causes while in state detention in police cells and psychiatric wards. Another 295 adults died in prison of non-natural causes, many of whom had mental health conditions. Since 2013 the number has risen considerably. That is well over 650 preventable deaths.

I am sure everyone will agree that each of these deaths is a tragedy. It is a terrible end to a troubled life for those with mental health conditions and a tragedy for the loved ones left behind who have suffered as a result of these deaths. They have to come to terms not only with their terrible loss but with the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of their loved ones, most importantly where the death could have been avoided but there has been significant failure by the state.

Many agencies are involved in ensuring the safety and care of people with mental health conditions, and all try to do their best within their own constraints, but often co-ordination of policy and service delivery is poor. The Government must do more to ensure that such tragic deaths do not occur in the future. I ask Mrs May to work with her ministerial colleagues, in particular the Lord Chancellor, to see how the safety and care of people with mental health conditions can be improved within the policing and criminal justice system.

On a final note, I wish Mrs May well with her own Mayday call. Your Lordships will remember the one; it was for the Conservative Party to be more compassionate and to lose its label as the nasty party. I humbly suggest that that will not be easy against the backdrop of the proposed £12 billion cuts in the welfare system and the potential abolition of the Human Rights Act. However, if some of the issues that I have highlighted today are appropriately addressed, it may go some way towards helping her to answer her own Mayday call.

9.07 pm

Lord Strasburger (Non-Afl): My Lords, we live in dangerous times—the danger of imported terrorism from various parts of the world; threats from newly aggressive Russia and China; and danger from rogue nuclear states such as Iran and North Korea. However, the biggest peril we face is losing, or throwing away, the freedoms, liberty, privacy and lifestyle that have set this country apart from others in the world—the very way of life that Islamic State, al-Qaeda and groups like them seek to destroy.

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If we are not careful, we will allow misguided people within our country and Government to turn Britain into a country where the authorities know everything about the private lives of all of us. Even under a benign and well-meaning government, these excessive powers are vulnerable to misuse by rogue elements within it or by criminals at home or abroad. Worse still, the ability to know everything about everyone would be ripe for wholesale abuse by a less well-intentioned future regime, which would find that it possessed ready-made tools for repression.

We must deny the Home Secretary and her most ardent securocrat, Charles Farr, their attempt to have pretty well unlimited and untrammelled access to the most private data of everyone in our country. In fact, we should be reducing, not increasing, their reach into the lives of innocent citizens. They have shown no inclination whatever to consider the possible unintended consequences, if they are unintended, of the draconian powers they are demanding. They do not believe, and they cannot see, that there are compelling arguments to restrain those powers and that there is another side to the coin. They hardly engage at all with those who speak for the need for constraints on intrusive powers, for proper authorisation, for transparency and for oversight. When they are forced to enter the debate, they do so only in the most desultory and reluctant manner.

When the investigatory powers Bill is published, we can hope that it will bring the existing legislation up to date and clearly restrict the occasions when snooping is permitted. We can hope that the Bill will remove the hidden loopholes that have allowed the state massively to expand, completely in secret and behind closed doors, its prying into our private lives without the informed permission of Parliament and the people. We can hope that the Bill introduces more independent authorisation procedures which ensure that intrusions occur only when they are necessary and proportionate. We can hope that, for the first time, there will be meaningful oversight to ensure that non-compliance is discovered and punished. We can hope that the Bill contains these reasonable and essential provisions, along with others which are so important if these powers are to have legitimacy with the public.

I, for one, am not holding my breath. The Home Secretary and Mr Farr both have plenty of previous form, and it is not encouraging. They have demonstrated time and again that they are either incapable or unwilling to come to Parliament with a balanced package that protects the population from harm by permitting the most aggressive intrusion into the lives of major criminals and terrorists but which leaves the rest of us alone. The Government have repeatedly made the pro forma statement that all UK surveillance is conducted within the law. This has recently been shown to be untrue, and in any case it is a worthless claim because the legal structures surrounding surveillance are riddled with flaws and loopholes—some, I believe, inserted deliberately. For example, the Home Office has recently had to admit to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that the flimsy protections that should prevent interception of ordinary citizens’ communications without a warrant are being circumvented on a wholesale basis. This is

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because the Home Office decided that anyone who uses popular services such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and many others are exempt from protection from unwarranted snooping merely because the servers of those companies are located outside the UK. With gaping holes like that in our legislation, who needs to break the law?

No sensible parliamentarian will deny our police and security services all the powers they need to investigate and prevent serious crime and terrorism, but these highly intrusive powers to pry into all aspects of a person’s most intimate and personal life must be very strictly targeted on individuals who are genuinely suspected of planning or perpetrating the most serious crimes, and no one else. The state has no right to snoop on the rest of us; it is as simple as that. The current legal framework fails to make the distinction clear, and for that reason it is not fit for purpose. It also fails to deliver an oversight process which works so that abuses of the rules, such as they are, will probably be detected and punished. For that reason, too, it is not fit for purpose. With the Conservatives no longer constrained by the principles and common sense of the Liberal Democrats, there is every reason to fear that the forthcoming legislation will be long on more intrusive powers and decidedly short on limitations on the use of those powers, and the oversight to make sure that those limitations are being observed.

Two days ago, American lawmakers made the historic decision, prompted by the Snowden revelations, to start reversing four decades of ever-increasing intrusion into their citizens’ affairs, and to introduce real transparency into the use of these powers. I put it to noble Lords that it would be perverse and completely unacceptable for our Government’s response to Snowden’s disclosures of secret and unauthorised mass surveillance in this country to be for the state to try to go deeper and deeper into places where it has no business.

With the sad lack of a substantial number of MPs who will fight for our privacy and our liberties in the other place, it will be up to Peers on all sides of this House to fill that vacuum on behalf of British citizens. We must stand firm against unbalanced and disproportionate prying into our lives. We must insist on clearly defined limits on the use of these surveillance powers and must diligently search out and destroy the loopholes that the Government will no doubt insert again. We must ensure that the oversight of the use of these powers is so effective and penetrating that it acts as a real deterrent to abuse. It will be our duty not just to stop but to reverse the hidden drift into more mass surveillance, more snooping on the innocent and more gratuitous prying into our lives by people who have no need and no right to do it.

9.16 pm

Lord Ahmed (Non-Afl): My Lords, there is deep concern over the proposed changes to the UK’s counterterrorism and security framework. Another of the many anti-terrorism, counterterrorism and now counterextremism Bills was announced and initial reports suggest that the drafting of key terms in the Bill, such as “extremist” and “harmful”, will be so vague as to catch peaceful protestors. These changes have serious and negative implications for the human rights of

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citizens. There is no doubt that the Government have an obligation to protect the lives and liberties of the public from harm. However, it is imperative that laws intended to do that do not at the same time violate rights.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said, the British Muslim community is currently feeling targeted by the proposed legislation. Many of them fear that the Government are launching a cold war against them. British values, as defined by Theresa May, such as democracy, the rule of law, tolerance and acceptance of different faiths, are inherently Muslim values, too. These are exemplified in the teachings of the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad’s practices. The cliché that there is a dichotomy in being a Muslim and a law-abiding British citizen is untrue and misguided.

Muslims have been in Europe in large numbers since the 1950s. They are well integrated and make a very positive contribution to British society. It is only in the last 20 years or so that violent extremism has gained momentum. Every year, Muslims contribute billions to the UK economy. They make a very positive contribution to the manufacturing and textile industries, transport, health, education and other government services. Our national dish is chicken tikka masala and catering industry businesses worth more than £4 billion annually are owned by Muslims. Olympic superstars Mo Farah and Amir Khan, the boxer, and “Dragons’ Den” star James Caan are all from the Muslim community. British Muslims often cite an example of Islamic teachings on human freedom. I shall quote Koran 2:256—I will not misquote as was done earlier—which states:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion”.

Koran 18:29 states:

“Whosoever wills, let him”—

or her—

“believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve”.

Muslims living in non-Muslim countries consider it a religious duty enshrined in the Koran to respect and uphold the law of the land that they are living in. Nationality and immigration laws are classified as covenants by the majority of Muslims. Thus, violating the law of the land would be tantamount to violating the Koranic command to abide strictly by any covenant one enters into. I quote Koran 17:34:

“And fulfil every covenant. Verily, every covenant will be enquired into (by God)”.

Ten days ago, it was reported that Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer, Mak Chishty, has warned that young people who stop drinking, socialising with friends and shopping at Marks & Spencer could be in the process of becoming radicalised. These are ludicrous statements, because it could equally be argued that stopping drinking and socialising and focusing on other things, such as education and so on, could be regarded as typical advice from parents to children.

Recently, parents complained about a questionnaire given to year 6 children, aged nine, in Waltham Forest—22% of its population are Muslim. If your Lordships have any grandchildren of this age, like mine, you will know their opinion on grandparents, let alone on identity, arranged marriages, God and much more.

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The Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism Programme has been funded through the EU and is designed,

“to identify the initial seeds of radicalisation with children of primary school age”.

The recent “Trojan horse” controversy has already fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments. ChildLine reported that the number of complaints of bullying rose during that period. Young people in inner-city schools were ringing in, complaining of being called names such as “terrorist” and “suicide bomber”.

For the vast majority of Muslims living in the UK, the issue of concern is not that they see conflict between Muslim values and British values, but that their children are growing up in a society in which an imaginary binary opposition is constantly propagated by some politicians, the media and extremist elements in their communities. For example, it is always asserted that it is our fundamental right of freedom of speech to criticise the Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—and the Koran, as we heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on his crusade. He deliberately took things out of context in your Lordships’ House. His reference to the Muslim population was similar to the language used in Germany against the Jewish communities before the war. Yet you may be classified as an extremist if you have supported Palestine or Kashmir.

A number of surveys and studies published in the last few years—again referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh—revealed that British Muslims feel more patriotic than most British people or their Muslim counterparts living in other parts of Europe. However, the context and manner in which the debate on British values is taking place can be viewed as marginalising Muslims as the “other”. Muhammad Abduh, one of the most influential Islamic philosophers and jurists of the modern era, once famously remarked, on his return to Egypt from a tour of Europe:

“I visited the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I returned to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam”.

When was the last time David Cameron or Theresa May visited a mosque or a Muslim community centre to reassure British Muslims that they are part of this country, that this is their home and that their contribution will never be eschewed? I know many young British-born Muslims who are now leaving the UK due to this constant demonisation.

Finally, violent extremism must not be ignored. It needs to be rooted out, but we cannot win a war by silencing people. They should be able to hold different views, as long as they do not break the law, and they live in harmony with others. There is a danger that the proposed tougher legislation will have full power to criminalise law-abiding people. What we need as a society is a common language, common principles and dialogue.

9.24 pm

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con): My Lords, it is conventional in your Lordships’ House on occasions such as this to open one’s remarks with a few comments on the immediately preceding speeches. However, I am conscious that, as the 45th speaker, the House’s attention span is beginning to flag so, if I may, I will cut to the chase.

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In the few minutes available to me, I want to lend my support to those measures in the gracious Speech which the press has loosely grouped under the heading of blue-collar aspiration. I had the pleasure of listening to the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, speak on Radio 4 about the Labour Party’s leadership contest. I am sorry that he is not in his place. The noble Lord was rather dismissive of the concept of aspiration—a word bandied about by the candidates—to which he referred, in rather fruitier words than I think would be appropriate to use in your Lordships’ House, as being without substance. With due respect to the noble Lord, I disagree with him. Aspiration is a wide-ranging concept. Of course, it has an economic aspect and covers access to the basic support services of our society—health, education, the police and justice—but it also encompasses much less tangible features such as a sense of belonging, a sense of involvement and a sense of community cohesion. These less tangible, less measurable objectives should in my view nevertheless form an important part of the Government’s aspiration agenda.

One part of our society that can play a particularly effective role in this regard is the charitable and voluntary sector. Some Members of your Lordships’ House will know of my interest in the sector and the reports that I have written for the Government. Therefore, it will not surprise my noble friends on the Front Bench that I am very pleased that the Government are proceeding with the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill. It has the twin objectives of improving the efficacy of the regulatory powers of the Charity Commission, which is very important as a means of encouraging public trust and confidence, and at the same time facilitating the development of what is now called social investment—a new sector in which the UK is the world leader and in which we have a chance to remain so in the future. I look forward very much to the Bill’s Second Reading next week.

For the rest of my remarks I return to the issue of social and community cohesion and to what I think will be an immense challenge to it over the next 20 years. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Green, that challenge is the expected increase in the absolute level of the UK population between now and 2035—20 years from now. I make it clear that this is not a speech about immigration. I am fond of remarking that we are all immigrants; the only question is when we got here. I also make it clear that my speech is nothing to do with people’s colour, creed or racial origin. I have no interest in that either. However, it is about absolute numbers. I give a couple of statistics. Every day the population of this country goes up by 1,100 people. Every week we are putting a small town or large village on to the map of Britain—every week, 52 weeks a year. This is in a country—England—which has recently overtaken the Netherlands as the most densely populated in Europe. The daily increase consists of 590 excess births over deaths—what is called the natural increase—and 510 from immigration.

I give one simple, specific example concerned with the controversial question of housing, which has featured in many noble Lords’ speeches this afternoon, including those made from the Front Benches. In passing, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith

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of Basildon, on her maiden voyage as leader of her party. In the UK we currently have 2.3 people per dwelling. If we are to house our new population to the same standard, we will need to build 478 dwellings every day. That is one every three minutes, night and day, and without any improvement or increase in our existing housing stock, which I think everybody in your Lordships’ House agrees needs some improvement.

I fear that this is not the whole story because between now and 2035, if you take the mid projection of the Office for National Statistics, we will have an additional 8.4 million people. If you apply the same metric to that, we will need to build 183,000 dwellings every year—that is, 3,500 a week, 500 per day or one every three minutes. So for the next 20 years we will have to build a house, dwelling, flat or some form of habitation every three minutes. I find it hard to believe that we will be able to integrate 8.4 million people and build 3.6 million homes without there being significant risks for our social and community cohesion. My concern is that part of our settled population—no matter its colour, creed or background—may well find itself pushed to the margins of our society; “crowded out” is what the sociologists call it.

I will give a very simple example. Football is in the news so I have chosen football as my example. The Premier League is a fantastically successful commercial enterprise. It earns millions around the world for this country. But just 21% of the players in the Premier League are British. Does this matter? Probably not, but it does mean that several hundred young men do not fulfil their dreams and aspirations, and that group of young men will contain a particularly high proportion from the black minority community—a group which I think most people agree needs role models and stories of encouragement, success and participation in our society. That is one simple, small example. I could replicate it if time permitted—it does not—across our society.

In conclusion, I see no easy answers to this issue but I am convinced that it is an issue that needs to be raised, debated and considered in a calm, rational and dispassionate way. If we do not do that, wilder spirits may take over, with results that I am sure no one in this House would wish to see. If I am uncertain about that, I am certain about one thing tonight: when my noble friend comes to wind up, he will take care to ensure that he makes no reference to this part of my speech or indeed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Green. His officials will tell him, “Don’t go there, Minister, there be dragons. You will almost certainly be misreported and quoted out of context. There is no political advantage”. In that sense, his officials are quite right. Demographic policies have very, very long lead times—15, 20, 25 years. So a five-year parliamentary cycle gives every incentive to avoid the whole topic. But in 2035, when we have built those 3.6 million dwellings and I, aged 93, am dribbling into my cornflakes, our succeeding generations may well regret that we did not do more to consider the challenge now.

9.32 pm

Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB): My Lords, a lot of the contributions to these debates we hold on the Queen’s Speech involve noble Lords getting important

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issues off their chests. I am afraid that my contribution today is no exception. But, unusually, I want to talk about something that was actually in the gracious Speech rather than something that I feel should have been in it. I might add that when occasionally I am asked by outsiders why we independent Peers are called Cross-Benchers, I sometimes flippantly remark that it is because sometimes we get very cross. I warn your Lordships that this is one of those occasions.

The issue that I am cross about is the right to buy for housing association tenants. I do not intend to condemn the panic that induced this absurd attack from a Conservative Government on the property rights of some of the most needed and respected charities in this country; nor do I intend to go into detail about why it is so wrong to remove from the sector in perpetuity the main plank of affordable housing in this country, or why it is so wrong to undermine the activities of the people who founded these housing associations—quite often local people who saw a need not being properly addressed by government and set about trying to do something about it, only to find that now the Government, in a panicked electioneering gambit, have chosen to pull the rug from under their feet. Others have spoken about that in these debates, such as the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in his excellent maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Best, immediately following him, and many others. Therefore, today I wish only to say—to put down a marker, as it were—that while this policy could perhaps be only mildly harmful, although that may be putting it mildly, to urban housing provision, it will have a cataclysmic effect if it is allowed to run rampant in rural areas.

The provision of affordable housing is most critical in rural communities. The affordability gap—the difference between wages and house prices—is worse in the countryside than the towns. Any rural property on the open market is almost always snapped up by outsiders with money and there are almost no homes available for those people we value and on whom rural communities often depend: those whose families have lived there for generations; those who have served on parish councils, hall committees or PCCs; or those who work in local hospitals, social services, shops or the many manufacturing businesses on which the rural economy depends. There will be little likelihood of these families surviving in their villages without some form of housing association housing, and you have to ask how far they will have to go to find alternative affordable housing. It will be very hard for housing associations now to justify building more homes that they know will be unlikely to remain in their ownership for long.

What of the farmers and landowners who gave away their land to housing associations for a peppercorn to make their own contribution to solving one of the greatest problems faced by rural communities today—namely, the lack of affordable housing? Will their generosity be trampled on? Will they ever trust a Tory Government again? What about the communities themselves? Will they continue to support exception sites when their designated purpose of providing affordable homes for locals in perpetuity is overridden by government?

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This policy needs rural-proofing. Rural England lost 91,000 affordable homes in the last right-to-buy campaign in the 1980s and rural affordable housing has never managed to replace anything like those numbers since. It was—and remains—a disaster for rural communities so, for the sake of our rural villages, this right to buy must never ever apply to any house, under any circumstances, in communities of under 3,000 people. I may be maligning the Government. Maybe there are already plans afoot to ensure that rural communities do not suffer. Maybe there are other plans afoot to ensure that the rural affordable housing sector grows to meet the desperate need. But until I am reassured, I beg to remain, yours sincerely, a very cross Bencher.

9.36 pm

Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury (Con): My Lords, this has been a long debate so the House will be pleased to know that I am the last of the Back-Bench speakers. I want to focus on just one subject in the gracious Speech: the proposal for the northern powerhouse in Greater Manchester. I speak as someone who was born and brought up in Manchester. There are several Mancunians in your Lordships’ House and, whatever political differences we may have, we all agree on one point, which is that Manchester is the second city of England.

England is perhaps the most centralised country in Europe, partly because of the centralist instincts of successive Westminster Governments over several decades. This was not always so. The original prosperity of our great cities—Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and others—was built on strong local leadership, reinforced by a strong civic spirit. Many of our national leaders, such as Joseph Chamberlain and Neville Chamberlain, forged their earlier careers as great civic leaders. Local government today still has many outstanding leaders, some of whom bring that experience into this House, which is one reason why I am so pleased to see my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford, a former leader of Trafford Council, promoted to ministerial office.

The problem for local government has been caused mainly by the constraints placed on it by central government. There has, in Westminster and Whitehall, been a lack of confidence in local councils so Governments began to sideline local democracy. To generate local enterprise, the Government established Urban Development Corporations in London Docklands and in Liverpool, and enterprise zones. Now we have the innovation—at least within the UK—of directly elected mayors to provide local leadership in cities and city regions. They have a great deal of power. I want to come back to this point shortly.

The proposals for a northern powerhouse build on the collaboration of the 10 councils in the Greater Manchester city region and on the recommendations of the City Growth Commission under the leadership of Jim O’Neill, now my noble friend Lord O’Neill of Gatley. I am delighted that he is now a Treasury Minister. However, the northern powerhouse could not have happened without the vision of my right honourable friend George Osborne.

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Very briefly, I want to emphasise just a few points. First, the northern powerhouse is coming to fruition because of the co-ordination of the councils and because it has all-party support. Secondly, this is not a zero-sum game. In other words, increased economic growth in one city region should not be at the expense of another city region. Thirdly, the local authorities in Greater Manchester may be the first to come together in this way, but the northern powerhouse will surely be the forerunner of other city regions operating in a similar way.

My final point is that there has to be effective accountability and transparency. Last week, Mr Tony Lloyd became the new mayor of Greater Manchester, but he has not been elected. Not surprisingly, there is concern that this gives him a platform to establish his profile in the two years leading up to the mayoral election. Once elected, the mayor of Greater Manchester will be responsible for billions of pounds of spending and for control over transport and infrastructure, housing, economic development, skills, healthcare and social care. The Government believe that, because the mayor will be the single point of direct accountability, this will ensure strong democracy. I am not sure that this will be enough. Unlike the Greater London Assembly, members of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will not be directly elected. Yes, the combined authority will establish overview and scrutiny committees, but all the proceedings will need the oxygen of publicity. They must be transparent, open to the media and, above all, open to public scrutiny.

I believe the northern powerhouse will serve the citizens of Greater Manchester well and will be a stimulus to economic growth there. It will, I hope, lead to other city regions following suit.

9.42 pm

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, first, I declare my vice-presidency of the Local Government Association. I have found this an extremely valuable debate. A number of concerns, affecting a number of Bills, have been clearly identified, and I hope the Government will take steps to listen at a very early stage to all the specific issues that have been raised not only from these Benches but from around the whole Chamber. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, on his excellent valedictory speech, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, on their excellent maiden speeches.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, I pay tribute to the work that local government has done. Despite the reductions in government support, the public give local government high satisfaction ratings. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, was right when he warned of the likely impact of future cuts, and he was right to say that the system of distribution of central government grant may need to be revised. The financial situation remains difficult for councils. Given that the Government are committed to no increases in income tax, VAT or national insurance, and also to the protection of some budget areas from cuts, this is going to make life very difficult for local government. We have to have a discussion about that. That is also why encouraging fiscal devolution is so important, so that local authorities

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can raise more of their own money and reduce duplication in public services at a local level, and thus generate significant efficiency savings. The Local Government Association has demonstrated in its publications how some of this can be achieved.

I echo previous comments in wishing the new Secretary of State success in his new role. I worked with him for almost three years on city deals and local growth deals and I know that his drive—along with that of others—has got us to the position on devolution within England that we have reached today.

In the few moments I have, I want to concentrate on two matters: first, devolution within England; and, secondly, the urgent need to build more homes. The two are related because local government could build more if it had the powers to do so. I welcome the devolution agreements that have taken place and the creation of the several combined authorities under the 2009 Act as steps in the right direction. Five years ago, it would have been hard to think that there would be such a sea change in the location of power within England. We now need counties to follow, and I welcome the recent indication from the Secretary of State that progress will be made on this—I hope within the next few months. Even though my party is not now in government, we shall offer constructive opposition that enables the broad thrust of government policy on devolution to be progressed.

I have two questions on the housing Bill. Despite a lot of reading and listening to your Lordships’ debate today, I am still unclear about what net increase in homes the Government plan to deliver in the course of the next five years. Secondly, what are the Government’s plans to build affordable homes in the quantities we need? Last week I read two figures in national newspapers —first, that the Government plan to build 150,000 houses a year by 2020, but also that they plan to build 200,000 a year by 2020. Whichever it is, both figures are actually under the rate at which new housing is needed.

Several contributions in this debate have demonstrated that there are serious problems with the proposal to sell off housing association homes. It is hard to see how the one-for-one replacement policy could work, given the failure over so many years to replace council housing stock. Why are the discounts proposed so high, with discounts of up to £104,000 in London and £77,000 elsewhere? Is the National Housing Federation right when it says that this policy will cost over £5 billion? What assessment have the Government done on the cost? Finally, can the Minister assure the House that assets of registered providers, which have mostly been publicly funded, will not be sold off without the taxpayer getting their money back? Those are my questions, and around your Lordships’ House there have been a range of other questions in relation to this Bill. Urgent discussions are needed to assess the viability of the proposals as they stand within the housing Bill.

We have heard a bit about the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, of which we take Second Reading here in your Lordships’ House on Monday. The speed of progress on devolution is good to see, but we must not make mistakes. We must connect the whole structure, not just the metro mayor, with the ballot box. There have been a huge number of reports

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over recent years on the benefits of devolution for a whole range of bodies, and they all point in the same direction—that you can drive growth faster and join up public service delivery through devolution, as well as making government more responsive to the needs of local people.

There are four issues, and one relates to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury, about the northern powerhouse. In his announcement on 14 May on this matter, the Chancellor said that the northern powerhouse covered the whole of the north of England—that it was not just Manchester, nor was it just Man-Shef-Leeds-Pool. But we need some clarity in government and in the north of England about what is meant, first, by “the north” and, secondly, by “powerhouse”. Indeed, I noted that my noble friend Lord Greaves has a Question for Written Answer on the Order Paper to be answered by 11 June on these very points, and the position may become clearer then.

I accept that we have to start somewhere with connecting new structures with the ballot box, and metro mayors are a start. I am slightly uncomfortable about the fact that for two years Greater Manchester will have a metro mayor who has not been elected by popular ballot. We need to be much clearer about governance and about who has what responsibilities and what powers, whether it is the mayor, the mayor’s officers, political advisers, council leaders, or whole councils and opposition parties. We need to know the powers that will leave or remain with local government and the powers that will leave or remain in Whitehall. We need to understand better the powers to precept by a mayoral combined authority and how those powers will operate in practice.

The combined authorities in the 2009 Act have responsibilities for economic development, regeneration and transport across a functional economic area. To that list can be added social care, healthcare, skills, police, housing and strategic planning. I am concerned that there is an assumption that one person can handle all those things, because I doubt that they can. I share the concerns expressed a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury. Although an assembly for Greater Manchester has been ruled out, at least for the time being, I am not sure that that will stand the test of time.

We need to look at the voting systems for local government. I agree entirely with the point made by my noble friend Lord Tyler about the need for proportional representation in local government, and we need to look more closely at whether the supplementary vote system is right for the election of a metro mayor.

I finish as we started today from these Benches. It has been a very sad day for all of us in politics with the loss of Charles Kennedy. He was a very good friend to so many of us, and we shall miss him.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

9.52 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, I begin by sending best wishes from these Benches to the noble Lord, Lord Eden, and our congratulations to the maiden speakers today, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. I also

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congratulate the two Ministers who have, I think, both been promoted since the previous Parliament. I should mention the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, given his earlier experience. He is on the record and has got a name check this evening. I promise to continue to do that so long as he does not keep banging on about the 1992 election in which I was a candidate. It would be very helpful.

This has been a wide-ranging debate covering a number of important policy areas. I propose to refer to just some of them. We are asked to accept that the context is a programme which backs working people, is about social justice and brings our country together, but assertion and repetition do not make that a reality. In her opening speech from these Benches, my noble friend and leader Lady Smith of Basildon touched upon measures in the Queen’s Speech which address the most serious issues facing our country about how we protect our security, liberty and democracy. She probed, as did other noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Henig, the consequences for neighbourhood policing and, indeed, our national security of cutting the number of police officers and, given the pressures and influences which face many young people today, the importance of maintaining that community work which helps tackle extremism and encourages young people away from that path. That is an issue which exercised many noble Lords in today’s debate. My noble friend gave our support to the measures to tackle illegal immigration and to deport foreign criminals, and expressed concern about the lack of new measures to make it illegal to exploit migrant labour to undercut local wages and jobs.

Like many other noble Lords, my noble friend spoke about housing. That we have a housing crisis in our country cannot be denied. While there was a welcome spurt in the number of housing starts at the beginning of this year, experts express concern about whether it is sustainable. Even if it was, some 40,000 per quarter still falls well short of the new homes that we need each year to keep pace with population changes, let alone tackle the housing backlog. We are simply not building enough new homes and have not done so for a considerable time. The prospect of owning or renting a home on affordable terms receded under the previous Government, despite a plethora of initiatives that provided the lowest level of housebuilding in peacetime since the 1920s, where the number of homes built for social rent ended at the lowest rate in more than 20 years. With more families having to look to the private rented sector, with rents rising, benefits being cut and evictions rising, it is hard to see the thread of social justice weaving through housing policy. Indeed, we see rough sleeping reaching the very doors of Parliament. It is in this context that the new Government’s policies must be judged.

In this regard, we have been considerably advantaged by the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, who brings particular expertise on the subject, which adds to the powerful contributions that we have come to expect from the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friends Lady Hollis and Lady Warwick. A number of noble Lords added their voices; the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, in particular is angry about the cataclysmic effect of the proposals for the right to buy on rural areas.

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Many have raised concerns about the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants on a number of counts. Given the ability of housing associations to invest in new social housing, and given that that is dependent in part on borrowing against existing stock, how does this help to meet housing need? How is it consistent with charity law? Funding the discount and the cost of replacement housing from the sale of higher-value council houses is clearly fraught with difficulties on a number of fronts. It contributes to the depletion of social housing and widens divisions between where richer and poorer households are located.

The Government have promised that every home sold under the proposals will be replaced on a one-for-one basis with another affordable home. However, we are not encouraged by the delivery of an equivalent commitment when discounts for council houses were widened: the LGA reports that this has delivered fewer than half the homes that it should. So we need to be convinced that the policy will not lead to a diminution of affordable housing. In short, we need answers to the questions posed by many noble Lords in this debate, particularly the 10 questions posed by my noble friend Lady Hollis.

The Chancellor has waxed lyrical of late about a “northern powerhouse”, about the economic potential of the great cities of the north of England, about how size matters and about connectivity, although this rhetoric has actually run ahead of the reality: so far the northern powerhouse is just one agreement with Greater Manchester, albeit an important one. It is somewhat ironic that having been part of a Government who—with a little help from the Liberal Democrats—battered local authorities for most of the last five years, this Administration are now seriously turning to the public sector to boost local growth in England.

Local government has had its resources reduced by some 40%, with more to come, as we hear from my noble friend Lord Beecham and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. It has been the biggest hit in the public sector, and in a manner that hits the poorest areas the most. Despite assertions of localism, on too many occasions the previous Government demonstrated that they were not prepared to trust local government, a point that the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne, made—not on planning, finance or even the minutiae of parking arrangements or waste disposal—and they had a habit of passing responsibilities to local government without the money, council tax support and aspects of the old social fund being just two examples. As my noble friend Lord Beecham set out, devolution arrangements must be predicated on fair funding. Therefore there is a degree of suspicion about intent, although we should acknowledge that there has been some devolution in the form of city deals and growth deals, and the current Bill presages the introduction of further powers for combined authorities and other areas.

Just as local government has already demonstrated its ability to cope with savage budget cuts, it has shown a willingness to engage in innovative ways and step up to the plate. Manchester, the one example where the 10 authorities have a long history of collaboration characterised by consistent leadership and hard work

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over many years, is a prime example. Its agreement with the Government encompasses being a co-commissioner of the next phase of the Work Programme, as well as devolution of the current funding and decision-making for health and social care within Greater Manchester.

We support devolution but believe that it should be part of a UK-wide plan, not a series of one-off deals with the Chancellor and not just limited to great cities or one great city, but should include the rural areas—a point proved by the noble Lord, Lord Curry. Our work on the Bill will seek to ensure that no area is left behind. The LGA in particular enthuses about the economic benefits of devolution and the benefits of decision-making at local level, but not limiting that to metropolitan areas. It points out that non-metropolitan England accounts for 56% of economic output.

The published legislation is drawn in very broad terms, with significant powers for the Secretary of State to agree to transfer to a combined authority functions of local authorities, other local public services and powers devolved from Government—much wider powers than can currently be conferred under the 2009 Act. However, we know that any deal will depend upon the councils agreeing to have an elected mayor. There is no requirement for a referendum to determine whether the public want one, and once signed up to it, there is no going back. The Secretary of State can by order require that any function which is a function of a combined authority can be exercisable only by the mayor. With the consent of appropriate authorities this can include the role of the police and crime commissioner. I do not want to disappoint my noble friend Lady Henig, but I doubt whether that will be a route to having an increased precept to help with the underfunding of our police services. Therefore there is potentially a very significant concentration of power under these proposals, but we need to be clear that having only one acceptable governance model—the elected mayor—is not a barrier to devolution.

We support the devolution and integration of health and care services but need to be satisfied about whether the model can be imposed on areas and whether it requires another structural upheaval. We particularly do not want to see devolution of responsibilities without proper funding again, passing the buck of the tough decisions to local authorities without the security of the funding to go with it.

So far as the energy Bill is concerned, I should just say that we welcome the creation of the Oil and Gas Authority and will continue to scrutinise the Government to ensure that the UK gets the maximum economic benefit from our oil and gas reserves. As for onshore wind farms, we consider the Government’s lack of support to be short-sighted and lacking commitment to climate change. Of course we need to be sensitive about the siting of such facilities, but we should acknowledge that they provide the most developed form of clean energy that is available.

The election result has not cast my party in the role it had hoped for, so our focus must remain on scrutinising, challenging, and holding the Government to account, and to be a voice for those who would otherwise not be heard. Taking this programme overall, it will be much needed.

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10.03 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, this has been a incredible debate of some 49 speakers already, and I am very mindful of what will now become known as the Whitehall doctrine, announced by my noble friend Lord Wakeham, that it does not matter so much what you say, just that you have to name-check everybody on the way through. Given that there were 49 speeches, I am not sure that I can squeeze all that into the 15 minutes or so we have left.

My noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford set out clearly and in some detail the eight Bills in the gracious Speech that we have discussed today, so I will deal with the contributions that were made and try to group them thematically.

I begin by paying tribute to Charles Kennedy and express my condolences on behalf of the Government for the loss of such a talent. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and many others have said, he was a man of immense courage. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, gave us a moving recollection, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra also spoke about him. Charles Kennedy dispelled the myth of the dour Scot once and for all. Probably above all, he had that great elixir of political life that we strive for but few of us ever have: the ability to connect. He had that in spades, and he will be missed.

My noble friend Lord Eden of Winton made an outstanding valedictory speech. I was struck by the breadth of time it dealt with. He said that when he first entered Parliament, he served under Churchill; that is quite an amazing stretch. One thing that this House does more than anything else is to provide human bridges to history, and here, in one life, we see someone who served in the Second World War and in Administrations stretching from Churchill to Thatcher; someone who has been a dedicated public servant for some 61 years. We can only feel incredibly humble in the face of such public service and commitment.

However, what I noticed more than anything else about the speech of my noble friend is that, when he recounted his life and times and his hopes for the future—we wish him well—he chose to dwell in his closing comments on the people who served in the Bishops’ Bar and in the Tea Room: the people of this House who contribute so much to our lives, day in, day out, behind the scenes. Again—almost in the spirit of Charles Kennedy—he made a connection to them, and to us. He has been an outstanding public servant. I remember a great teacher telling me that the journey of life is all about the path that moves from selfishness to selflessness. My noble friend’s life is a worthy example of that aspiration.

Looking for a segue into today’s first maiden speech, I notice that my noble friend’s predecessor in Bournemouth West was the then Marquess of Salisbury —which brings us to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury. I cannot promise to do the same thing with the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, but I am trying. The right reverend Prelate spoke about humanity and the importance of caring for the whole community, which we very much aspire to do. We seek to address the misconceptions that the noble

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Lord, Lord Patel, referred to. The right reverend Prelate also referred to his copy of the Magna Carta. We have one thing in common. I looked on the website and discovered that on 14 June he will be leading a Magna Carta pilgrimage around the close at Salisbury, which is a wonderful place. On that very day, I shall be setting off from Runnymede to walk—not run—to Westminster, as a pilgrimage in honour of that great document, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. My partner as I walk will be the Member of Parliament for Salisbury. The right reverend Prelate is a great addition to this House and we welcome him very much.

I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake. I was particularly struck when he talked about the qualities of Greg Clark, with whom he has worked very closely. Those of us who have had the privilege of working with him know him to be a man of great intelligence and great humanity and with a great mind for detail. We are all thrilled to see that the work which he was so instrumental in shaping—the city deals and growth deals, and the work which came up through the DCLG and the Home Office—will be carried on in the hands of a growing representation of northern Ministers at the DCLG and the Treasury: Greg Clark, James Wharton and my noble friends Lady Williams and Lord O’Neill, as well as, of course, George Osborne. That bodes very well for the future.

I was wondering whether at this point I ought to offer congratulations to the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, on his maiden speech, but of course it was not a maiden speech as he is returning to us, albeit after a gap of some 15 or 16 years. However, he is very welcome and we appreciated his contribution.

I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for her outstanding opening speech. It was a tour de force, principally on her accession to the very weighty responsibility of being Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in your Lordships’ House—a role for which she is very well equipped and has served an incredible apprenticeship. We have both been through quite an apprenticeship. She will do that job tremendously well and we recognise the importance of the role. We were also struck on this side by the indication that she gave of her style. She said that it is not about numbers but about the constitution—that Her Majesty’s Opposition recognise the manifesto and the commitments in it but that their duty is to provide detailed scrutiny of government legislation. That I know, and I bear the scars from her doing so phenomenally well on many Bills in the previous Session, as I know she will do again this time.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, spoke in his opening remarks about being unshackled from the Government. I thought that was a little bit strong. Although he may have felt that, it did not feel quite that way to us. I say to noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches that we can reflect on some real progress that was made during our time in the coalition Government, not just in the economy but in areas such as modern-day slavery and it being the first time that a Government delivered 0.7% in aid, 2 million jobs and the pupil premium. There is a lot that we can rightly be proud of and I hope that, although they have drifted physically to the other side, they recognise that in many areas,

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certainly on this side of the House, we recognise the contribution that they made to shaping the recovery that we have. However, I am sure that they will want to make their particular identity known more clearly as they join the Opposition.

I shall deal, first, with the housing issues, which were raised by a number of noble Lords, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in his maiden speech, but also by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. She had a list of 10 questions but let it be known through the usual channels that she was not anticipating that I would answer all 10 of them. Because she has dealt with me before, she knows that I am probably not capable of answering them all, and therefore a magical reply will be delivered to her. Housing was also mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Best, and I shall come to some of those specific points.

We have to bear in mind that this is part of a package approach. We are looking not just at the right to buy: 630,000 tenants living in housing associations already enjoy higher discounts under the preserved right to buy, and 800,000 have the right to acquire but with lower discounts. A further 500,000 have no purchase rights at all. In that regard, this is about introducing equality of treatment. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, is heckling me, but if she will bear with me, I will try to make the point.

In putting this forward, we recognise and believe that there is something quite fundamental in people having the ability to take a stake in society through owning a home. Nobody has mentioned it in the debate but, coming as I do from the north-east of England, I have seen scores of times, if not hundreds, how the ability to buy their own home is a route to social mobility that many families crave and few actually have. We ought not to underestimate the value of that to many people in this country. We talk about social mobility; it starts with people being able to take a stake in society and have a home of their own, which they can draw an income from in retirement and pass on to their children, should they so wish. That is a fundamental principle that we want to protect.

It is not just about social tenants. It is also about the Help to Buy scheme, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme and the Help to Buy NewBuy scheme.

We are committed to building 275,000 affordable houses in the social sector and delivering 200,000 starter homes for people aged under 40 who can take advantage of that. On the detail of how this will work, particularly in rural areas, Ministers and senior officials are already engaging with the housing sector and other interested parties to draw up how this will operate in practice. I know that a great deal of attention will be given to that, and at Second Reading and in Committee there will be opportunities to tease that out in further detail. However, this is all about trying to address that housing crisis and give people a stake in society.

We recognise the particular challenges in rural areas. A decision on what will apply in relation to the extended right to buy—something that was asked about by my noble friend Lady Byford, the noble Baroness, Lady

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Bakewell, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington—will be produced, after consultation, in due course.

On the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said it is important that it is not a one-size-fits-all Bill. That is absolutely right. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, was critical of the proposal. However, nobody is imposing this. We are not saying that it is something that every local authority must have. We are presenting local authorities with an opportunity to take advantage of greater powers. However, as my noble friend Lord Sherbourne and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, mentioned, if there are greater powers, they must be accountable. That is the reason for the assistance of the mayor if the full package of powers is taken forward. This is something that many local authorities will want to take advantage of because it is a way of delivering better services for local communities. That was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in his opening remarks and is something of which we are absolutely convinced.


The Psychoactive Substances Bill was touched on by a number of Members, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, mentioned, for a long time now we have been trying to play catch-up with the drug manufacturers and distributors. By changing slightly the chemical composition of various psychoactive substances, they seek to escape the law. This is not a radical knee-jerk measure that we have arrived at. It is being looked at by the Home Office multidisciplinary expert panel, which reported in September 2014. A similar panel reported in Scotland, and the Welsh Health and Social Care Committee looked at this as well. They all came out in favour of a blanket ban. I recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has done some research on this subject in the all-party group, and we will look at her report as well.

On the investigatory powers Bill, which will come before your Lordships’ House, the report of the Joint Committee on the draft communications data Bill chaired by my noble friend Lord Blencathra will be part of the package that is made available, and rightly so. The report was much debated during the passage of the counterterrorism Bill and is an important piece of research that has already shaped the Government’s approach. We have said that we accept the vast majority of the recommendations put forward.

My noble friend Lady Newlove spoke about the importance of keeping victims at the centre of our considerations, which we commit to do. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, spoke about victims as well.

Conscious of my time being almost up, let me say that a number of points were raised on the issue of extremism and it is important that I put some remarks on the record. British Muslims make an enormous contribution to British society. They suffer serious harm from extremism and must be seen in this approach as being among the victims. I am delighted that I am now joined in the Home Office by my noble friend Lord Ahmad as a Minister. He will be leading through the extremism Bill. His experience, knowledge and sensitivity will be invaluable. I think that someone asked, “When was the last time the Prime Minister

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actually went to a mosque?”. Well, that was with my noble friend; certainly the Home Secretary was with my noble friend in doing that just a few weeks ago.

However, at the same time we should not be backward in asserting very clearly what British values are and that we expect people who have the privilege of living in this wonderful country to adhere to those values of tolerance, of openness and of respect for the rule of law and democracy. These things are an intrinsic part of who we are. We should not in any way be backward in saying what those elements are that we believe in, because to be so would leave a vacuum into which extremism flows.

The investigatory powers Bill will be subject to extensive scrutiny. We have said that there will be an additional layer of scrutiny. We await David Anderson’s report about the terrorism legislation and interceptions of communications data, which was a matter raised by a number of noble Lords; the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, referred to it as being very important. We will await that report and deal with it, but not in a knee-jerk way—my noble friend Lady Fookes rightly castigated us for sometimes reacting in a knee-jerk way—but in a careful and steady way. It is something that we need to look at.

There were many contributions about the rural economy, and we are of course committed to maintaining it. We are aware of the pressures, to which my noble friend Lord Plumb referred, on the industry, particularly the dairy industry, at this time and the importance of the environment to it.

As to immigration targets, my noble friend Lord Hodgson assured me that I would never get a box note

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from my officials saying anything about immigration and the pressure that it puts on public services. To prove my noble friend wrong, a box note has arrived saying that uncontrolled immigration makes it difficult to maintain social cohesion, puts pressure on public services and can drive down wages for people on low incomes. It also leads to pressure on other public services, such as housing, the health service and education, and that is part of the reason why we are taking the approaches that we are: to seek to reduce it as part of improving social cohesion.

In the Bills and proposals that are being brought forward, there is a coherent plan for working families in this country. They seek to enable them to have a home of their own and to aspire to having the skills they need to make a contribution to our society. They enable us to be assertive about what British values are and the importance of people who live in and come to this country adhering to them. They are about being robust about our British values, about investing in our housing stock and energy, about building the northern powerhouse in the north of England, about improving social mobility, about improving the economy, and about keeping our borders safe.

I thank again all those who have participated in the debate. I apologise to noble Lords who spoke on the issue of renewable energy. I was not able to address their concerns as fully as I would have liked, but given the hour I will draw my remarks to a close on that point.

Debate adjourned until tomorrow.

House adjourned at 10.26 pm.