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House of Lords

Tuesday, 26 January 2016.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.

Introduction: Lord Bishop of Newcastle

2.37 pm

Christine Elizabeth, Lord Bishop of Newcastle, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Southwark, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Death of a Former Member: Lord Parkinson

2.40 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death on 22 January of the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson. On behalf of the House I extend our condolences to his family and friends.

Taxation: Avoidance and Evasion

Question

2.41 pm

Asked by Lord Dubs

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to reduce tax avoidance and evasion by individuals and companies.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, in the summer Budget 2015 the Government announced measures that would raise at least £5 billion per year through tackling avoidance, aggressive tax planning, evasion and non-compliance in the tax system. This included an £800 million investment to strengthen HMRC’s evasion and non-compliance activity, enabling it to recover a cumulative £7.2 billion over the next five years. A further package of measures was announced in the Autumn Statement 2015 which is forecast to raise a further £700 million by 2021. Further details are available on the internet—through all well-known search engines.

Lord Dubs (Lab): Well, my Lords, I am bound to say that it sounds good but on examination it is not. I wonder if the Minister could explain the Government’s attitude to the Google deal. The Chancellor says it is a great success. The Prime Minister does not seem to know and says it is a good step forward. Many Conservatives say that the deal is derisory. It is difficult to know what the Government’s view is. Secondly, could the Minister say something about letting the truth come out about deals such as this? In the Evening Standard today there is an opinion poll: 80% of the public want more openness. Surely it is time we said goodbye to taxpayer confidentiality so that we can learn what is going on in our name and have a better tax system.

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Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, it is a tricky question to determine between the different statements of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and others. I am afraid I have not seen all their comments in context; I would need to see those before I am able to deliver my final judgment. Taxpayer confidentiality is a long-established principle and it is important that details of confidentiality are maintained, and that applies to everyone. What we want is fair payment of tax by everyone, be they large or small companies, or individuals.

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, the small businesses of the town of Crickhowell have launched a campaign under the name Fair Tax Town because many of them are paying more corporation tax than the big international corporations. Despite what my noble friend has said about action being taken, many of them feel that that action is so far quite inadequate. Will my noble friend give me an assurance that a really determined effort will now be made by the Government to sort out this unacceptable situation?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My noble friend is right that we expect all companies, large and small, to be treated equally and to pay the tax that is due. This Government have reduced corporation tax. The quid pro quo for that is that when it is due on taxable profits, it should be paid. We are also tackling this internationally, because with multinational companies it has to be taken worldwide. That is why we have led the efforts in the G20 on the base erosion and profit shifting project, and we are now leading the group of 94 countries in the OECD which are implementing that.

Baroness Kramer (LD): My Lords, my heart rather goes out to the Minister, so let me ask him an easy question. Fifty-five per cent of calls by ordinary taxpayers and small businesses are not answered by HMRC. Will the Government consider spending their rather derisory settlement from Google on staffing its phones, so that the many people trying to pay their taxes actually can?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I answered exactly that question a few weeks ago, and I am happy to point out that HMRC has recruited 3,000 new staff into customer service roles on flexible working patterns to address just that point. This will provide 1,800 additional people working on telephone helplines outside normal office hours, when many customers choose to call. More than 900 people from across HMRC have also been moved into these posts. I think everyone agrees that the previous service was substandard, but it is improving.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, I, too, sympathise with the Minister but of course, this same trick was played in the Commons. Junior Ministers responded to the issues there, as here, instead of those who are meant to take the decisions. The Minister has just confessed to the House that he does not have a clear line to answer the Question that was posed to him, but the rest of the country is quite clear that the deal struck with Google is an outrageous one. Can the Minister therefore answer this question? The United States is signed up to the OECD precepts, as is the Chancellor, so how come the US can tax major companies

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with considerable success and get the percentage of tax it expects, when in the United Kingdom, multinationals in particular pay an absolutely derisory rate of corporation tax?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I am grateful for the sympathy of the noble Baroness and the noble Lord but I do not think that I need it today. The fact is that HMRC has taxed the full amount of UK taxable profits at the statutory corporation rate. One of the reasons why this country is attracting inward foreign investment is that it has a rule of law and treats people according to the rules.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I add my voice to that of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who emphasised the strength of feeling among small businesses, which pay their tax honourably and on time, when they see the fat cats getting away with it in this manner. Have the Government considered introducing turnover tax as an alternative to corporation tax, in circumstances where such companies are shuffling their corporation tax to other countries? A turnover tax is something they could not avoid.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: The noble Lord puts his finger on an interesting question. At the moment, as I said, it is a corporation tax based on taxable profits. It has never been done on turnover but what we are doing is making sure that taxable profit rests in the country where the economic activity takes place. That is why we introduced the diverted profits tax. However, I note that the Treasury Select Committee has agreed terms of reference to look at the corporate tax base.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree (Con): My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether the problem remains of having foreign people who have never learned how to speak the language looking after sick people? There was quite a lot of publicity about it. Are patients always able to talk to a nurse who understands the language?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, it is obviously good that people who deal with the public speak fluent English. That is why we are introducing such a provision in the Immigration Bill.

Family Test

Question

2.49 pm

Asked by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what impact the Family Test has had on policy-making.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) (Con): My Lords, the family test is an integral part of the policy-making process. There is a cross-government commitment to embed the family test in all domestic policy considerations. The Department for Work and Pensions has established a dedicated team to support government departments and ensure that the family test is applied in a meaningful way.

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Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, the DWP recommends, in its guidance to other departments on the family test, that they consider publication of any assessment. However, it has rejected calls from family organisations and faith groups that it should do so itself on the policy in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to limit financial support to two children. Could the Minister explain why? Will she commit to routine publication in future, in the interests of transparency and of the explicit family perspective on policy-making that we were promised?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, the family test is included in and incorporated into advice to Ministers on new policy. It is not a pass or fail exercise; it is about helping to make informed decisions about how to support strong and stable families. It is much broader than a tick-box exercise, which seems to be the thrust of the question.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I have not consulted their Graces the most reverend Primates the Archbishops, but I feel confident in saying that we on these Benches welcome the thrust of the life-chances strategy, which the Prime Minister outlined in a recent speech. We believe, as does the Prime Minister, that the family is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented—invented by God, in fact, although the Prime Minister did not add that. The increase in funding for relationship support is welcome, but could the Minister indicate how the priorities articulated in the family test might shape the development of the life-chances strategy as it is published and implemented in due course?

Baroness Altmann: The life-chances strategy aims to tackle the root causes of child poverty and to help transform children’s lives. Those root causes include family breakdown, addiction, debt and worklessness. The Prime Minister has announced the doubling of funding for relationship support over the next five years, as well as the tearing down of sink estates, investment in mental health care and support for women during pregnancy.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): My Lords, I remind the Minister that when the Prime Minister announced this important policy in August 2014, he made a point of saying that he wanted the test to apply to every single domestic policy. That is what he said. Would the Minister be prepared to commission an independent evaluation of that policy, in early course, so that we can test whether the Prime Minister’s ambitious policy intent is being delivered in practice?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, I assure the House that the family test is indeed incorporated into every new domestic policy consideration by this Government.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, I spoke recently to a woman called Ruth, who had adopted three siblings aged under four. The children were placed with her only because she agreed to stay home in their early years, because they were very damaged. However, her husband was a vicar, and she could only afford to give up work and feed the children because of tax credits. She got in touch to say that if the Government push through the plan tomorrow to limit all benefits

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and tax credits to the first two children in any family, she would not be able to adopt those children in future, and they would stay in care at a cost of £40,000 per child per year. I asked the Minister how that policy passed the family test. He would not tell me. Will she?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, as I said, the family test is not a tick-box exercise. Policy is always about trade-offs, but the family test ensures that family impacts are explicitly considered when making those trade-offs.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, we spent quite a lot of time yesterday looking at issues affecting the family through the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. My noble friends Lady Lister and Lady Sherlock in particular pressed the Minister time and again as to whether these proposals in the Bill passed the family test. Answer came there none. Can the Minister tell us in what way, explicitly, the proposals in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill have been subjected to and evaluated against the family test and whether they have passed it, as she has told the House today?

Baroness Altmann: I can only repeat to the noble Baroness that the family test is not a pass or fail exercise. It is right to make our welfare system fairer for the working families currently paying into the system to support others, and the family test has been explicitly considered in the new policies and trade-offs necessary in all policy-making.

The Archbishop of York: My Lords, I hope that the family test recognises that poor families come in different shapes and sizes and that there is no intention of pushing a particular policy, of which we saw a little in China. Margaret and I had two children of our own and then fostered two children who came to us at the ages of eight and one and a half. They are now working adults. Had this family test been around, I would have been worried, as Ruth is, because that child would have found it very difficult. Will the Minister assure us that when the family test comes, common sense will prevail, not numbers?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, families are the foundations of society. Strong and stable families, we know, can have a huge impact on improving the life chances of our children, and we have a clear and unqualified commitment to strengthening and supporting family life for our children and for generations to come.

National Health Service: Nurses

Question

2.56 pm

Asked by Lord Clark of Windermere

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that there are a sufficient number of nurses in the National Health Service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, Health Education England is responsible for workforce planning in the NHS. In 2016-17, the HEE commissioning and investment plan forecasts an additional supply by 2020 of 40,000 nurses as a result of undergraduate and

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postgraduate commissions placed with universities between 2012 and 2016. Moving new nursing students on to the student loans system from August 2017 allows universities to offer up to 10,000 extra nursing, midwifery and allied health degree places by 2020-21.

Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab): I thank the Minister for his answer, and we all wish the Government well in trying to make up the shortfall of nurses which is bedevilling our National Health Service at the moment. I am dubious about the abolition of the bursary scheme and think that the Government’s proposals are highly risky, but I wish the Government well. I ask the Minister for an assurance that if they proceed with the abolition of the bursary scheme, they will recognise that the cost to nurses at the end of their training will probably be approaching £50,000. Will the Government give a commitment that they will fund a payback or reward scheme so that those nurses who have spent a number of years in the National Health Service will have some of those debts written off?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for wishing the scheme well. It is intended to increase the supply of young men and women going into the nursing profession, with which I think everyone in this House would agree. It is true at one level to say that people receiving loans rather than bursaries will have a debt of about £50,000 at the end, but the repayment of that is, as the noble Lord knows, graduated, and only 9% of the excess over £21,000 a year will be payable, not the full amount, as he suggests.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, I have previously raised the question of the abolition of the SENs, and the Minister has told me that thought is being given to training which will not require university entrance. Are the Government making any progress on that, as there are many wonderful nurses—I am sure that we have all known some—who could never have got enough academic points to come in at the university training level?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I completely agree with my noble friend’s sentiments. She will be pleased to know that from August of this year, Health Education England will be funding 1,000 new nursing associates, who will not be taking a degree but will effectively do a nurse apprenticeship, although they will be able to switch over to doing a degree later in their career if they so choose.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, given that hospital trusts are recruiting 5,600 nurses from outside the EU every year, that is surely much more of a pull factor than anything the Government might do with benefits. Given the fact that trainee nurses have to work on a clinical placement outside term time in which they add value to the NHS and take on responsibility, why are they not paid?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I do not entirely follow the noble Baroness’s question. All I can say is that we are all pleased that we are able to attract nurses from overseas, but that cannot be the right long-term policy for this country. We must train our own nurses and not rely upon recruiting nurses from overseas.

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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB): My Lords, what consideration have the Government given to enabling people who want to study nursing as a second degree to have loans in the way that they will allow for those studying some STEM subjects? We have traditionally had mature entrants who are already graduates.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, we are still consulting on the details of this scheme, but I assure the noble Baroness that the loan scheme will be available for mature student doing their second degree as it is for those doing their first degree.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, last night in the education regulations debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Evans, said from the Dispatch Box that last year the cap on applications for nursing students meant that 37,000 applications were rejected, yet today the Minister quoted the figure of 10,000 extra places by 2020, which I take to mean 2,000 places a year. What about the other 35,000 a year who are presumably rejected for a nursing place? If there are ways of getting rid of the cap, why on earth are the Government not allowing many more nurses to be trained? Is it actually because they have cut the budget of Health Education England which would have to finance the placements of those student nurses in NHS trusts?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I think the noble Lord is wrong in what he says, but I will double check. I believe that there will be an additional 10,000 placements per year, but I will check that afterwards. That is not until 2021 because the new scheme will not come into place until August 2017, which means that the first students will come out of the new scheme in 2020. We are estimating that there will be 10,000 in that year.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): Do the Government recognise that the retention of nurses is also extremely important and that the loss from the profession later in life may reflect difficult working conditions and lack of support? Will the Government also note that nurses in the hospice world and specialists in palliative nursing tend to be older nurses who have left NHS employment and gone to the charitable sector precisely because they feel that they can work as they want to, fully and professionally, and have a supported working environment?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, retention and return to practice are crucial. The noble Baroness may be interested to know that Health Education England has up to 90, I think, courses that have so far attracted just under 1,000 nurses back to practice. The cost of attracting someone back to practice is some £2,000 each compared with some £50,000 for a new nurse.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware of the pressure that is quite rightly on trusts to reduce their agency spend. How can we cope with doing that when we are also still trying to get in nurses whose visas are being stopped, despite the fact that that restriction was supposed to have been lifted?

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Lord Prior of Brampton: The cost of agency spend has risen from around £2.8 billion a year to some £4 billion this year. It is far too high. There is recognition that reliance upon agencies to this degree is also not good for quality of care. On grounds of both care and cost, we wish to reduce the spend on agencies.

Press Regulation

Question

3.04 pm

Asked by Lord Clement-Jones

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the launch of the new press regulator IMPRESS, what steps they are taking to promote independent and effective press regulation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): My Lords, this Government support the framework for independent press self-regulation delivered in the previous Parliament. This system protects the freedom of the press while offering real redress when mistakes are made. We want to see the press voluntarily comply with the reforms recommended by Lord Justice Leveson and enshrined in the royal charter.

Lord Clement-Jones (LD): My Lords, I am glad to hear that the Government support the framework agreed in the last Parliament. However, is not the key question whether the Prime Minister will honour his pledge to the victims of press abuse by commencing the court costs incentive set out in Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, as Parliament intended?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the exemplary damages provisions, which now extend to all media cases, came into effect on 3 November and provide an incentive to publishers to sign up. We are not convinced that the time is right for the introduction of the costs provisions but the Secretary of State is considering the issue further and discussing it with interested parties; we have had some discussions with individual noble Lords in this House.

Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury (Con): My Lords, has my noble friend read the report on press regulation by the Communications Committee last year? Do the Government accept its recommendation that with the system evolving, especially with IMPRESS and IPSO, they should keep it under review and monitor it very carefully?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I am not sure that I am allowed to do this, but I must recommend this report as excellent reading. It is a very clear summary—I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the committee on it—and one of the good things is that it encourages regular review and reporting; of course the Press Recognition Panel will report each year.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): Are the Government seriously saying that they are implementing Leveson?

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe: We have brought in and implemented the new regulatory framework, and as recently as last November we brought in the wider exemplary damages provisions. There is a Leveson part 2 but that cannot be turned to until the phone-hacking cases are completed in the courts.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, is the Minister aware that in its first year IPSO, supported by most newspapers, is establishing itself as being independent and effective under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Moses? It deals efficiently with complaints and makes instructions, which the press obey, to publish corrections even on the front pages of their newspapers. Does it therefore not follow that the Government should do nothing to undermine that system while it is being developed and certainly should be very careful, as the Minister has indicated, about introducing sanctions like arbitrary costs or punitive damages that people such as myself believe are likely to fall foul of press freedom and the European Convention on Human Rights?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, I have great sympathy with the noble Lord’s point. The single most important point is freedom of the press, as he says, and I am glad that we have found an independent, self-regulatory system which is now starting to deliver.

Lord Wood of Anfield (Lab): My Lords, Section 40—the costs protection clause—was part of the Crime and Courts Act that was passed overwhelmingly in the Commons and here. Is the Minister saying that the Government are now revisiting the wisdom of Section 40?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: As the Secretary of State made clear in a speech before Christmas, he is reflecting on whether now is the time to bring in that provision. The noble Lord is right: it sits on the statute book—there is no suggestion of doing anything about that—but we are reflecting on when to commence it.

Lord Foster of Bath (LD): My Lords, further to that question and answer, does the Minister agree that an effective press regulator, as well as protecting the public, should also protect ambitious watchdog journalists from the threat of ruinous court costs by wealthy and powerful people who try to prevent publication of awkward stories? Notwithstanding the comments of my noble friend Lord Lester, does the Minister agree that this is another reason why the Secretary of State should rapidly enact the court costs incentives, which have already been agreed by Parliament?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I am not sure that I see it quite that way. The extended exemplary damages are a good thing and a good incentive. We need a free press; the system is getting under way; and the Secretary of State is entirely right to think about as and when—and when and if—to bring in the costs provisions, which of course sit on the statute book and can be commenced at any time.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, perhaps I may take the Minister back to Leveson part 2. The second part was due to look at specific claims made about phone hacking, what went wrong with the original police investigations, and alleged

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police corruption. As the Minister said, it was delayed pending the conclusion of criminal prosecutions. My understanding is that those prosecutions have now been completed. If that is the case, we know that hacking took place at the

News of the World

and at Mirror Group titles but we do not know exactly what went on elsewhere. Can we have confirmation from the noble Baroness that the second part of the public inquiry will take place and, if so, what the timetable will be?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My understanding is different in that two cases are outstanding. That means that Leveson part 2 will not be able to take place until after those investigations and trials have concluded. However, as soon as they have been completed, we will formally consult Sir Brian Leveson, as he now is, as chair of the inquiry before announcing what is appropriate.

Baroness Hollins (CB): My Lords, are the Government going back on their commitments over Leveson?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: No. The Government have brought in the regulatory system that was agreed in the last Parliament. The only issues today are the question that we are exploring, which is the timing and appropriateness of the costs provisions, and part 2, which, as the noble Lord opposite said, we have to defer until the criminal court cases are out of the way. I appreciate that that is frustrating for this House but, as we have heard from the Benches opposite, progress has been made in the mean time, and last week IMPRESS applied for recognition.

Failures of the 111 Helpline

Statement

3.11 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat as a Statement the Answer to an Urgent Question given in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health on NHS England’s report into the death of William Mead and the failures of the 111 helpline. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, this tragic case concerns the death of a one year-old boy, William Mead, on 14 December 2014 in Cornwall. While any health system will inevitably suffer tragedies from time to time, the issues raised in this case have significant implications for the rest of the NHS which I am determined we should learn from.

First, though, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family of William Mead. I have met William’s mother Melissa, who spoke incredibly movingly about the loss of her son. Quite simply we let her, her family and William down in the worst possible way through serious failings in the NHS care offered, and I would like to apologise to them on behalf of the Government and the NHS for what happened. I would also like to thank them for their support and co-operation in the investigation that has now been completed. Today, NHS England published the results of that investigation—a root-cause analysis of what happened. The recommendations are far-reaching, with national implications.

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The report concludes that there were four areas of missed opportunity by the local health services where a different course of action should have been taken. These include primary care and general practice appointments by William’s family, out-of-hours calls with their GP and the NHS 111 service. Although the report concluded that these did not constitute direct serious failings by the individuals involved, had different action been taken at these points, William would probably have survived.

Across these different parts of the NHS, a major failing was that in the last six to eight weeks of William’s life the underlying pathology, including pneumonia and a chest infection, was not recognised and treated. The report cites potential factors such as a lack of understanding of sepsis, particularly in children, and pressure on GPs to reduce antibiotic prescribing and acute hospital referrals. Although this was not raised by the GPs involved, the report also refers to the potential pressure of workload.

There were specific recommendations in relation to NHS 111 which should be treated as a national, not a local, issue. Call advisers are trained not to deviate from their script, but the report says that they need to be trained to appreciate when there is a need to probe further, how to recognise a complex call and when to call in clinical advice earlier. It also cites limited sensitivity in the algorithms used by call handlers to red-flag signs relating to sepsis. The Government and NHS England accept these recommendations, which will be implemented as soon as possible.

New commissioning standards issued in October 2015 require commissioners to create more functionally integrated 111 and GP out-of-hours services, and Sir Bruce Keogh’s ongoing urgent and emergency care review will simplify the way the public interacts with the NHS for urgent care needs.

Most of all, we must recognise that our understanding of sepsis across the NHS is totally inadequate. This condition claims around 35,000 lives every year, including around 1,000 children.

I would like to acknowledge and thank my honourable friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth, who, as well as being the constituency MP to the Mead family, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of sepsis and has worked closely with the UK Sepsis Trust to reduce the number of avoidable deaths from sepsis.

In January last year I announced a package of measures to help improve diagnosis of sepsis in both hospitals and GP surgeries, and significant efforts are being made to improve awareness of the condition among both doctors and the public. But the tragic death of William Mead reminds us there is much more work to be done”.

3.16 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for repeating that. I start by paying tribute to Melissa Mead and her husband Paul, who have fought to know the truth about their son’s death and who are now campaigning to raise awareness about the care of sepsis and how we can improve it.

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Clearly, the key is to learn lessons and take action in the immediate future. Ministers were warned about poor sepsis care back in September 2013 when an ombudsman report highlighted shortcomings in initial assessment and delay in emergency treatment that led to missed opportunities to save lives. Can the Minister say what action has been taken by the Government? Will he urgently meet the UK Sepsis Trust to discuss what needs to happen to raise awareness among GPs, the NHS and the public?

The Minister outlined the failures in the 111 response. He will know that the replacement of NHS Direct, which was predominantly a nurse-led service, with NHS 111 means that the service now relies mainly on call handlers who receive as little as six weeks’ training and where turnover among staff can be very rapid. Is he going to review the training that call handlers receive and will he consider increasing the number of clinically trained staff available to respond to calls?

The Minister will be aware that there are two other inquiries into NHS 111 failures at the moment: in the east Midlands and on the south-east coast. Can the public have confidence that the 111 service is fit to diagnose patients with life-threatening conditions?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I echo the tribute that the noble Lord paid to the Mead family and their recognition that we can only learn from these terrible tragedies. The fact that they are prepared to make available the report to other parts of the NHS will help in that learning process. I, or one of the other Ministers concerned, will certainly undertake to meet the UK Sepsis Trust.

The noble Lord raised the issue of the 111 service. It is worth making the point that, in this case, the call handler took the call and referred it to a GP who was part of the out-of-hours service. The GP then spoke directly to William’s mother and decided on what the right course of action was. However, I take on board exactly what the noble Lord said about training and the mix between clinicians and non-clinicians in 111 call centres. It will become a better service when the out-of-hours service and the 111 service are integrated.

One point that came out of the report was that had there been an electronic patient record indicating the evidence of the time that William had spent with GPs in the preceding six weeks, the GP who took the call might possibly have come to a different decision. This was a tragic case of all the holes in the Swiss cheese lining up to cause this awful tragedy. Therefore, I take on board what the noble Lord said about 111 and will pursue that with NHS England.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, I share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about 111, but does this not go much wider? On the issue of medical and public education about sepsis, what are Public Health England and Health Education England going to do about this? We cannot rely on the BBC1 programme “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”, which this week has certainly increased my understanding of the symptoms of sepsis. But that needs to be spread to the wider public. I recommend that people go on iPlayer and watch that programme if they want to know about this. Does this not also indicate that this very conscientious

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and determined mother was not listened to? She knew her child was behaving abnormally and all the people who talked to her—from GPs through to everyone else—just did not listen.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the facts of this case demonstrate that a lot of things went wrong. That is the real tragedy of it. Had one of those things not gone wrong, the tragedy may not have happened. The noble Baroness referred in particular to medical education but it is wider than that. As I said, a whole stream of things went wrong and we must learn from that.

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, does the Minister agree that confusing messages are coming out? One is that antibiotics are being given too liberally. The other is that they are desperately needed for serious chest infections—and this boy had pneumonia, which was missed. Cases of meningitis are also missed. Such illnesses really need antibiotics. Does he agree?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, in a sense there are mixed messages—but there is a common-sense message here as well. We do not want to overuse antibiotics but, on the other hand, clearly where there is a serious infection, antibiotics are absolutely necessary. At one level it is a mixed message but there is a common-sense way through the two.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord has pointed out—as those of us who have read about this case are aware—that the patient was a very young child. One thing that I find troubling about this whole history is that that fact appears not significantly to have influenced the way in which his case was handled. Is it not the case that there should be a default position in respect of very young children exhibiting systems where the precautionary principle should apply, whether in respect of prescribing antibiotics, referring to hospital or any other kind of presumption of the possibility of acute illness?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, one would expect the doctors concerned to make that presumption in the case of a very young child. But the noble Baroness makes a valid point and I am sure that NHS England will take it on board.

Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, does the Minister agree that this tragic case occurred in an environment of incredible pressure on GPs and others within the NHS, with a growing blame culture and huge numbers of patients—they have to see 60 to 70 in a day very often? We all have to accept that things will go wrong if we leave GPs, in particular, working under those sorts of personal pressures and so on. We know that 30% or so will leave the profession in the coming years. Will the Minister meet with me to discuss what he might do to alleviate some of those problems? That could be very helpful.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, unquestionably there are huge workload pressures on GPs. There is no doubt about that. I do not think they were a primary cause of this particular tragedy, but I will be happy to meet with the noble Baroness to discuss that.

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General Dental Council (Fitness to Practise etc.) Order 2015

Motion to Approve

3.24 pm

Moved by Lord Prior of Brampton

That the draft order laid before the House on 18 November 2015 be approved.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Considered in Grand Committee on 18 January.

Motion agreed.

Psychoactive Substances Bill [HL]

Commons Amendments

3.24 pm

Motion on Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Bates

That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 1.

1: Clause 1 page 1, line 5, after “9” insert “and (Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that this House agree with the Commons in their Amendment 1.

Noble Lords will recall the debate on Report in this House on 14 July, on the use of psychoactive substances in prisons. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, then argued that the supply of psychoactive substances in prisons was of such concern that it should be made a statutory aggravating factor under Clause 6 of the Bill.

In response, I recognised that the use of psychoactive substances by prisoners represented a significant challenge to the welfare of prisoners and the safe and secure management of prisons. While expressing sympathy for the noble Lord’s amendment, I argued that the promulgation of further aggravating factors was properly a matter for the Sentencing Council. That being the case, I undertook to write to the Sentencing Council to draw its attention to the debate, which the Minister for Policing, Fire and Criminal Justice and Victims has now done. I also argued that it would be worth looking at alternative ways of addressing this problem, including introducing an offence of possession of a psychoactive substance in prison. Your Lordships’ House was not persuaded that these undertakings went far enough and consequently agreed the amendment put forward by the Opposition.

Having reflected on the debate on Report, the Government are content that the supply of, or an offer to supply, a psychoactive substance in prison should be treated as a statutory aggravating factor. Commons Amendment 5 therefore simply makes drafting improvements to the amendment passed by this House in July. Specifically, the amendment replaces the reference

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to “prison premises” with the term “custodial institution” and then defines this term to include adult prisons and their juvenile equivalents, service custody premises and immigration detention accommodation. Immigration detention centres are not, of course, penal institutions, hence the adoption of the term “custodial institution” as an alternative to the reference to prison premises.

Commons Amendment 6 brings forward subsection (9) of Clause 6 and simply improves the logical flow of the clause.

As I indicated in July, the Government were giving separate consideration to the case for including in the Bill an offence of possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution. The case for this is essentially the same as the one set out by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, when he put forward his amendment to Clause 6. The presence of psychoactive substances in prisons is a destructive and growing problem. The use of psychoactive substances—now the drugs of choice among prisoners—has been linked to mental health problems and disturbed behaviour by prisoners, including violence. It is having an increasingly destructive impact on security and order in prisons and on the welfare of individual prisoners. In a bulletin published in July, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman identified 19 deaths in prison between April 2012 and September 2014 where the prisoner was known, or strongly suspected, to have been using psychoactive substances before their death.

Control and order are fundamental foundations of prison life. Without them, staff, prisoner and visitor safety cannot be guaranteed and the rehabilitation of prisoners cannot take place. We have already introduced a number of measures to tackle the use of psychoactive substances in prisons. These include training of specialist dog teams to search and detect synthetic drugs in prisons in England and Wales; searching cells for hidden drugs; patrolling prison perimeters; and searching visitors to prevent drugs from being smuggled in. More than 120 dogs have now received special training in psychoactive substance detection and we will have trained more than 300 dogs by the end of the calendar year. Other measures include a major push on prison communications to make sure that offenders are aware of the consequences of taking psychoactive substances —as are visitors who attempt to bring them in—and the introduction of new drug tests in the coming months to identify prisoners using psychoactive substances.

Nonetheless, the use of psychoactive substances remains significant and pervasive in prisons. A possession offence in prison—as provided for in Commons Amendment 9—will enable the police and Crown Prosecution Service to pursue cases where prisoners, visitors or staff are found with small quantities of psychoactive substances in prisons. The introduction of such an offence will support our stance that the use of psychoactive substances in prison is not to be tolerated.

Many instances of simple possession by prisoners can often effectively be dealt with by the internal prison disciplinary service. Where joint working between prisons and the police identifies a particular problem with psychoactive substances in a prison, a prison possession offence could be used very effectively and

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might just deter some of those involved. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, possession offences quite properly attract lower maximum sentences compared with production, supply and importation offences, and so it is here. While the offences in Clauses 4 to 8 of the Bill have a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment, Commons Amendment 10 to Clause 9 provides for a maximum penalty for this new offence of two years’ imprisonment. Commons Amendments 1, 21, 22, 27, 31 and 34 to 37 are consequential on Commons Amendment 9. General possession of a psychoactive substance in the community will continue to not be a criminal offence. This reflects the recommendation of the expert panel that the focus of the legislation should be on tackling the trade in psychoactive substances, but as I have set out, the problems caused by the use of psychoactive substances in prisons are such as to justify a targeted possession offence that applies only in the context of possession in prisons or other custodial institutions.

The Government have listened to the arguments put forward by this House for strengthening the Bill to tackle the particular harms caused by the use of psychoactive substances in prisons and other custodial institutions. Having pressed for such strengthening of the Bill, the House will, I am sure, will join me in welcoming these Commons amendments.

3.30 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, as the Minister has said, this group of amendments indicates that the Government have accepted the view of this House, as expressed through the carrying of an amendment on Report, that when sentencing an offender for the offence of supplying or offering to supply a psychoactive substance, it should be regarded as a statutory aggravating factor if that offence took place on prison premises. The only change the Government have made is to replace the reference in the Lords amendment to “prison premises” with “custodial institution”, and we welcome the Government’s decision to accept the view of the House on this matter.

However, this group of amendments also provides for a new offence of possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution as opposed to the far more serious issue of supplying such substances, which is now already covered in the Bill. The new offence of possession will cover inmates, visitors and staff in prisons with, I think, the maximum penalty being two years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. Thus, the only new power the new offence would give is the ability further to punish inmates and others in a prison for possessing psychoactive substances for their own use, as opposed to supplying them to others. Since those who run our prisons already have powers to discipline and punish inmates for possessing controlled psychoactive substances, I ask the Minister this: where has the late pressure come from to create this new offence, since the Government did not previously think it should be provided for in the Bill? Has the pressure come from those running our prisons, or from the prisons and probation ombudsmen or the Chief Inspector of Prisons, who have both certainly expressed concern about the impact of psychoactive substances but neither of whom, as far as I am aware, has called for a new

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offence of possession? What they have argued is that better and more effective detection mechanisms need to be in place to detect psychoactive substances in our prisons, along with more frequent drug testing.

Is not the reality that, for those who possess psychoactive substances in the confines of our prisons, where the bullying and violence associated with the existence of such substances has already been identified by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the need is to regard this primarily as a health issue and to focus on education with an appropriate drug education and awareness strategy? What are the Government actually doing to combat possession of new psychoactive substances for personal use through these means, which are surely likely to be more effective, if the resources are provided, than the new offence proposed in this group of amendments? Is that not the support that those who run our prisons really need to address this issue, along with the resources to provide effective detection mechanisms and more regular drug testing? Are not those the resources that this Government have so far been failing to provide, as, in my opinion, the Minister implicitly acknowledged in his opening comments? What is the Government’s estimate of the reduction in the personal use of psychoactive substances in our prisons that will result from the creation of this new offence, and on the basis of what information was that estimate made?

Finally, will this new possession offence in prison for inmates, visitors and staff also apply to poppers? I ask this in view of the support there has been, including from the Commons Home Affairs Committee, for adding poppers to the list of exemptions to the ban on psychoactive substances because of the potential consequences of such a ban in this case. In the light of the decision by the Home Secretary to refer the issue of poppers for further consideration by expert bodies, do we really want to create a new possession offence in respect of a substance which is popular in some sections of the gay community, has been used recreationally in Britain for more than 30 years and has not so far been banned by any Government, given the likelihood that within the next few months a decision could be made as a result of expert consideration that it should continue to not be banned?

Having said that, and having made my points, I want to make it clear that we certainly do not intend to oppose the Commons government amendments creating the new offence of possession, but we want answers to the points that I have raised.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, the situation described by the Minister is very serious and seems to lead directly to issues of prison reform—drugs being one of the considerations—but one would want to look at far wider causes than how concerns about prison manifest themselves in this issue. I wondered what ingenuity might be applied to introduce the issue of poppers, since it would be quite difficult to provide an amendment to the government amendments to deal with that, so I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on finding a way to introduce the subject.

We, of course, will not oppose these amendments, but I must say that we will now have possession of a controlled drug being an offence, possession of a new

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psychoactive substance not being an offence, but possession of a new psychoactive substance in prison being an offence. In our view, that is too muddled but, of course, at earlier stages of this Bill we were calling for a widespread health-based review of all drugs laws, so I am sure that the Minister will not be entirely surprised that I make that comment.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, I warmly endorse all that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has said. One aspect of Amendment 9 that the Minister mentioned was that a number of improvements were being made in prisons to the detection of new psychoactive substances. I should like to refer particularly to a very powerful report published last month by the Chief Inspector of Prisons on the use of new psychoactive substances. He said:

“Drug misuse is a serious threat to the security of the prison system, the health of individual prisoners and the safety of prisoners and staff”,

but the new psychoactive substances are an even more serious offence and,

“are now the most serious threat to the safety and security of the prison system”.

Because dealing with the new psychoactive substances—searching for them and so on—was so patchy in the Prison Service, the Chief Inspector of Prisons recommended:

“The Prison Service should improve its response to current levels and types of drug misuse in prisons and ensure that its structures enable it to respond quickly and flexibly to the next trend”.

I will mention the next trend before I conclude. The chief inspector recommended:

“A national committee should be established, chaired by the Prisons Minister, with a membership of relevant operational experts from the public and private prison sectors, health services, law enforcement, substance misuse services and other relevant experts. The committee should be tasked to produce and publish an annual assessment of all aspects of drug use in prisons, based on all the available evidence and intelligence, and produce and keep under review a national prison drugs strategy”.

If that annual report was required, it would, of course, cover the possession mentioned in the amendment that we are discussing, but I am particularly concerned that, in briefing the cross-party group on criminal justice, drugs and alcohol that I chair, the chief inspector mentioned the next trend causing him and his inspectors even more worry, which was the introduction of powdered alcohol. Therefore, we must have a system in place that monitors trends as well as current practices. I ask the Minister: what is happening about the establishment of such a national committee?

Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his welcome of the amendment and other noble Lords who have spoken in favour of it. It is important.

The noble Lord asked a number of questions on whether the offence will apply only to prisoners. This is an important point to address to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The new offence will apply to all persons in possession of a psychoactive substance in prison. It is not particularly targeting prisoners themselves, so it could include visitors—or staff, for that matter—who possess these new psychoactive substances.

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The noble Lord asked what pressure had come for this. Pressure came from a number of sources, including those that argued in favour of his amendment last July. Although it was not originally one such pressure, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has brought to the fore the impressive and disturbing report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, called Changing Patterns of Substance Misuse in Adult Prisons and Service Responses, from December 2015. As the noble Lord has quoted, the chief inspector has said that new psychoactive substances,

“have created significant additional harm and are now the most serious threat to the safety and security of the prison system that our inspections identify”.

The noble Lord is absolutely right to identify this. I spoke in my introductory remarks about the additional dogs being trained for inspections, but it is right—the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked for this—that there should be a major push on prison communications to ensure that offenders are aware of the consequences of taking psychoactive substances, as are visitors attempting to bring them in. New drug tests are also being developed in this area.

I know that it was slightly ingenious to bring poppers into this group. I had prepared some remarks to address that in the second group of amendments. If noble Lords will allow me, I will address my remarks in that setting, lest I duplicate them.

On the prison drugs strategy, the idea that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggests is very interesting. While I cannot give a firm undertaking today, I would want to speak to the Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous, about this suggestion. I will get back to the noble Lord on whether a national committee could do this. Again, we are conscious of the constantly changing nature of this. In many ways, that was the argument for the blanket ban on psychoactive substances, rather than the whack-a-mole situation we were in before, where new things popped up as other things were outlawed.

With those comments and promises to get back to noble Lords on specific points of interest and to address further concerns in the next group, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

3.45 pm

Motion on Amendments 2 to 4

Moved by Lord Bates

That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 2 to 4.

2: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out “Section 10” and insert “Section (Exceptions to offences)”

3: Clause 4 page 2, line 32, leave out from “subject to” to end of line 33 and insert “section

(Exceptions to offences) (exceptions to offences).”

4: Clause 5 page 3, line 14, leave out from “subject to” to end of line 15 and insert “section

(Exceptions to offences) (exceptions to offences).

Lord Bates: My Lords, in drafting this Bill, we have adopted a similar approach to that taken by the Republic of Ireland’s Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances)

26 Jan 2016 : Column 1162

Act 2010; namely, setting out a broad definition of a psychoactive substance and then circumscribing it with a robust set of exemptions to narrow the Bill’s scope. The current list of exempted substances in Schedule 1 includes substances controlled through existing legislation, such as alcohol, tobacco and nicotine, medicinal products and controlled drugs, and substances where psychoactive effects are negligible, such as caffeine and foodstuffs.

I am delighted to see my noble friend Lady Chisholm of Owlpen in her place with me on the Front Bench. During the Bill’s passage through this House, my noble friend responded to amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and agreed that we should look again at the drafting of the Bill with a view to strengthening the exemptions for medicinal products and research. As my noble friend Lady Chisholm made clear on Report in July, the Government have no intention through this Bill of fettering the discretion of clinicians to prescribe or direct the supply of substances which, in their clinical judgment, meet the needs of their patients. My noble friend also made it clear that we have no intention of constraining bona fide scientific research. This Government attach the highest priority to research and are committed to removing—or not putting in place—unnecessary regulatory barriers to impede that research in the UK.

During the summer, the Home Office worked closely with a range of public and private organisations to address both points, and I am confident that the new formulation put forward in these Commons amendments effectively responds to the issue and ensures that we have a robust list of exemptions.

Let me deal first with the definition of a medicinal product in Schedule 1 to the Bill. One concern put to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, was that the definition did not cover so-called “specials”; that is, products which are used in healthcare but have no marketing authorisation. These products have been manufactured or imported, to the order of a doctor and certain other medical practitioners, specifically for the treatment of individual patients to meet their special clinical need.

It is not our intention that medicinal products regulated under the framework provided for in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 should be caught by this Bill. In defining a medicinal product by reference to a product with certain types of marketing authorisation, we were, on reflection, not casting the net widely enough. Commons Amendment 41 properly aligns the Bill with the regulatory framework for medicines. The Home Office worked closely with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency during the summer to revise this exemption.

Following careful consideration, Commons Amendment 41 uses the definition of a “medicinal product” as defined in Regulation 2 of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. This would mean that any substance which falls within the following definition would be caught by the exemption and so would be outside the scope of the Bill:

“(a) any substance … presented as having properties of preventing or treating disease in human beings; or … (b) any substance …

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that may be used by or administered to human beings with a view to … (i) restoring, correcting or modifying a physiological function by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action, or … (ii) making a medical diagnosis.

The Human Medicines Regulations consolidate the law of the United Kingdom concerning medicinal products for human use, including their authorisation, manufacture, distribution, importation and sale. I can assure noble Lords that we are satisfied that this revised definition covers all medicinal products that are approved for use in the UK. This definition includes investigational medicinal products, homeopathic medicinal products and traditional herbal medicines. That being the case, we can dispense with paragraphs 3 to 5 of Schedule 1, and Commons Amendment 42 removes them accordingly.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will remain the body which regulates activity in relation to medicinal products, whether they are authorised or not, and these amendments and the Bill will not encroach on that. The MHRA is already called upon to determine whether a product meets the definition of a “medicinal product”. This will be an important role going forward to assist with ensuring that the exemption for medicinal products is relied on only in appropriate cases. Our approach will ensure that the regulatory frameworks for psychoactive substances and human medicines complement rather than overlap each other and ensure that the public are properly protected for medicinal and non-medicinal psychoactive substances.

Having dealt with the changes to the list of exempted substances, I now turn to exempted activities. Commons Amendment 11 provides that it would not be an offence under the Bill for a person to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export, or possess in a custodian institution a psychoactive substance if, in the circumstances in which it is carried by that person, the activity is an exempted activity. Commons Amendment 43 then sets out the list of exempted activities. These fall into two categories. The first exempts legitimate activities of healthcare professionals, while the second covers research. I will explain both in turn.

The exemption for healthcare-related activities will cover healthcare professionals acting in the course of their profession, and ensures that the Bill will not fetter their discretion as clinicians. At the moment a healthcare professional is free to prescribe or direct the supply of any psychoactive substance that is not a medicinal product as defined by the Human Medicines Regulations if, in their clinical judgment, this is in the best interests of the patient. While we do not have specific examples of such substances in mind, we wish to ensure that the Bill does not fetter clinicians’ freedom in this regard.

Commons Amendment 11 will ensure that, either now or in the future, a healthcare professional will not be hindered in offering treatment which in their clinical judgment is right for their patient. There are separate rules, in particular in relation to controlled drugs, which govern which substances a healthcare practitioner can and cannot prescribe which are unaffected by this exemption.

We have defined a “health care professional” using the existing definition in Regulation 8 of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. This definition includes a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, nurse and midwife among

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others. The exemption also extends to people who supply substances to patients in accordance with a prescription issued by a healthcare professional, or at their direction.

Turning to research, while the inclusion of investigational medicinal products in Schedule 1 signalled our intention to exempt research activity, the Government recognise that the exemption fell short of what was required and, as such, failed to cover all research which could be caught by the Bill. I am grateful to the Academy of Medical Sciences and to noble Lords for raising this issue. The Home Office has reconsidered this issue and, after consulting the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department of Health, the Health Research Authority, the Government Office for Science, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the devolved Administrations, we have identified a revised approach.

Given that a wide range of bodies might undertake relevant research, our approach has been to frame the exemption around research which has received appropriate ethical approval from an ethics review body. We understand that all research which will be caught by the Bill should receive such approval. We have discussed this approach with the Academy of Medical Sciences and others in the research community, who are content with our approach.

All research that is approved by one of the Health Research Authority’s research ethics committees will be exempted and, as the Health Research Authority’s remit covers health and social care research, we expect that this will be a major mechanism for the exemption of research. We acknowledge the possibility of research in fields other than health and social care and, for that reason, the exemption will also cover all research approved by: an ethics committee constituted by a government department; an NHS body; a research institute, including universities; or a charity which is concerned with advancing health or saving lives.

These mechanisms for ethical approval are already in place and the Government believe that any research involving the consumption of a psychoactive substance by a human should be considered by an ethics committee, not least to give due regard to the safety of the research’s participants. From our discussions with the research community over the summer, we have not been able to identify any example of in-scope research which has not been considered by an ethics body, so this exemption should not create any additional bureaucracy for the research community, nor require bona fide researchers to do anything they do not already do. We are just conscious not to create a loophole which allows head shops and others to undertake so-called research to facilitate the supply of these substances. It is worth putting on record again that a considerable amount of scientific research falls outside the scope of the Bill in any case. Only research involving the consumption of a psychoactive substance by a person would be caught.

Commons Amendment 11 includes a power to add to or vary the list of exempted activities in the new schedule inserted by Commons Amendment 43. This regulation-making power effectively replaces that in Clause 10, so Commons Amendment 12 omits that

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clause. Commons Amendments 2 to 4, 7, 8, 13, 29, 30 and 38 are all consequential on Commons Amendments 11 and 43.

I was asked about poppers. The Government recognise that representations have been made to the effect that poppers have a beneficial health and relationship effect. In consultation with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency—the MHRA—the Home Office will therefore consider, following the enactment of the Bill and before the Summer Recess, whether there is evidence to support these claims and, if so, whether it is sufficient to justify exempting the alkyl nitrites group, or individual substances in that group. Clause 3 enables the Home Secretary, by regulations —after statutory consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and subject to the affirmative procedure—to add to the list of exempted substances in Schedule 1 to the Bill.

Finally, I thank all those in the medical and research community, as well as those in government departments and this House, who assisted us over the summer in drafting these amendments. I now believe that we have a strong exemption list which meets the guiding principle. I beg to move.

Lord Rosser: I thank the noble Lord for his very full and thorough explanation of the purpose and intention of this group of amendments. As the Minister has said, the intention of this group is to address concerns expressed by ourselves and other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, during the Bill’s passage in this House, that healthcare activities and scientific medical research relating to new psychoactive substances were not adequately protected in the Bill. The amendments insert a new clause and schedule to provide for exemptions to the offences under Clauses 4 to 8 of the Bill and the new possession offence which has just been discussed. As the Minister said, these exemptions are for activities carried out by healthcare professionals and for approved scientific research activity. The Government’s amendments also confer on the Secretary of State the power, through regulations subject to the affirmative procedure, to add to or vary any activity described in the schedule to the Bill which has now been inserted by the Commons.

The Minister has referred to the position of those bodies and institutions directly affected by this Commons amendment. I think the Minister has already said this, but I would be grateful if he would confirm that those bodies and institutions are satisfied that the amendments that have been carried in the Commons, and which we are considering at the moment, meet the concerns that they have expressed.

Finally, in relation to poppers, I understand that a decision is likely to be made fairly soon. I think the suggestion was that conclusions might be reached by the summer. Are we then in a situation where poppers might be banned under the terms of the Bill, only to be—if I may use the expression—unbanned in the summer? Or are we in a situation where the terms of the Bill in relation to the new psychoactive substances will not come into force until a conclusion has been reached in respect of poppers?

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4 pm

Baroness Hamwee: I welcome these amendments very much, particularly the ones relating to research, a concern about which was shared on these Benches. I remember asking about veterinary research, as distinct from research relating to human medicine. There were some raised eyebrows at that point and I had better not pursue it now. But I assume that these provisions will enable research regarding the medicinal use of cannabis, about which we were particularly concerned and on which I moved an amendment. The possible limitation of research was one of the concerns underlying that amendment.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. I hope I gave him enough notice of them. I am sorry that they came so late by email. Both relate to the definition of,

“a relevant ethics review body”.

The first is the use of the term “individuals” in paragraph 4(b) of the proposed new schedule. I wondered whether that might suggest—clearly absurdly—that we were looking at research involving separate individuals rather than cohorts of people. When I looked at the Human Medicines Regulations, I realised that the term “human beings” was used and that seemed a rather more appropriate term, less likely to be interpreted in a different way.

My second concern is with regard to charities. We very much want to see wide research so we welcome this approach. I recognise that the regulation of charities has been the subject of some concern and some change recently, but we may not be altogether rid of—how can I put it?—dodgy charities. Is there any sort of loophole here that would enable a dodgy charity to have an ethics committee—it would probably be rather a dodgy ethics committee but, nevertheless, it would be one—that would allow less than appropriate research?

Lord Hayward (Con): I would like to pursue the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as well as touch on a broader aspect of the legislation. I am in the slightly odd position of having arrived in this place after the original debates in Committee, and I would like to make two points.

First, there is something I do not really understand—and I say this having been chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association. Pubs were created in 1751. This legislation is all or nothing. There is no allowance for things that might be sold in either a licensed premises or a regulated premises. There are many things in British life that are sold under such circumstances and I do not understand why we have to have an all-or-nothing approach to these substances. I understand the nature of the legislation but there are chemical circumstances under which people could define things and regulate them. If we have been doing something for 260 years, I think the Home Office might catch up. It is probably not its finest hour in terms of legislative process.

To follow up the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, since the Government say—this is a change of position, although it was not a specific government amendment—that they will look at something, they could do one of two things. They could either adjust the timetable for the whole legislation and defer it slightly or rush through a consideration of something

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that is likely to be driven underground in the mean time. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether we are going to ban and then unban. What advice will be given to the police in the mean time? Are they to disregard the sale of illegal products or are they just not to prosecute? It really does not make sense. I suggest that we either adopt a position of regulating products or defer the introduction of this legislation.

Lord Bates: In response, I say first to my noble friend Lord Hayward, who has been a welcome addition to this House since his arrival, that when we were considering the Bill during its earlier stages in this House, the problem we were trying to identify was that once these new psychoactive substances were named, I or someone else, such as my noble friend Lady Chisholm, would come before your Lordships’ House with secondary legislation seeking to ban a particular chemical composition. Then it would be slightly tweaked by one or two molecules and reappear the next week as something else, and all the time people would be put at risk. That was the mischief that the whole thrust of this legislation was about. In the Conservative Party manifesto at the last election, we also made it clear that we would institute a blanket ban.

Forgive me for going through the points raised almost in reverse order, but my noble friend Lord Hayward asked whether we are going to ban and then unban. That is to prejudge the outcome of the consultation and review. The review may say that it is something that should be taken off the list; it may say that it should remain on the list. That is for it to do, so we do not know what the outcome will be. As we do not know that, we cannot prejudge it by putting it into this primary legislation. But because of this legislation we have a secondary legislation option whereby, if that decision is taken as a result of the consultation, we can act quickly to address it.

Let me deal with some of the other points which were raised. First, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me to confirm whether various medical groups and research groups had been consulted. Yes, they have, and they have been immensely helpful. I know that many in your Lordships’ House who spoke in Committee and on Report were speaking precisely to that point about the potential danger that this posed to legitimate medical research. I think they would welcome the fact that we have made it explicit in the Bill that these exemptions are there for research.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for her advance notice of the question on charities. The charity we are talking about would of course be a registered charity, and it would have to be one concerned with the advancing of health and saving lives. One hopes that the ability of someone to set up a “charitable body” which then started dispensing might be restricted, in the same way as restricting research to that approved by an ethics committee was the correct way forward. I can confirm that the Academy of Medical Sciences and other research communities were consulted on this. Also in response to the noble Baroness, cannabis is a controlled drug so it is outside the scope of the Bill, as controlled drugs are specifically exempt. The regulations that govern research in relation to cannabis are under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is unchanged.

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I may have answered the other points that were raised —no, there was a specific one on the term “individual”. The definition of the ethics body in new paragraph 4(b) does not exclude clinical trials of cohorts of people, as it refers to “individuals”—plural—not to an individual. It is important that medical charities such as Cancer Research are able to benefit from this exemption. We do not believe that the exemption for charities risks opening any loopholes. Section 1 of the Charities Act 2011 defines a charity as,

“an institution … established for charitable purposes only”.

Section 2(1)(b) of the Act states that the charitable purposes must be in the public interest. Head shops are unlikely to be considered as acting in the public interest—on the contrary, we would argue—so could not benefit from this exemption. I hope that that has been helpful in addressing some of the points raised.

Lord Rosser: The situation with poppers is that they are not banned at the moment, but they will be when the Bill comes into effect and becomes an Act. I accept what the Minister says about the wording being “could” not “will”, but they could then be unbanned in the summer, as I think the Government have said that they expect their consideration by experts will be concluded by the Summer Recess. Is that a particularly satisfactory situation? If I am correct, something that is not banned at the moment may end up being banned for a few months and then unbanned.

Lord Bates: In a sense, my argument is about what alternative we have to this. The moment for putting something through now, in primary legislation, has passed. We have to allow this to take its course. Our concession was to say that we would undertake a review in consultation with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Following the enactment of the Bill, and before the Summer Recess, we will consider whether there is evidence to support these claims. There is a question mark there and we believe that that research and consultation need to happen before we take any further action at this stage.

I see that the cavalry has arrived; I am, as ever, grateful my noble friend Lady Chisholm. To add to the list of exemptions requires the Home Secretary only to make regulations subject to affirmative procedure. To remove from the original list of exemptions would require further primary legislation. I think I have already said this, so I rest my case at that point and beg to move Amendments 2 to 4 in my name.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the point is well made and this is an almost insoluble dilemma. I entirely see the Government’s concern to have the overall legislation in place quickly. However, first, can the Minister give the House any news as to when this may come into effect? Secondly, with regard to the particular situation which has been described, this is by no means a solution, but has the Minister been advised as to the likely view of the judiciary—if that is not an improper question for a Minister to answer—in a situation where, by the time a charge comes to be heard by a court, an exemption has been made through regulations?

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Lord Bates: Subject to your Lordships’ approval this afternoon, the legislation will come into force in April 2016. We discussed in Committee, with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, how the police might respond to that. The police of course have discretion in these circumstances, and we have said very clearly that we know who we are after in relation to this, which is the people who are actually importing, selling and supplying these dangerous substances. I believe that the police can use their discretion at that point. If there are specific circumstances that require further clarification on that, it can be provided for later under the terms of the Bill.

Motion agreed.

4.15 pm

Motion on Amendments 5 to 13

Moved by Lord Bates

That this House do agree with the Commons in their amendments 5 to 13.

5: Clause 6, page 3, line 43, leave out “on prison premises.” and insert “in a custodial institution.

( ) In this section—

“custodial institution” means any of the following—

(a) a prison;

(b) a young offender institution, secure training centre, secure college, young offenders institution, young offenders centre, juvenile justice centre or remand centre;

(c) a removal centre, a short-term holding facility or pre- departure accommodation;

(d) service custody premises;

“removal centre”, “short-term holding facility” and “pre-departure accommodation” have the meaning given by section 147 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999;

“service custody premises” has the meaning given by section 300(7) of the Armed Forces Act 2006.”

6: Clause 6, page 3, transfer subsection (9) to the end of line 29 on page 3

7: Clause 7 page 4, line 18, leave out from “subject to” to end of line 19 and insert “section (Exceptions to offences) (exceptions to offences).”

8: Clause 8 page 5, line 6, leave out from “subject to” to end of line 7 and insert “section (Exceptions to offences) (exceptions to offences).”

9: After Clause 8, insert the following new clause—

“Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution

(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person is in possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution,

(b) the person knows or suspects that the substance is a psychoactive substance, and

(c) the person intends to consume the psychoactive substance for its psychoactive effects.

(2) In this section “custodial institution” has the same meaning as in section 6.

(3) This section is subject to section (Exceptions to offences) (exceptions to offences).”

10: Clause 9 page 5, line 26, at end insert—

“( ) A person guilty of an offence under section (Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales—

(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months (or 6 months, if the offence was committed before the commencement of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003), or

(ii) to a fine, or both;

(b) on summary conviction in Scotland—

(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or

26 Jan 2016 : Column 1170

(ii) to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;

(c) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland—

(i) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or

(ii) to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;

(d) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine, or both.”

11: After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

Exceptions to offences

(1) It is not an offence under this Act for a person to carry on any activity listed in subsection (3) if, in the circumstances in which it is carried on by that person, the activity is an exempted activity.

(2) In this section “exempted activity” means an activity listed in Schedule

(Exempted activities).

(3) The activities referred to in subsection (1) are— (a) producing a psychoactive substance;

(b) supplying such a substance;

(c) offering to supply such a substance;

(d) possessing such a substance with intent to supply it; (e) importing or exporting such a substance;

(f) possessing such a substance in a custodial institution (within the meaning of section (Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)).

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend Schedule (Exempted activities) in order to—

(a) add or vary any description of activity;

(b) remove any description of activity added under paragraph (a).

(5) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and

(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(6) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

12: Clause 10 page 5, line 27, leave out Clause 10

13: Clause 11 page 6, line 16, leave out “regulations under section 10.” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences).”

Motion agreed.

Motion on Amendments 14 to 20

Moved by Lord Bates

That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 14 to 20.

14: Clause 23, page 14, line 34, leave out from beginning to “except” in line 35 and insert “in a case where the prohibition order or the premises order imposing the access prohibition was made by a court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, the court that made the order,”

15: Clause 23, page 14, line 42, at end insert—

“( ) in a case where the prohibition order or the premises order imposing the access prohibition was made by a court in Scotland, the sheriff.”

16: Clause 27, page 17, line 3, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“(b) where—

(i) the order was made under section 18 on an appeal in relation to a person’s conviction or sentence for an offence, or

(ii) the order was made by a court under that section against a person committed or remitted to that court for sentencing for an offence,

the court by or before which the person was convicted (but see subsection (6A));”

17: Clause 27, page 17, line 8, at end insert—

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“(6A) Where the person mentioned in subsection (6)(b)—(a) was convicted by a youth court, but

(b) is aged 18 or over at the time of the application,

the reference in subsection (6)(b) to the court by or before which the person was convicted is to be read as a reference to a magistrates’ court or, in Northern Ireland, a court of summary jurisdiction.”

18: Clause 31, page 19, line 32, leave out “arising by virtue of” and insert “under”

19: Clause 31, page 20, line 1, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“( ) An Act of Adjournal under section 305 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 (Acts of Adjournal) may be made in relation to proceedings before the High Court of Justiciary, the sheriff or the Sheriff Appeal Court—

(a) arising by virtue of section 18 or 28;

(b) under section 27, where the application relates to a prohibition order made under section 18;

(c) under section 29(5);

(d) under subsection (1) of section 30, where the relevant order (as defined in subsection (3) of that section) was made under section 18;

(e) under section 30(7).”

20: Clause 31, page 20, line 13, leave out subsection (7)

Lord Bates: Noble Lords will recall that at Report in July, I moved various technical amendments to the Bill to ensure that it properly reflects Scots law and Scottish judicial and policing practice. The Commons amendments in this group are in a similar vein. The group also repeals the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, which the Bill renders redundant. I can provide further detail if required, but for now, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Motion on Amendments 21 to 48

Moved by Lord Bates

That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 21 to 48.

21: Clause 35 page 22, line 5, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

22: Clause 35, page 22, line 21, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

23: Clause 38 page 24, leave out lines 1 to 4 and insert—

“( ) a warrant that relates only to premises specified in the warrant (a “specific-premises warrant”), or

( ) in the case of a warrant issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, a warrant that relates to any premises occupied or controlled by a person specified in the warrant (an “all-premises warrant”).”

24: Clause 39 page 24, line 23, at end insert—

“( ) An application for a search warrant may be made without notice being given to persons who might be affected by the warrant.

( ) The application must be supported—

(a) in England and Wales, by an information in writing; (b) in Scotland, by evidence on oath;

(c) in Northern Ireland, by a complaint on oath.

( ) A person applying for a search warrant must answer on oath any question that the justice hearing the application asks the person.

In the case of an application made by a procurator fiscal, that requirement may be met by a relevant enforcement officer.”

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25: Clause 39 page 24, line 32, leave out “search warrants.” and insert “—

(a) applications for search warrants made in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, and

(b) search warrants issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland.”

26: Clause 39 page 24, line 33, after “warrant” insert “issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland”

27: Clause 42 page 26, line 9, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

28: Clause 47 page 28, line 37, leave out subsection (5)

29: Clause 49 page 29, line 28, leave out “regulations under section 10” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences)

30: Clause 50 page 31, line 12, leave out “regulations under section 10” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences)

31: Clause 53 page 32, line 43, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

32: Clause 53, page 33, line 2, leave out second “or” and insert “except where paragraph (b) or (c) applies;”

33: Clause 53, page 33, line 4, at end insert—

“(c) if the person is remitted to the High Court of Justiciary to be dealt with for that offence, the High Court of Justiciary.”

34: Clause 53, page 33, line 26, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

35: Clause 53, page 33, line 28, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

36: Clause 53, page 33, line 30, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

37: Clause 53, page 33, line 32, leave out “8” and insert “(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”

38: Clause 54 page 34, line 9, leave out “regulations under section 10.” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences).”

39: Clause 58 page 36, line 23, after “Court” insert “, other than the reference in section 30(1) in relation to a prohibition order made under section 18,”

40: Clause 61 page 37, line 9, at end insert—

“( ) The power under section 384(1) of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”) may be exercised so as to extend to any of the Channel Islands (with or without modifications) any amendment or repeal made by or under this Act of any part of the 2006 Act.

( ) The power under section 384(2) of the 2006 Act may be exercised so as to modify any provision of that Act as amended by or under this Act as it extends to the Isle of Man or a British overseas territory.”

41: Schedule 1 page 38, line 7, leave out from “products” to end of line 12 and insert—

“In this paragraph “Medicinal product” has the same meaning as in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/1916) (see regulation 2 of those Regulations).”

42: Schedule 1 page 38, line 13, leave out paragraphs 3 to 5

43: After Schedule 1, insert the following new Schedule—

“EXEMPTED ACTIVITIES

Healthcare-related activities

1 Any activity carried on by a person who is a health care professional and is acting in the course of his or her profession.

In this paragraph “health care professional” has the same meaning as in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/1916) (see regulation 8 of those Regulations).

2 Any activity carried on for the purpose of, or in connection with—

(a) the supply to, or the consumption by, any person of a substance prescribed for that person by a health care professional acting in the course of his or her profession, or

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(b) the supply to, or the consumption by, any person of a substance in accordance with the directions of a health care professional acting in the course of his or her profession.

In this paragraph “health care professional” has the same meaning as in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (see regulation 8 of those Regulations).

3 Any activity carried on in respect of an active substance by a person who—

(a) is registered in accordance with regulation 45N of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, or

(b) is exempt from any requirement to be so registered by virtue of regulation 45M(2) or (3) of those Regulations.

In this paragraph “active substance” has the same meaning as in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (see regulation 8 of those Regulations).

Research

4 Any activity carried on in the course of, or in connection with, approved scientific research.

In this paragraph—

“approved scientific research” means scientific research carried out by a person who has approval from a relevant ethics review body to carry out that research;

“relevant ethics review body” means—

(a) a research ethics committee recognised or established by the Health Research Authority under Chapter 2 of Part 3 of the Care Act 2014, or

(b) a body appointed by any of the following for the purpose of assessing the ethics of research involving individuals—

(i) the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, or a Northern Ireland department;

(ii) a relevant NHS body;

(iii) a body that is a Research Council for the purposes of the Science and Technology Act 1965;

(iv) an institution that is a research institution for the purposes of Chapter 4A of Part 7 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (see section 457 of that Act);

(v) a charity which has as its charitable purpose (or one of its charitable purposes) the advancement of health or the saving of lives;

“charity” means—

(a) a charity as defined by section 1(1) of the Charities Act 2011,

(b) a body entered in the Scottish Charity Register, or

(c) a charity as defined by section 1(1) of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008;

“relevant NHS body” means—

(a) an NHS trust or NHS foundation trust in England, (b) an NHS trust or Local Health Board in Wales,

(c) a Health Board or Special Health Board constituted under section 2 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978,

(d) the Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service, or

(e) any of the health and social care bodies in Northern Ireland falling within paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 1(5) of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (Northern Ireland) 2009.”

44: Schedule 2, page 39, line 25, at end insert—

“PART A1

APPLICATION OF THIS SCHEDULE

This Schedule applies to—

(a) applications for search warrants made in England and Wales or

Northern Ireland, and

(b) search warrants issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland.”

45: Schedule 2, page 39, line 29, leave out paragraph 1

46: Schedule 2, page 42, line 27, leave out “issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland”

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47: Schedule 4, page 48, line 16, at end insert—

“Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985

(1) The Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 is repealed.

(2) In consequence of the repeal made by sub-paragraph (1), in Schedules 3 and 6 to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, omit the entry relating to the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985.”

48: Schedule 4, page 53, line 40, at end insert—

“Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008

In Schedule 3 to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (enactments specified for the purposes of Part 1 of that Act), at the appropriate place insert—

“Psychoactive Substances Act 2016”.”

Motion agreed.

Housing and Planning Bill

Housing and Planning Bill

Second Reading

4.16 pm

Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, it is a great pleasure and a privilege to open this Second Reading debate on the Housing and Planning Bill in your Lordships’ House. We have within this House some of the country’s finest experts on local government, housing and planning, and I look forward to constructive and positive discussions over the coming months.

I particularly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. As the first woman to become a directly elected mayor, I have no doubt that she will bring immense value to your Lordships’ House over the coming years. I also look forward to responding to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who also makes his maiden speech today. As both a parish councillor for the past 10 years and an experienced chartered surveyor, his contributions will no doubt greatly enhance our debate today.

It has been just over two years since I took my seat in your Lordship’s House, and seven months since I took my position here on the Front Bench. Debating within this Chamber how we can improve the lives of our citizens has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done, but time and again, I have noticed a pattern to our discussions. On the range of topics brought before us, we keep returning to one question: are the Government doing all that they can?

We asked ourselves that question when we wrote the manifesto on which we were elected, and, in particular, when we considered the challenges faced by those seeking to own their own home: challenges such as the collapse in housebuilding following the financial crisis in 2008, with completions falling to a level not seen since the 1940s; average house prices being eight times the average salary of those aged between 22 and 39, meaning that 84% of homeowners are now over the age of 40; and only a quarter of social renters believing that they will ever get to own their own home.

The Bill addresses those challenges and more, implementing a number of commitments made at the general election. It is the fulfilment of this Government’s contract to continue the progress that we have already

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made to tackle this housing crisis head on. It is the proof that we believe that the Government should do all they can to ensure that our children can own their own home. It is the proof that we believe that those who rent should do so in a home that is right for them, protected from rogue landlords and unscrupulous agents, with our social housing doing what it does best—supporting those who need it most. It is the proof, we believe, that our planning system should be the envy of the world, able to unlock the land needed to deliver new homes and to deliver them where they are desperately needed.

As we discuss this Bill, we should keep coming back to the word “home”. Churchill once said:

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened, and maintained.”

There are roughly 200,000 households being formed every year, all of whom seek to create their first home. They are the very people, in every part of England, that this Bill seeks to help. Some of them will look to the private rented sector and approach a letting agent or private landlord. This Bill will ensure that they can do so with confidence. It will make sure that bad landlords are driven from the sector and that good ones can quickly reclaim abandoned property so it can provide a home for someone else.

Some of these new households will, of course, look to their local authority for help, but, despite the number of people on council waiting lists having fallen under this Government, many will be disappointed. Once a council home is allocated, many people stuck on the waiting list see it disappearing for ever, gone for a generation or more. Now, those people will know that new allocations are regularly reviewed, with new opportunities as a result. If a household, after saving for so long, buys its social home, then an additional home will be built. This Bill will mean that social housing works for the social good of the nation. This is a Bill to make social housing fair, stop private tenants questioning why they pay one level of rent while their neighbour, a social tenant with a similar job and similar high income, is not paying a similar rent, and use the high value of an empty council asset to unlock new homes for more families than ever before and more home owners than ever before. It is our statement that the Government are doing all they can, whatever it takes, to assure those on the waiting list that social housing continues to protect and shelter those who need it the most.

Many of the 200,000 new households each year will want not to rent but to buy their first home. For them, every penny counts. Some will rent privately and attempt to save money for a deposit, and others will stay with family and do what it takes to get on the property ladder, but this is where the problem lies. Despite our best efforts, successive Governments have not been doing all they can to help them. The homes are just not there. Most local authorities in England have seen build rates more than 20% below projections for growth in their households. Since coming into government, we have made a real difference and turned this around. The number of homes being started is now at its highest annual level since 2007. More than 704,000 additional homes have been delivered since April 2010, the number of first-time buyers is at seven-year annual high and mortgage approvals are up 19% on last year.

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However, for people still desperate for a first home of their own, mere statistics do not matter. They look to the Government to do more and to your Lordship’s House to assist us in laying the foundations so that homes are within reach for the first time in decades. The Bill will deliver our manifesto commitment to place starter homes at the heart of new developments, a welcome addition to our growing package of support for future home owners, with a 20% discount to get people on the housing ladder. We are providing £2.3 billion to help get starter homes built as part of our £8 billion package for more than 400,000 affordable homes in total. Once again, this is the Government delivering their contract with the electorate with a long-term economic plan to deliver affordable homes to buy as well as to rent.

As we scrutinise the Bill over the coming weeks, we must not forget the context in which it sits. Nearly 270,000 households have been helped to purchase a home since spring 2010 through government-backed schemes, and more council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years. If you are a council tenant and you want to buy your home, you can get a discount of up to £103,900. If you are a housing association tenant and want to buy a home, you will have the same opportunity. If you want a new-build house, we will provide equity of up to 40% of the cost of your home or guarantee your mortgage on an older one. If you are desperately saving for a deposit, we will boost your savings by 25% through a Help to Buy ISA. We are doing all we can to support existing social tenants as well, cutting rents for housing association and local authority households by around 12% by 2020. Therefore, taken together with our wider work, the Bill means that we now have ground-breaking opportunities for future homeowners alongside a fair social housing sector with even fairer rents.

At this point I pay tribute to the National Housing Federation. We have always said that housing associations know the needs of their tenants. They know their stock and their residents, which is why we were pleased that they proposed a voluntary agreement to help people into home ownership. Ahead of the main scheme, five housing associations are running a voluntary right-to-buy pilot, and from yesterday the first tenants have been able to start that application process. I said that the Bill means that social housing works for the social good of the nation, and the voluntary agreement reflects this. The agreement sets out that they retain discretion when selling a property, a policy I know many noble Lords will welcome. That means that supported housing, historic legacy stock, properties built with charitable resources, homes in rural areas and properties held in a community land trust can all be protected. In addition, as with the existing right to buy, almshouses will not be included in the scheme.

Social housing will remain for the continued social good of the nation. To fulfil the Government’s mandate and do what we promised, we have to once again look at the speed at which we give planning permission for new homes. Our planning system is already one to be proud of. In the year ending last September, the reformed planning system gave permission for 251,000 new homes —up 53% on the year to September 2010. Our reforms have changed how people look at housebuilding in their communities. Local support has doubled in

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the last four years, from 28% in 2010 to 56% now, while opposition to local housebuilding has more than halved during the same period. Over 1,700 communities, representing over 8 million people, have started the process of neighbourhood planning.

People want new homes built, and built quickly. This Bill is a shot in the arm for the planning process. It speeds up neighbourhood planning so local communities can confidently plan their future and families can be kept close. Confidence in the planning system is absolutely vital, not just for those communities but to maintain the economic recovery of housebuilders. Local plans are now fundamental, and people expect them. Having one in place is now non-negotiable, not only from the Government’s point of view but also from communities which elect local councillors but fail to see results. Once again, the public expect the Government to do all they can to make sure it happens. They expect to have confidence that the planning system will deliver new homes. Therefore we have been clear: if a local plan is not in place, we will step in, consult with communities and make sure that plans are there. There will be confidence that the way we use our public land—and the way that all-important permission for housing is granted—is smart and fit for the future. Public sector land will no longer sit in surplus.

We have considered the needs of the capital and have refined the Bill accordingly. Fundamentally, we have also considered whether we can do more to help new homes get built for those who want to buy or to rent.

We will continue to ask ourselves whether we can use this opportunity to go further in meeting the expectations of the 200,000 households being formed each year. Where we think we can, we will bring forward amendments to do so. I will consider carefully the views of noble Lords who propose amendments because they, too, think we can go further. Sometimes, of course, we will disagree, but I hope that on many issues we will be able to come to an informed consensus on how the Bill—and the opportunities for those seeking a new home—can be improved.

The Government were elected by people who expect to see us do all we can to increase home ownership, get homes built where they are needed and ensure that social and private housing markets are fair, free from excessive regulation and fit for the future. Let us pass back to the other place a Bill which delivers these expectations, benefits from your Lordships’ experience and scrutiny, makes real the dream of home ownership and proves that this House puts party politics aside to get homes built for those who need them most. I beg to move.

4.29 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, first, I declare interests as an elected councillor in Lewisham and as a trustee of United St Saviour’s Charity, which runs a number of supported housing schemes in south London.

I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, who is the directly elected mayor of Watford and brings her vast experience of local government to this debate. I read that she is a supporter of Watford Football Club. All I can say is that I hope that my team meets her team one day in

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the Premiership—although, as a lifelong supporter of Millwall Football Club, I imagine that that could take a couple of years yet. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who is an elected hereditary Peer, a Cross-Bencher, a parish councillor and a chartered surveyor by profession. Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord are very welcome at our deliberations today.

We are in the midst of a housing crisis, with the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s. The number of homes completed in 2014 reached 117,000, which is less than the lowest number of homes built under the last Labour Government. Last year, the Government built the fewest homes for social rent in more than two decades—just under 11,000 compared with 33,000 in Labour’s last year of office. In addition, there is an ever-increasing housing benefit bill, which has grown by £2 billion in five years, and a shocking increase in homelessness and rough sleeping. We have had five years of failure, and the response from the Government is the Housing and Planning Bill. It is not the Bill to meet the challenge that we face or to give people hope that things will change and get better.

There are parts of the Bill that we can support, including action to deal with rogue landlords, the section on self-build and custom-built housing, and action to speed up compulsory purchase. We will seek to strengthen these measures as the Bill goes through your Lordships’ House.

However, most of the Bill contains measures that we cannot support. We will be seeking to persuade the Government that their proposals will do nothing to help a family struggling to make ends meet and who will be worried that their rent is going to be hiked up to unaffordable levels due to the pay-to-stay measures. Nor will they help a young couple living in the private rented sector who will face ever-increasing rent rises and look with despair at the new starter home proposals. These unrealistic proposals will deliver nothing for them.

We on these Benches are supportive of measures to increase home ownership, but the starter homes product is still unaffordable to many people. We have concerns about the deposit that people will need to raise to purchase one of these homes in London and about the level of income that will be needed to keep up the repayments. It has been suggested that an income in the region of £77,000 a year could be required. The Council of Mortgage Lenders is also raising concerns that the scheme as presently proposed could prove very unattractive to lenders. So we have a scheme that is unaffordable to many prospective first-time buyers, and a financial services industry that is at best a bit lukewarm about the proposals, with some lenders considering whether they want to be part of the scheme at all.

Others have raised concerns about the scheme. They include Mr Nick Hurd, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, who thought that the £450,000 price cap was more likely to be seen as a price guide by developers. Concerns were also raised by Ms Nicola Blackwood, the Conservative Member for Oxford West and Abingdon in the other place. In addition, London Councils and

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others have said that the powers to be taken by the Secretary of State must be used in a proportionate way that takes account of local housing need before overriding any local policy document. Quite rightly, local authorities in London want assurances that local overall housing need will be taken into account and that this policy will not just be forced through without any reference to local circumstances. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will address that specific point at the end of the debate. Will she also comment on how the infrastructure required for these starter homes will be funded?

As I said earlier, we have no particular issues with the section of the Bill concerned with self-build and custom housebuilding, although we will explore through probing amendments whether anything further can be done to improve these measures.

Another aspect of the Bill that causes concern is the forced sale of so-called high-value council housing to fund the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants. There appears to be no proper plan for the replacement of these homes on a like-for-like basis in the areas where the homes are sold. The loss of a social rented property and its replacement with an affordable rented property—which, in many parts of the country and in particular London, is actually unaffordable—risks breaking up communities. However, this big plan of the Government is not funded by them; it is funded by penalising local authorities in a most unfair way.

In responding to the debate, will the Minister answer the question concerning many London local authorities: will housing associations be required to replace the property in the same area, the same London borough or even in London, or can they put it where they like? What happens if the local authority has transferred all its stock and has no housing to sell? Can she also tell us what will be done if the receipts do not cover everything that is meant to be funded out of the sale, such as the debt charge on the property, the provision of the new home, the brownfield levy et cetera?

Again, in the other place, concerns on this aspect of the Bill were raised by many Members, including Conservative Members such as Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Member for Totnes, particularly in respect of the effect on rural communities of housing associations selling their properties. We share those concerns and I hope that the Minister will seek to alleviate them in her response today. These are matters on which I am sure we will bring forward amendments for consideration in your Lordships’ House.

Another area where disquiet has been raised is the pay-to-stay scheme. If not implemented properly, the scheme runs the risk of negatively affecting the social mix of boroughs and penalising people on modest incomes. Earning limits of £40,000 in London and £30,000 elsewhere are just not realistic. With just a cursory look on a job website, you can find, for example, an office administrator being paid £25,000 a year, or a Sainsbury’s internet shopper—the person who puts all the groceries in the bags before they are delivered to your front door—being paid £16,000 a year. Those figures are for a 40-hour week, before tax, in London. With those or a similar combination of

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jobs, a couple would easily find that they had breached the income threshold of £40,000. The situation is equally unrealistic outside London, with a cap of just £30,000. Add to that a young person who cannot afford to rent a place of their own and is still living with mum and dad, and you have a family in a really difficult situation.

I live in Lewisham in a very ordinary terrace house, for which I have a mortgage. Rents for similar properties in the private sector locally have reached £2,500 a month or £30,000 a year. The proposals in this Bill put people on modest incomes at risk of finding themselves having to pay a market rent, or so-called affordable rent or some other variation, which would be considerably more than they paid before. That is just unfair. We on these Benches will seek to make the system fairer, more realistic and more understanding of people’s circumstances.

During the passage of the Bill, we also want to examine the nature of the voluntary deal that has been reached between the Government and housing associations and to ensure proper protection for specialist housing, including supported housing.

We on these Benches welcome proposals to bring stricter enforcement to the private rented sector, in particular the introduction of banning orders, along with a rogue landlord database, the expansion of rent repayment orders, and equipping local authorities with information on landlords and their properties through the tenancy deposit scheme, as well as the introduction of fixed-penalty notices. There are, of course, some very good examples of progressive, forward-thinking local authorities, such as Newham and Waltham Forest, that have already been actively working to improve the standards in the private rented sector in their boroughs for many years. There is also a case for the devolution of power from the Secretary of State to the Mayor of London, and so getting the London local authorities and the mayor to work more closely together to make real improvements. The financial penalties for breaches by landlords, introduced by the Government during Report in the other place, are very much welcome in that respect.

We do, however, have concerns about the new fast-track eviction process for landlords to reclaim their property without reference to the courts. That could put tenants in a very vulnerable position, and we will want to explore this during consideration of the Bill. What are the protections for tenants from being illegally evicted by the very rogue landlords we have just been talking about? It would be helpful to the House if the Minister could again explain why the Government thought it necessary to include this provision. What evidence do they have to suggest that abandonment is such a significant problem, and what is in place to protect tenants from illegal eviction?

At present, the Bill does not include anything on protecting tenants in the private rented sector from electrical accidents caused by unchecked and faulty electrical installations. These matters were debated at some length in the other place, but so far the Government have not been persuaded. I very much agree that a mandatory five-year electrical safety check in the private rented sector is both necessary and welcome. Each year, 20,000 fires are caused by electrical faults, which is

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almost half of all accidental house fires. We will bring forward amendments to make such tests mandatory, and I hope that the Government will listen to the compelling case and move on from their present position, which says there is an expectation on landlords to keep electrical installations safe.

The planning aspects of the Bill will be explored in more detail by my noble friend Lord Beecham and other noble Lords in today’s debate. However, the Bill lacks vision and seems to regard the effective operation of a planning system as a constraint to development and nothing more. The removal of Section 106 contributions from the starter home developments through to in-principle planning consent and the call-in provisions to be given to the Secretary of State are all matters we will want to discuss further.

We need local authorities and communities to be empowered to ensure that local development proposals meet local development needs. It again will be helpful if the noble Baroness can explain to the House how these proposals extend and develop localism—which, again, like the big society, is often only mentioned by opposition spokespersons in the course of debates such as this. I am a supporter of neighbourhood planning and in Crofton Park, the ward I represent on Lewisham Council, we are working hard to set up a neighbourhood forum, but nothing in this Bill will help local people to have a greater say over the kind of developments that are built in their community.

There are, of course, other groups that must be considered as the Bill makes its way through your Lordships’ House. These include berth holders, who are considered as a housing group by the department but are not mentioned in the Bill. Certainly in London, residential use of the waterways has grown considerably, with households living on the water and not only using boats for recreational activity. Again, I would refer the noble Baroness to the actions of Mr Johnny Mercer, the Member for Plymouth, Moor View, in the other place, who has taken the decision to live on his boat in Canada Water in Southwark rather than pay the expensive property prices in London. People like Mr Mercer and others who live on our waterways deserve proper protection and engagement from their local authority and the department.

Other concerns will be raised by noble Lords during the passage of this Bill, including those of travelling show people and the travelling community.

I grew up on a council estate in Southwark. I am always very grateful that my parents were rehoused by Southwark Council; that they had a secure tenancy; and that the property we lived in was safe, warm, dry and maintained properly by the council. The rent was paid by my parents and we were able to live both happily and securely in Walworth, playing our part in the local community. We were not worried about only having a two-year tenancy—were we going to have to move, where were we going to live, was the rent going to become unaffordable? I can see no benefit in these proposals regarding tenancies. They will only make families and vulnerable people feel more insecure and worried about their future, and cause deep anxiety and upset.

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This Government do not like council housing or social rents. At its heart, the Bill does everything it can to undermine this type of housing. That is a matter of much regret. I hope that noble Lords from all sides of the House will work together to make much needed improvements to this generally dreadful Bill.

4.42 pm

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD): My Lords, I welcome the chance to debate this extremely important and complex Bill and draw your Lordships’ attention to my entry in the register of interests.

The Housing and Planning Bill has much to commend it but it is also very short on vital detail which will have a dramatic effect on the lives of large numbers of residents in England and Wales. In the time allotted I cannot cover all my concerns. My colleagues can eloquently lay out the case, being well versed in the issues which affect London, other city regions and the countryside.

I look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and my noble friend Lady Thornhill. I am sure this will be the first of many contributions she will make.

We are all aware of the desperate state of the housing market. Prices are escalating and supply is not increasing. I welcome the move to promote starter homes. However, I find it incredible that the 20% discount on the value of the starter home should be one off, thus giving the owner a double bonus. First, they do not have to pay the full price for the home; and, secondly, they will have the benefit of inflation when coming to sell. There are countrywide examples of starter homes being sold at discounts for local residents, but that discount is tied into the property in perpetuity for local residents and so future residents trying to get on the property ladder also benefit from that discount. As a taxpayer I find the one-off discount difficult to justify to those on waiting lists.

As someone who shares the rental of a private-landlord flat I am aware of the increasing costs charged by property agents. As a district councillor I see the effect of rogue landlords on the well-being of their tenants. I welcome the establishment of a register of rogue landlords and hope to increase tenants’ access to this register in Committee. I welcome the Government’s increase in the fine for rogue landlords to £30,000, a much more realistic figure than that in the original Bill.

The main thrust of the Bill is around the Government’s manifesto commitment to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants. We know that 80% of the population wish to own their own home. It is an important aspiration and one that we might all like to see achieved, but some serious safeguards are needed to protect the diversity and prosperity of sections of our communities.

I am concerned that the Government are concentrating on right to buy to the exclusion of other tenures. In Committee, Liberal Democrats will oppose the right to buy to the exclusion of other tenures, which is likely to decrease, not increase, the supply of housing. I fear that unless homes with a variety of tenures are built, we will see an increase in the level of homelessness. Indeed, we read this week that the number of families

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left homeless has rocketed by a third since 2010. New figures released by DCLG show that a record 56,040 families were on the streets last year, up from 42,390 five years ago. This cannot go unchallenged.

What is needed, especially in rural communities, where often the only low-cost housing available has been built under a rural exceptions policy, is a mixture of tenures. If such homes are sold they are unlikely to be replaced, as housing associations will find it much cheaper to build in towns rather than villages and hamlets. Achieving exemptions in the Bill will be crucial.

There are 175 community land trusts across England and Wales: organisations set up and run by local people to develop and manage homes as well as other important, valued community assets. The very purpose of CLTs is to develop homes that are affordable in perpetuity. Such homes are intended to benefit not just one generation but every future occupier. If the right to buy is extended to CLTs, it will nullify their basic aim of keeping homes affordable in perpetuity. It would also threaten their existence. The Government rightly understood this risk, and the Minister is to be commended for exempting CLTs from the voluntary deal on right to buy between the Government and the housing association sector. However, many CLTs are still nervous that an exemption in a voluntary agreement leaves them vulnerable. It is vital for the stability of this small, vibrant, community-led sector that the Bill gives them the clarity and certainty needed to plan securely for the future.

We are all aware that the 20% discount on the right to buy will have to be paid for from somewhere. I am concerned, however, at the formula being proposed for levying a tax on local authorities, which is based on the likely number of high-value properties that may become vacant during any given year. Some authorities which cover areas where housing prices are high will be able to replace efficiently. For those councils whose high-value properties are deliberately large in order to house larger families the loss of this asset will have a serious effect on their ability to fulfil their housing obligations to those families in the future. I urge the Government to think again on the implementation of this formula in its current format.

I turn now to the so-called “pay to stay” clause. The income threshold is far too low. A family income of £40,000 within London and £30,000 outside is not sustainable for families required to pay market rents. For example, rents for a two-bed home in the Lewes District Council area will double from approximately £100 per week to £200 if tenants are charged at the local housing allowance limit, or up to £269 at market level. This will penalise hard-working couples, many of whom have children. It will act as a disincentive to increasing working hours, accepting overtime or moving to a better-paid job. Unless a couple can dramatically increase their income, they will undoubtedly be worse off, despite the government promise to implement a taper on the introduction of market rents. This policy will have a detrimental effect especially on women. A couple with children earning just over £15,000 each may decide that, with increased rent and childcare costs, it is no longer worth while for both of them to work full time. Typically, it will be the women who reduce their hours in such circumstances.

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I was perplexed at the late introduction to the Bill of the ending of secure tenancies, with a five-year review currently proposed. In some circumstances the tenancy could be renewed for another short-term period. This will cause uncertainty to tenants. Moving house is one of the most stressful events in any person’s life. To increase for those at the lower end of the income spectrum the likelihood of having to move on a frequent basis is both unnecessary and cruel.

Lastly on the housing side, I wish to comment on Clause 115, on the removal of the need for local authorities to provide for the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers. This is a retrograde step that will lead to more illegal encampments and higher costs for local authorities and landowners, and will do nothing to provide for the needs of children and elderly within those communities. I have long been at a loss to understand why this section of our population is constantly vilified and persecuted. I have come to the conclusion that anyone who dares to be different and have a diverging set of values from those who live in the settled community makes society feel uncomfortable, questions its set of values and must therefore be hounded from pillar to post. We shall oppose this clause in Committee.

Turning now to the planning side of the Bill, I welcome the strengthening of the importance of neighbourhood plans. The Government and local councils should encourage towns and parishes to draw up neighbourhood plans which can be tied into and referenced in local plans. Powers should be given to neighbourhood plan communities to allow them to appeal if they find that planning permissions have been granted within their boundaries on sites which they had not themselves identified for development. This right of appeal would be the same as planning applicants currently enjoy against a refusal.

The Secretary of State is proposing under this Bill to make provision for planning to be determined by those other than a local planning authority, believing that planners are deliberately dragging their feet in processing applications. This is not the case. There are numerous occasions when applications are delayed due to the lack of a timely response from statutory consultees, including the Environment Agency, English Heritage and the highways department. It is not unknown for county councils to take 18 months to comment on a roundabout, thus stalling development. Are the Government intending that those who determine planning applications outside of local authorities be required to seek the views of statutory bodies? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

I am not convinced that tardy planners are the problem in getting developments off the ground. In my own area, many large-scale extant planning permissions have not been started—currently 1,500 homes and rising to 3,000 by the end of the year. The main problem is not the permissions, but the lack of finance available for developers to start and complete their applications. Removing fully qualified and experienced planners from the equation is likely to lead to some extraordinary decisions being made, such as building on flood plains, with disastrous results for local communities.

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There are many other elements of this Bill to which we will return during the Committee stage, and other speakers will doubtless cover these areas. I look forward to their contributions and the Minister’s response.


4.52 pm

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, welcome the opportunity to hear the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow. I look forward to the contributions that they will make to your Lordships’ House.

There is a clear view on all sides of this House, the other place and across large parts of the nation that more housing is needed. The questions concern whether this Bill will help to deliver that housing in the right way and in the right places for the people who need it most. Within my diocese at Ebbsfleet we have one of the largest single housing developments in the United Kingdom—a completely new development which will house up to 45,000 new people. While I have questions about some of the details of that development, and some of the details are as yet unknown, I am generally supportive of what is intended. So I am not against new development and I welcome those things in the Bill which may make that possible in appropriate ways. I welcome the proposed register of brownfield land and the streamlining of aspects of our planning processes, some of which have already been referred to by noble Lords, and the encouragement of self-build and custom-build initiatives. I also welcome the intention to introduce new regulation in the private rented sector, and urge that detailed attention be paid in the framing of regulation to matters of quality in that sector. One would dare to hope that in that sector, property of the quality in which even noble Lords would wish to live could be guaranteed, which might be a suitable benchmark.

Others have spoken already about starter homes. Perhaps they are a useful addition to the overall spread of housing tenures but I am anxious about their inclusion within the definition of affordable, not least because that affordability will disappear after a short period, when it is possible for that home to be sold into the private market at private benefit. I think that my right reverend friend the Lord Bishop of St Albans will address the rural implications and perhaps some other issues. I know that other noble Lords will also address specific issues within the scope of the Bill.