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Grand Committee

Wednesday, 10 February 2016.

Arrangement of Business


3.45 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, this is merely a formal statement that I make at the beginning of our proceedings. If there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.

Alcohol Strategy (EUC Report)

Motion to Take Note

3.45 pm

Moved by Baroness Prashar

That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee, A New EU Alcohol Strategy? (8th Report, Session 2014–15, HL Paper 123).

Baroness Prashar (CB): My Lords, I move this Motion as chairman of the European Union Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, Health and Education, which prepared the report to which this Motion relates. Before I get into the substance, I thank the current and former members of the committee, the former clerk to the committee, Michael Collon, and its policy analyst, Lena Donner, for their assistance with the preparation of the report.

As your Lordships all know, alcohol is a major contributor to loss of life and to the burden of disease in Europe. Harmful and hazardous, alcohol use is associated with a wide range of physical, psychological and social harms. The costs to individuals, communities and society are widely recognised. Europe has the highest per capita alcohol consumption of any region in the world. In 2004, the World Health Organization estimated that in the European Union, 11.8% of deaths of people aged 15 to 64 had causes attributable to alcohol. Alcohol also causes harm to others, through drink-driving or domestic violence, while heavy drinking can cause harm to unborn children. To address these problems, in 2006 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy to support member states in reducing alcohol-related harm. This strategy had five priorities: to protect young people, children and unborn children; to reduce deaths and injuries from alcohol-related road accidents; to reduce alcohol-related harm among adults; to increase education and awareness; and to develop and maintain a common evidence base. This strategy expired in 2012 and so far, it has not been renewed.

The sub-committee on home affairs, with its joint responsibility for health and crime, undertook an inquiry which started in July 2014 and was completed in March 2015. Our aim was to assess the 2006 to 2012 alcohol strategy and in part to determine

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whether there was any value in further EU action in this area. We took evidence from academics, medical professions, non-governmental organisations and industry representatives. Not surprisingly, the evidence was highly polarised and there was no meeting of minds between the public sector professionals and the alcohol industry. But in assessing the first strategy, it was clear that it is difficult to attribute outcomes accurately to any one policy measure or strategy. This difficulty was compounded by the complexity of the cultural, economic and social differences across member states. Furthermore, we found that there was a lack of research indicators, standardised data collection systems and evaluation mechanisms. The strategy has notably failed in achieving one of its key priorities: to develop a common evidence base.

Another fundamental problem was that the EU has only limited competence in health and that the strategy concentrated on matters where the EU could do no more than encourage action by other member states. It ignored a number of areas where it has competence to take action—for example, on EU alcohol taxation regimes or EU rules on food labelling.

Our witnesses said that there should be further action at EU level and that this should take the form of a new strategy. The public health lobby favoured much more action to combat alcohol abuse, although much of it is outside the competence of the EU. Manufacturers, retailers and advertisers of alcoholic drinks nearly all favour the continuation of the same strategy, but our conclusion was that action is worth formulating at the EU level only to the extent that it supplements and supports what member states do independently.

There is in fact considerable scope for action at EU level that is within the competence of the EU. Our conclusion was that action should not be confined to policies dealing specifically with alcohol misuse, though there should be what is called a “health in all policies” approach in related areas such as food labelling, cross-border marketing and taxation. This would bring greater coherence across EU policy areas while respecting the competence of member states in health matters. We also concluded that action is more effective if targeted at specific populations. Accordingly, EU-level measures should be flexible enough to allow members to adapt them to the national context.

The EU alcohol taxation regime is illogical. While beer is taxed based on its alcohol content, wines and ciders may be taxed only according to the volume of the finished product. This prevents member states imposing duty in accordance with alcohol strength, thereby reflecting the public health risk associated with the product.

Minimum unit pricing, as we all know, is a highly controversial topic and views on it are sharply divided. In spite of the commitment to bring forward such a measure in 2012, the Government have so far only introduced a ban on selling drinks below the cost price —that is, they may not be sold at a loss to the retailer. The Scottish Parliament, by contrast, passed an Act in 2012 to set an absolute minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. However, this law was not brought into force because it was challenged in the Court of Justice of

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the European Union, and in December 2015 the court gave a preliminary ruling that such a measure would be unlawful. Part of the court’s reasoning was that the minimum unit pricing objective of protecting health and life could effectively be achieved through taxation. This neglects the point that the aim of the measure was to target those with the most serious alcohol addictions, and that taxation cannot be easily imposed because of the rigidity of the EU tax structure to which I have referred.

Following this judgment, I understand that the Ministers of the Scottish and Irish Governments have said they are committed to bringing about minimum unit pricing measures. What steps are the UK Government taking to investigate the implications of that judgment? Will they follow the example set by Scotland in pursuing minimum unit pricing measures? Does this judgment have implications for the UK’s existing ban on sale below cost price?

On the other hand, I am encouraged to see that the Commission has undertaken a public consultation on the law concerning the marketing of alcohol. The labelling of alcoholic beverages, however, remains a concern. We recommended that the Government should press the Commission to propose amendments to the food labelling regulations to include information on strength and calorie content, guidance on safe drinking, and to warn of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. So far, I have seen no evidence that the Government have done so. The regulations are already sufficiently flexible to allow member states to impose such rules domestically, and France has done so. The Government have responded, saying they are concerned about the additional burdens this would place on businesses. Given that labelling is already required, it is difficult to see that that burden would be great.

We also need further cross-border research on alcohol and its effects, and what works. A more strategic approach is needed in the selection of topics for research and how it is commissioned.

Having published our report in March 2014, we granted the Government a two-month extension to the standard two-month deadline to respond to our recommendations. Even with that leeway, however, the Government took almost six months to respond and this debate has taken almost a year to be scheduled.

We recommended that action on specific topics should be taken at EU level. Whether or not this is called a strategy is irrelevant. Since the publication of our report, civil society and member states have called for the renewal of the strategy and the Council, in particular, has called on the Commission to do so by the end of 2016. So far, however, the Commission has not brought forward a new strategy to combat alcohol-related harm or taken any significant action in this area.

In their response the Government said they were broadly supportive of our recommendations, but it was less than clear what precise steps they have taken to encourage the Commission to bring forward further EU action in line with our recommendations. What steps have the Government taken, and what steps are they taking, to bring this about?

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While the Commission and the Government were pondering at excessive length their responses to our report, it was receiving a welcome from the Latvian Ministry of Health. Last April, during the Latvian presidency, an informal council was held in Riga and the discussion paper put before the council summarised and endorsed the conclusions of our report. This is a welcome example of the attention that foreign countries give to the reports of this House. I beg to move.

3.56 pm

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and her committee for the report they have produced. Again, it was of a high standard and matched what one expects of House of Lords scrutiny committees. Like her, I regret that it has taken so long to obtain a debate on it; that it has taken six months for the Government to reply; and that it is still taking the Commission an extraordinarily long time to make up its mind whether it wants to renew with a further strategy—or whatever we might care to call it.

It is a pity that this debate is not being held in the Chamber and that we are pushed away to one side, which reflects, to a degree, the phrases used in the report. There is a degree of apathy about this issue at Commission level—and we are discussing this in a secondary Chamber rather than the main one—even though so many people are dying and suffering as a consequence of alcohol misuse. Not enough attention is given to it.

As the noble Baroness mentioned and as the report says, after tobacco and high blood pressure, alcohol is the third leading risk factor for deaths and disease in Europe. As she also mentioned, Europe leads the world in the volume of alcohol consumed.

On the 2006-12 strategy, I share the committee’s view that a review similar to the original one would be of little value even if minor amendments were made to it. I also share the committee’s view that if there is to be a further strategy, or whatever one might call it, it must be far more radical than we have witnessed so far. I share, too, the committee’s view that it should not be focused only in the health DG—although that is very important—and that we need to look at the way it interacts with other DGs in Europe. As the noble Baroness said, it should deal with drink-driving, which is very important. Labelling is dealt with under an entirely different DG. Minimum unit pricing is also dealt with elsewhere, as is taxation.

I note that in the Government’s response, they share the view that there is a requirement to read across and not just focus on one department. However, I am happy to see ever greater emphasis being placed on the health aspects and consequences that arise from abuse of alcohol. I am pleased that we have a health Minister here today to listen to our views. Given the problems he faces with the NHS, particularly the current financial difficulties, and given that alcohol is a contributory factor to those difficulties, he brings a sympathetic ear—I hope—to the representations many of us are making. Therefore, I agree with and support most of the recommendations that the noble Baroness and the committee have made. Initially, I disagreed with her view on minimum unit pricing.

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Having read the document, I know that the committee recommends that we should find out what is happening in Scotland, monitor it and then decide whether we should move forward on that issue.

I am firmly of the opinion that there is now a body of evidence which indicates that we should move to a minimum unit price. The Prime Minister said in 2012 that we needed to have minimum unit pricing. I hold consistently to that view, and believe there is now even more evidence that we should move to a minimum unit price and not wait to see what happens in Scotland. Like the noble Baroness, I look forward with interest to the Minister’s remarks on that issue. However, I am of the view that we should move fairly quickly on MUP, especially given the major problems arising from obesity, diabetes and excess sugar consumption. Alcohol is a contributory factor given its sugar content, but many people are totally unaware of that. Fresh initiatives are required in these fields. I look forward to seeing what the Government bring forward in their policy on obesity. I hope that it will not be limited simply to children but will recognise that there is a serious problem across the whole population. I hope they will address that and not focus solely on children.

I particularly support and commend Recommendation 6 in paragraph 117, that,

“Future EU action … should not be confined”—

solely to health policy, as I said—

“but should take a ‘health in all policies’ approach”,

right across the board. In looking at the government response, I hope I am right in thinking that they share that view. I hope that the UK Government will not only support that practice being put in place in Brussels, but will start to practise that themselves in the UK, where they have total control.

The responsibility deal, legitimately, has the simple aim of reducing the volume of alcohol that is consumed. However, in March 2015, the Chancellor’s Budget not only froze alcohol duties but went further and reduced them on certain spirits. Indeed, yesterday I had a letter from an organisation representing breweries which said, “We’re having a party. Would you like to come and join us?”. For three years running we have had no change in duties on alcohol. So there we have it—the Chancellor is cutting the price of alcohol. I would like the Minister to confirm that the price of alcohol in the UK at the moment, especially given the strength of sterling, is probably the lowest it has been for about four or five years. I also draw to his attention that, following further inquiries on the Budget, I discovered that the Treasury itself—it is not represented here today—stated that the Chancellor’s actions would increase the volume of alcohol consumed in this country. So on the one hand we have the Chancellor increasing the amount of alcohol being consumed, and on the other we have the responsibility deal seeking to reduce it.

I then asked the Treasury whether it had consulted the Department of Health on this before it decided to change the rates of duty. Given that health is the second biggest area of expenditure the Chancellor deals with in the Budget, it seems a bit strange that I then discovered that he had never consulted the department about the cost effects on the health service. I tried to table a Question to ask how many people

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would have died as a result of the Chancellor’s action, but our clerks decided that that was a little beyond the pale and I did not manage to do so. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that when we are looking at Europe we should start to practise a little bit more clearly and openly what we suggest they should be doing.

I would like the Minister to say what he feels about the Chancellor’s actions on limiting the growth in duty, and whether he believes that that will lead to a diminution in the number of people who die or suffer ill health as a consequence. Alternatively, I would like him to state where we stand on the future of the responsibility deal. The drinks industry and distributors are all very much in favour of the responsibility deal continuing, but of course, in the UK we have the division between the producers and the health industry which I believe the noble Baroness encountered when the committee did its report. There is a clear division between the health lobby and what has been happening with the drinks industry.

The effectiveness of some of the bodies established under the 2006 to 2012 strategy is questionable. The drinks industry wants the forum to continue, yet in the mean time a lot of the health organisations have withdrawn from it. Where do the Government stand on the forum: do they believe it has a worthwhile future, and if so, how do we make it much more effective? We need to practise at home what we preach; let us try to make sure that Europe introduces a long-term, meaningful strategy.

Will the Government return to MUP following the recommendations that keep coming from Public Health England, which says that MUP is desperately needed to address the issue fundamentally? Are the Government seriously looking at all the available evidence, and are they prepared to revisit the topic, which was regrettably set aside in 2014? MUP is fundamental to a change in attitudes. Happily, younger people are drinking less—quite a change has taken place there—and against that background, no doubt, many people say that we do not need many further changes. However, a close examination of what is happening shows that A&E and hospital admissions have increased by about 3% a year since 2012. Even though younger people are drinking less, older people still present at hospital needing attention, which costs the health service phenomenal amounts of money. Therefore, we have a major continuing problem in spite of the good news about young people.

I hope that the Minister will be able to say that the Government are considering drawing up a strategy for the UK, as well as pressing for one in Europe. The last one was drawn up by the coalition and, so far as I am aware, no such strategy currently exists. We have issues with obesity, I would like to know where we stand on the strategy for and approach to alcohol.

4.08 pm

Lord Maclennan of Rogart (LD): I, too, welcome the report by the sub-committee of the European Union Committee; it has made very powerful points, many of which the Government have accepted but not yet implemented. The damage done by drinking alcohol is enormous. Many alcohol-related deaths and chronic illnesses occur as a result. Hospital occupations are

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greatly enhanced by alcoholism. It affects crime, and violent crime in particular, and it can also affect businesses when people absent themselves because of having drunk too much.

I regret that the Commission has not implemented a new alcohol policy after the 2006-12 one. It needs to apply its mind to this issue, which should be discrete from other matters. Although I accept that taxation and trade are necessary elements, the need for a specific alcohol-related policy is considerable. Possible approaches include addressing the affordability and availability of alcohol. The British Medical Association has put forward a very strong recommendation that I hope the Government will consider. It has advocated restricting the promotion of alcohol. That is particularly necessary for young people, who can be influenced by alcohol advertisements on television, which make drinking alcohol seem absolutely normal and do not discourage it.

We need greater evidence on the effect of excessive alcohol drinking in the European Union as well as in this country. The Government are awaiting the outcome of the reduction in the amount of alcohol that is acceptable when driving in Scotland. The indications are that the number of accidents in Scotland has already reduced by almost 1,000 per annum, which is significant. Drink-driving is one of the most unacceptable manifestations of alcohol drinking. In one year, 10,000 people are killed in the European Union due to excessive alcohol drinking. We must accept that this issue is clearly subject to the European Union, because our drivers and citizens living on the continent are subject to this risk. I hope the Government acknowledge that.

It is particularly to be deplored that the Commission rejected the recommendations of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers for a new alcohol strategy. We need to develop this policy independently of the industry, because our interests—citizens’ interests—are not the same as those of the industry itself. We need more evidence and science on the effects. I hope the Government will take on board what the committee advocate and that they will accept the need for co-ordinated action, because different taxation and duty rules across the Union could damage this country.

We also need to understand that this is a continent-wide problem, and that WHO examinations of it should be aligned with those of the EU. I hope the Government will tell us today what they propose to do about the new alcohol strategy. The Scottish initiative of a limit of 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres might bring considerable benefits; indeed, I think it already has. We would, however, be very interested to hear what the UK Government have in mind.

4.16 pm

Baroness Murphy (CB): My Lords, about a week ago I looked at the list and thought that, well, there are so few of us going to speak in this debate that maybe we should all pack up and go down the pub instead. We have, however, improved our numbers respectably.

As a doctor and a psychiatrist I have, of course, witnessed the ravages of alcohol many times, and I know well its destructive force. Drinking, however, is a pleasure that I greatly enjoy. I can get my endorphins instantly from a glass of wine, which I cannot by going

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down the pub for at least an hour. Also, I think that most of us in this House, like most of the population of Britain, enjoy a drink; it adds to the conviviality and calm of public gatherings.

I feel that I ought to mention, because it is no longer in the register, that I was for many years a part-owner of a gin distillery, and, in the 1990s, a director of a brewery. I still have some emotional, but not financial, connections with that brewery. I know, therefore, that some members of the alcohol industry realise that it is in its best interest to reduce the associated long-term harm; otherwise they will be subjected, eventually, to what is happening to the tobacco industry, which they are not daft enough not to have seen. The UK has been more effective than any other EU country in reducing tobacco consumption; it has been a great success. If we are to reduce the harm that alcohol does, we need to learn a great deal about that; but we must learn the best of what we know on the evidence, which means having a very diverse strategy. That includes such matters as the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, has mentioned, and the Private Member’s Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alvethorpe, which aims to reduce drivers’ alcohol consumption. A mixed strategy is required to reduce harm overall.

The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies published a wonderful review in 2013, in which Currie and Gilmore looked at how tobacco reduction strategies were structured in all EU countries. The most effective ones were those with diverse approaches across all elements, as has already been mentioned. It is not only a health strategy. It includes warnings, pricing, taxation and opportunities for treatment and for people across the board to think about what they are consuming.

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, on her committee’s tackling the way the EU set about its work on an alcohol strategy. It made a mistake that we have often seen made by august bodies such as the WHO and the UN on other matters. They are very good at telling others what to do about strategies, and far less good at thinking about what they themselves can do as a priority. Her committee has issued an excellent report on what the EU should be doing. It is a disgrace that it does not have a strategy to which we can all subscribe, and which makes best sense of what it and individual states can do.

What the EU can do is important and may not be so upsetting to the alcohol industry. Alcohol duty is structured in a barmy way at the moment. As noble Lords know, the problem is that alcohol strength—the quantity of neat alcohol in a drink—which is the driver of harm, is not taxed proportionate to the amount in the drink. Under current EU legislation, you can do it for beer or spirits but not for wine or cider. Have your Lordships ever asked yourselves why supermarket ciders are so darn strong—up to 8% or 9%? It is because they are not taxed in the same way.

The defects in the existing taxation legislation produces these distortions in alcohol pricing. It makes a huge difference. New world wines are now 15%—a slug of Cabernet from New Zealand or South Africa will knock you over. If there was a proportionate alcohol taxation on volume, lighter wines would be encouraged and we would consume far more of the lower-alcohol wines.

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The same is true of beer. Scandinavian countries, which have taken the point on board, produce many very popular low-alcohol beers. We should press the EU in this area. The industry would be agreeable on this point.

I wholeheartedly agree that rules on food labelling are crucial, particularly for women. I gave up drinking for four months last year because I was on a diet. It was difficult. Two large glasses of white wine, my favourite tipple, are the equivalent of a large plate of French fries. How many women know that? The noble Lord, Lord Patel, is muttering about how many chips I eat. It is crucial that we have proper alcohol labelling. It would help women in particular, but also concentrate the minds of men.

We need to suppress demand in the areas where it is the greatest in order to reduce the culture of drunkenness. We have a culture in this country which is quite different from much of Europe, in that people go out to get smashed. They buy cheap offers at the supermarket and “preload” before they go out—and then get further smashed in the pub. It is encouraging that alcohol consumption is dropping among a proportion of younger people in this country, although that may well be because the population’s structure and demographics is changing. It may be that the attitude to alcohol of native-born, white British, Scots and East Anglians—for example, Norfolk folk—is not changing a great deal. Perhaps we are seeing that in London, with a different sort of population.

We therefore need effective pricing policies for supermarkets, effective taxation and effective warnings. Warning women about consuming large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy is crucial; we should at least get that on the bottles. These are the things that my noble friend Lady Prashar’s committee recommended, and which we should ask of the EU because only the EU can do it. We should say to the EU, “Please, rethink this”, because the industry would, I believe, be agreeable. I am not suggesting for one moment that we do not need to tackle the alcohol industry, but there are ways through the pricing and taxation problem that would be more agreeable to the industry if they were part of an overall strategy. We should press the Government strongly to ask the EU to look again at what could really work. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about what we can do to urge the EU to tackle this problem.

4.26 pm

Lord Patel (CB): My Lords, I will be brief, because much of what could be said has already been said. I was going to say that the only thing left that has not been covered is how occasional or moderate alcohol drinking is quite satisfying, but my noble friend Lady Murphy even covered that—she did not leave it for me. I agree that we should thank the EU committee and my noble friend Lady Prashar for presenting this report. It is a well-produced report that makes all the points and highlights the lack of a co-ordinated alcohol strategy in the EU and the United Kingdom. We have a piecemeal approach, and it would be nice to develop a co-ordinated strategy.

Let me deal briefly with one or two of the committee’s recommendations and the Government’s response. First, I agree with my noble friend Lady Murphy about

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pricing. Why is pricing not based on strength of alcohol? That would mean that those who enjoy alcohol could drink lower-strength alcohol, which would be more popular. It is higher-strength alcohol that is largely responsible for the behaviour we see from those who drink too much. So I would support that and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.

I know that bottles are labelled saying that alcohol can be harmful during pregnancy, but that does not go far enough. In my clinical practice I have always advocated giving up drinking during pregnancy, or even before if you intend to become pregnant. The labelling should be much stronger.

I was interested in Recommendation 11, on marketing. The Government’s response seems rather a fudge. It states:

“This work will lead to a new draft of the Directive by June 2016. The revised Directive will need to be transposed into UK law”.

It would be nice to know the Government’s view on marketing, rather than their saying they will wait until the EU produces something. The Government must surely have a view on marketing.

Recommendation 12 says that,

“the Government should press the Commission to propose amendments to the Food Labelling Regulation”.

My noble friend Lady Murphy referred to the calorific content of some drinks and how that may affect nutrition. The Government seemed to be quite strong on this, saying that we should have labelling related to nutritional and calorific values, but in their response they seem to have weakened. I may have misread their response, but it would be nice to know which strategy is correct.

I will finish there as most of the other points have already been made in great detail by other speakers.

4.29 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on the way in which she introduced the report and on the report itself. We have had a very balanced debate. I suppose we are seeking to embrace the enjoyability of alcohol in moderation, alongside a recognition that for many people it causes misery and degradation. To get the policy right will always involve a balance, and one that we do not get right every time. For instance, looking back, the extension to 24-hour licensing was done with the best of intentions. If I recall correctly, it tried to encourage what we thought to be a responsible, continental style of drinking. I am not sure whether it has altogether been successful in that regard.

The report itself is excellent, because it has assembled a great deal of hard evidence about the scale of alcohol use and some of the problems that arise from it. I particularly took the point that not only does Europe have the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the world, but we know that the UK has high consumption itself. We also know, as the committee points out, that there are huge variations in society. The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, may well be right about the statistics coming through on young people and the reasons for that. We should be cautious about reading too much into that at the moment.

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I very much took on board the evidence given to the committee by the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire about the impact of alcohol on domestic abuse. He estimated that alcohol was a factor in a third of all domestic abuse. The Home Office official, Mr Greaves, pointed to the Crime Survey for England and Wales which estimated that in 49% of violent incidents,

“the victim believed the perpetrator to be under the influence of alcohol”.

There is also the more general issue of anti-social behaviour. My honourable friend Jessica Phillips caused a certain degree of controversy a couple of weeks ago, when she compared what happens in Broad Street in Birmingham every Friday night with the very serious incidents in Germany. She has been criticised for that but she is certainly right that Broad Street on a Friday or Saturday night is not a very pleasant place to be, the problem being that it is also where Symphony Hall and the Rep are, so it is difficult to avoid. Frankly, for many people the atmosphere and disorder that come from alcohol are frightening. I know that the Government are seeking to give greater powers and flexibility to local authorities to try to ensure that licensing is more appropriate. However, the Minister will know that local authorities are torn between, in a sense, public order and wanting young people to come and spend money in their cities. That is a conundrum and a very big problem.

We come to the issue of the European strategy. The report from the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, says that Europe has a limited competence in health. Successive Governments have wanted to keep that competence limited. Certainly, from our point of view that was because we wanted to make sure that changes in European directives and legislation would not impact on the way we run our National Health Service. The current debate about TTIP shows some of the dynamics of concerns about how, say, that potential trade agreement between Europe and North America might impact on the way we run the NHS. I certainly support the continued limited competence in health on the part of the EU, which needs to concern itself with a lot of other issues at the moment.

However, I also take the point made by the committee that there is a case for EU action which can supplement and add value to the activities of national governance. In their response, the Government say that they agree with that. Can the Minister give me any indication that the Government really do sign up to that, so that they will support some European-wide action where that truly can add value to how we want to take forward policy on alcohol in this country?

My noble friend Lord Brooke made some very telling points about the Chancellor of the Exchequer and inconsistencies in his approach to these issues. He might have mentioned the swingeing cutbacks in public health budgets that have taken place at the same time as the decision that the Chancellor announced. I hope that the Minister will say something about taxation and consistency. As regards the strength of cider, 8% or 9% is a shocking figure. We are entitled to ask the Government to look again at the requirement for consistency. I would also like to ask the Minister about minimum pricing. The Government are keeping this under review.

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Of course, Governments keep everything under review. But I would like to hear a little more about the Government’s current thinking on pricing, because clearly many people think that we should use pricing as a way to reduce consumption.

I would like to come on to the issue of public health. I have been very impressed with the work of Public Health England in the last two or three years. Its work is evidence-based and the body has been forthright. I hope that the Government will continue to listen to Public Health England’s recommendations in this area. Regarding the impact of the reduction in the public health budget to local authorities, to what extent does the Minister think that Public Health England and the Government have a role in that context to chivvy local government to take seriously its responsibilities in the area of alcohol? That is one area where you can see that almost all the services of a local authority can have an impact. You can also see the tensions within a local authority because, on the one hand, encouraging more licensed premises—and encouraging more people to use them—will have a positive impact on its income and jobs; on the other hand, it has all the problems that arise from anti-social behaviour. Therefore, local authorities have a major role to play in public health responsibility. It is not good enough simply to leave it to local authorities. The Government and PHE need to be rather more proactive in encouraging local authorities to treat this seriously and as a priority.

Finally, I come back to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy. Recently, we saw the publication of advisory alcohol limits. I do not think that this is an easy issue. However, does the Minister think it advisable to publish limits that are so low that just about everybody will simply disregard them? I am sure that Ministers had debates with the Chief Medical Officer about this. I am not being critical but what will be the eventual outcome? Clearly, there is an element in the public health movement which wants to move to a no-alcohol position—not perhaps prohibition because we have all seen the consequences of that—and is itching to go down the route of eventually saying, “No, you should not drink alcohol at all”. I understand that and am sympathetic to the public health movement, but there is a terrible danger that if you say to young men that the limit is 14 units—that is, four or five drinks a week—it will just be laughed at and disregarded. I am not sure whether nudge policy comes to mind. However, this does not seem to me very nudgy; rather, it seems very nanny. As part of taking forward a general strategy on alcohol, perhaps the Government need to think again about the psychology of alcohol and what really would influence behaviour.

4.40 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and her committee for the report. It has stimulated a very interesting, balanced and well-informed debate today. We have probably not got time to do justice to all the issues raised. I would suggest that we might meet for a drink afterwards but that would probably not be appropriate in the circumstances.

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We are all aware of the impact of alcohol misuse. I was interested in the reflections of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on getting the balance right between trying to achieve something—but not doing so in such a blunt way that it will have unintended consequences—and deciding that it is not possible so we will not even try to do it. The way in which successive Governments have tackled the problem of tobacco over a very long period shows that you have to win the argument with the public. We are a long way from winning this argument with the public. Although not everyone likes a drink, most of us do, and so the argument is more difficult than it was with tobacco. On the other hand, the argument is even more difficult with obesity. That is the most difficult argument of all to win. We need to get the balance right.

The noble Baroness was right to raise the issue of the comments of the Chief Medical Officer. The image where every time you take a glass of wine you think of cancer has stuck with me, although it was- directed at women. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is shaking his head. However, it has at least raised the issue, even if it has spoiled a glass of wine. We all know that the misuse of alcohol can be hugely damaging and not only from a health point of view. As has been said, misuse of alcohol can lead to domestic abuse, violent crime and the like.

On strategy, the 2012 strategy is extant and we will soon be publishing our life chances strategy and the new crime prevention strategy, which will include a separate chapter on alcohol. We may not be coming up with a specific new alcohol strategy but alcohol is very much part of our approach to a number of different issues. It is good that we are giving our attention to this. Perhaps it would have been better to debate this in the main Chamber but we are dealing with it here.

It is worth prefacing what I am going to say by reminding the Committee that most people drink in an entirely responsible way. We do not want to penalise people who drink responsible unnecessarily just because a small minority do not. I was slightly worried by the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, about Norfolk. I did not know that we had a particular problem with Norfolk. If we do, perhaps it is in the Brancaster golf club or somewhere like that. I do not know where that problem is.

I want to highlight the UK Government’s position on some of the key areas of our response to the report of the House of Lords committee. Overall, we welcome the report and broadly agree with its recommendations. In particular, we fully agree with the committee that action is worth formulating at an EU level only to the extent that it supplements and supports what member states can do independently. That is important. It is what we do here that is of primary importance. I agree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, that anything we do at EU level must also be flexible because every country is different—the culture in Norwich is different from that in Rome—and anything we do should reflect that.

The UK Government continue to support the view that member states should drive alcohol policy but that the Commission should complement this by sharing best practice, by providing a common evidence base—

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which the noble Baroness felt the EU had singularly failed to do—and by dealing with issues that member states cannot deal with on their own.

It is worth mentioning taxation in this context. The UK Government believe that alcohol duties should be directly proportional to alcohol content. This falls into the “bleeding obvious” territory. However, this is a European Union issue but the UK Government will be putting what pressure they can at that level to try to get proportionality into the way that we tax alcohol.

The UK Government are keeping minimum unit pricing under review. I am afraid that I cannot go beyond that. We are monitoring closely what is happening in Scotland with the Scotch Whisky Association. I can do no more than say that we will keep it under consideration. It is a serious issue and anyone formulating a policy on alcohol would be foolish not to keep it under consideration. Whether they decide to do so is another matter. However, it is like a sugar tax land we should keep it under careful consideration.

On marketing, the Government are committed to working with industry to address concerns over irresponsible promotions. We believe that material in the Committee of Advertising Practice’s UK Code of Broadcast Advertising relating to the advertising and marketing of alcohol products is exceptionally robust. For example, it may not be featured in any medium where more than 25% of the audience is under 18. However, if new evidence emerges that clearly highlights major problems within the existing codes, the Advertising Standards Authority has a duty to revisit them and take appropriate action.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of mandatory labelling. As a result of the responsibility deal, just under 80% of bottles and cans of alcohol were assessed to have the correct health labelling, by which I mean clear unit content, the CMO’s lower-risk drinking guidelines and a warning about drinking when pregnant. I have noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, raised the issue of pregnancy and when we are reviewing our strategy we should consider whether that is enough. The UK also secured a provision to allow voluntary calorie labelling, which some businesses are already using. Supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Waitrose are using voluntary calorie labelling. That is probably as far as we can go at this stage. The possibility of mandating nutritional labelling, including calories and ingredients labelling on alcohol, is still under discussion at EU level. As I say, we are making progress on a voluntary basis in the mean time.

I would like to highlight the other actions that we are taking. As noble Lords have said, sales of alcohol below the level of duty plus VAT were banned in May 2014. We are advised that the minimum unit pricing case does not affect that ban, so I think that it will continue as it is. Later this year, we will publish the new crime prevention strategy, within which alcohol will feature prominently. The noble Lord, Lord McLennan, raised the issue of drink-driving. We are going to watch what happens in Scotland, where the level is being brought down from 80 milligrams to 50 milligrams—is that per litre of blood?

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Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: It is 50 milligrams to 100 millilitres of blood.

Lord Prior of Brampton: We will see what impact that has: if it is major, we should clearly take it into consideration.

Since April last year, the standard GMS contract has included delivery of an alcohol risk assessment to all patients registering with a new GP. This has the potential to raise awareness of alcohol as a risk factor with a large percentage of the population. The Government are also continuing to work with Public Health England, which is giving a high priority to alcohol issues by working with local authorities. However, we believe it is right that the primary responsibility for drug and alcohol issues should be with local authorities. PHE will support all local authorities and their partners to put in place high-quality interventions to prevent, mitigate and treat effectively alcohol-related health harm. As noble Lords will know, services include local licensing controls and specialist services to support recovery for dependent drinkers.

In 2014-15, the Department of Health commissioned PHE to review the evidence and provide advice on the public health impacts of alcohol. The review of evidence has been completed and is in the process of being written up as they complete a peer review process. It will be available in due course.

The new alcohol guidelines provided by the CMO are currently out for consultation. That will have an important impact on the debate as we go forward, so I hope that noble Lords in this House will contribute to that consultation. The department recognises that in the light of the new guidelines further work will need to be done on labelling and an appropriate transition period will be put in place to ensure industry can change its labelling in a cost-effective way.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, raised the issue of duties and the mixed messages that might come from reducing duties. All Governments face this issue. They have to get the balance right between what is good for people and what people want to do in a free and democratic country. It is a difficult balance to strike. I do not think that the Chancellor has been any more or less responsible in this matter than previous Chancellors. One of the joys of living in a democracy is that these issues are balanced for us. In a world that was less free, a ban might be put in place—prohibition or something—but I do not think that many of us would like to live in that kind of society. So this balance between what is good for you and what people like doing is something that we vote for in general elections.

We recognise the contribution that not just individuals but also businesses and our communities can make to help people better understand the risks associated with alcohol. I am sure that this is an issue to which we will return in due course. Change will not happen overnight. I take very much on board what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said about how we approach this issue, and that a nudge can sometimes create a barrier to change.

The noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, has made a very important contribution to this debate and we take that very seriously. Any responsible Government would take

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this very seriously. How we get the right balance in this debate is very important. Part of getting that balance involves the kind of debate we have had this afternoon.

4.52 pm

Baroness Prashar: My Lords, I thank the Minister for a very full response. I also thank noble Lords who took part in this debate. In producing the report, we were very conscious of the fact that we did not wish it to be a killjoy report but that we had to take a very balanced and informed approach to the issue. It is very gratifying that all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate have reinforced the recommendations that we made. Therefore, it is encouraging to note that we were obviously moving in the right direction.

I listened carefully to the Minister’s response and wish to highlight two points. On the minimum unit pricing, it would be useful if the Minister would write to me informing me of the implications of the European Union judgment for the UK. On labelling, I know that the Minister mentioned doing this voluntarily, but I still think that it should be mandatory because the voluntary approach is not sufficient. Having said that, we did not have a large quantity of noble Lords speaking in this debate but its quality was very good. I think that all the points have been covered. I again thank all noble Lords and the Minister for his response.

Motion agreed.

Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Tachographs) (Amendment) Regulations 2016

Motion to Consider

4.55 pm

Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

That the Grand Committee do consider the Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Tachographs) (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

Relevant document: 15th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, these draft regulations are being made in order to update the existing domestic legislative and enforcement regime to comply with EU Regulation 165/2014 on tachographs. As noble Lords will be aware, tachographs monitor and record the amount of time that a commercial driver has spent driving. They are used in heavy goods vehicles, passenger service vehicles, and some light goods vehicles. Tachographs allow the enforcement of drivers’ hours rules, thereby creating a level playing field for vehicle operators. Tachographs also play a crucial role in keeping our roads safe by ensuring that professional drivers’ working hours are not excessive, and that the risk of accidents as a result of fatigue is reduced.

The directly applicable EU regulation makes small technical amendments in order to strengthen the standards that workshops must meet in order to install, check, inspect and repair tachographs. The EU regulation also paves the way for the introduction of new smart tachographs, which will periodically record a vehicle’s location via satellite technology. These will be more

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resistant to tampering and allow for easier enforcement. They will also make life easier for drivers by no longer requiring them to manually record their location.

By updating our domestic legislation in the light of this new European measure, these domestic regulations will ensure that the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours and tachograph rules can continue. If we do not make these changes, the UK enforcement agencies—the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the police—risk no longer being able to enforce against tachograph offences. That would not be acceptable. It would compromise road safety and driver welfare.

To ensure the effective implementation of the EU regulation, my department, the Department for Transport, undertook a formal consultation in March 2015. There were two areas of flexibility in the legislation that we have opted to take up, following support from the industry. First, we are amending the legislation to continue to take up certain national derogations to drivers’ hours rules, thereby potentially reducing the administrative burden on industry. Secondly, we are allowing the DVSA to authorise field tests of non-type approved tachographs. There was broad support for these proposals across industry and I do not believe that this could be seen in any way as gold-plating. The consultation supported the view that the impact of the regulation on drivers and operators will be negligible. Drivers’ responsibilities will remain the same and the regulation extends certain exemptions. We remain confident that these changes are also low-cost, an assessment that the Regulatory Policy Committee has confirmed, and that they are likely to result in zero net costs to industry and the Government as a result of the changes to the domestic framework.

In conclusion, these draft regulations are important for the continued enforcement of important road safety rules, and for the future of the commercial driving sector by anticipating the introduction of a new generation of tachograph. They have support in the industry, which we should remember is a sector that underpins much of the UK economy. I therefore commend these regulations to the Committee.

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose and effect of the SI, which updates existing provisions in primary and secondary legislation to comply with EU Regulation 165/2014 on tachographs, which comes into effect from the beginning of next month. The EU regulation increases the requirements on member states for the audit and quality control processes for tachograph calibration centres. In light of the existing quality control processes that are already in place in the UK, the regulation would appear to require very little practical change in that regard.

We welcome the fact that operators who have made significant investment in establishing their own tachograph centres will not be barred under this regulation from testing their own vehicles. However, in that regard it appears—I am sure that the Minister will put me right if I am wrong—that the Department for Transport’s recent Motoring Services Strategy, which suggested examining possibilities for the delivery of the HGV annual test, including examination of the test by individuals in the private sector, appeared to contemplate this kind of constraint, which has been avoided in

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these regulations. Can the Minister give an assurance that discussions regarding the delivery of the HGV annual test in the future will be full and open, with nothing ruled out at this early stage?

5 pm

The Minister in his opening comments made reference to smart tachographs and the change that they would bring to the current system. However, of course at present we still have the system without smart tachographs. Although there is little evidence of falsification in the tachograph calibration market in the UK, the Road Haulage Association has recognised the falsification of tachograph records as the most significant offence within the industry, with enforcement agencies unable to track rest stops, and any threat of sanction is, frankly, woefully weak. In that regard, if the Minister has the information available, can he say whether the number of such offences—that is, in relation to the falsification of tachograph records—is going up or down at present or simply remaining at much the same level?

The Minister made reference to drivers’ hours; I will say something on that issue, because the regulation also extends exemptions from drivers’ hours rules from 50 kilometres to 100 kilometres. As far as I am aware, that is not required—as opposed to being permitted—by the EU regulation which gives rise to this SI. The Government say in their Explanatory Memorandum that this SI will improve road safety by ensuring that drivers’ working hours are not excessive. I think I am right in saying that in 2013, fatigue was listed as a contributory factor in some 95 accidents which involved heavy goods vehicles. I therefore simply ask, how will doubling the radial base for exemptions improve road safety, and on the basis of what evidence on the impact of this change on road safety have the Government decided to go down this road? I think the Minister in his opening comments made reference to the fact that it would not have any impact on drivers’ hours; I would be grateful if he could explain why that conclusion has been reached, bearing in mind that it provides for the extension to which I have referred. We do not intend to oppose the SI in this House but we are concerned about the impact of the changes which affect drivers’ hours rules.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his response and for keeping me company during this important debate. I also thank him for his broad support for the proposed SI. To pick up on some of his questions, he raised the issue of HGV drivers, and as he explained, certainly that is my understanding as regards the openness of the process. However, I will write to him specifically if that is not the case. He also raised issues on the current prosecution and conviction rates for drivers on tachograph offences. Looking at 2012-13, we recorded conviction rates of 3,794; in 2013-14, convictions were at 4,050; and in 2014-15, the figures were at 2,861. The DVSA, together with the police, continues to be responsible, as I said in my opening remarks, for carrying out the checks, both on tachographs and on the roadsides. We remain confident that the introduction of the smart tachographs—picking up on the point that the noble

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Lord also made—will in effect be a gradual, evolving process and will take a period of time. It is my understanding that, from 2019, they will be introduced for new vehicles coming online but that, for existing vehicles, there is no requirement, I believe, until 2034, so there will be a period of time allowed for existing technology to apply.

The noble Lord also asked about the derogation and expressed some concern about increasing the radius of operation for certain driver hours from 50 kilometres to 100 kilometres. In the United Kingdom we are opting to continue to make use of these derogations that are allowed under this particular directive. The alternative would be to have no exemptions at all—we believe, as I said in my opening remarks, that this would increase the burden on business, if we compare it with the status quo. We also believe that derogations are common sense; they are limited both in distance to 100 kilometres and to the type of vehicles to which they apply. These vehicles are Royal Mail vehicles, vehicles transporting live animals and light goods vehicles that are propelled by gas or electricity. I trust that I have covered the questions raised by the noble Lord; if there is any other matter to update him on then I will of course write to him.

Motion agreed.

Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2015

Motion to Consider

5.07 pm

Moved by Lord Bates

That the Grand Committee do consider the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2015

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that the draft regulations, which were laid before the House of Lords on 18 November 2015, be approved.

Following Royal Assent to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 at the end of the last Parliament and since the general election, the Government have moved quickly to implement this important piece of legislation to help make progress in tackling the evil of modern slavery as quickly as possible. We have already implemented the consolidation of existing offences, raised the maximum sentence to life imprisonment, established the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, introduced slavery and trafficking risk and prevention orders, introduced the statutory defence for victims and introduced the transparency in supply chains provision, among other things.

The purpose of these regulations is to make a series of consequential amendments to other primary legislation to ensure that the Modern Slavery Act will work as Parliament intended and that no protections for victims present in other legislation are inadvertently lost as we

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start with the new Act. Where it is appropriate, because the legislative context is not limited to sexual offences, we are using these regulations to extend protections that were previously available only to some modern slavery victims to all victims of slavery and trafficking under the Modern Slavery Act.

The regulations would make a number of amendments that are quite technical in nature. For example, the previous trafficking offence was included in Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Certain other legislative provisions apply to all offences under Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act, including the previous trafficking for sexual exploitation offence, but do not currently apply to the new trafficking offence under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. These regulations ensure that such provisions will continue to apply where trafficking for sexual exploitation takes place under the new Modern Slavery Act offence. Importantly, they ensure that a key protection for complainants in sexual offences prosecutions—that the defendant cannot directly cross-examine them—will apply in cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation under the Modern Slavery Act.

In addition, the regulations not only ensure that the protection from direct cross-examination for children from trafficking for sexual exploitation continues but extend the protection to cover all slavery and trafficking offences. This reflects that that protection covers a range of non-sexual offences. I assure the Committee that, if approved, these regulations will be in place in time to prevent any victims missing out on these important courtroom protections. The first contested trials under the new Modern Slavery Act offences have not yet taken place and are not likely to until at least late spring or summer this year, well after these regulations would come into effect.

The regulations make a number of changes to ensure that the slavery and trafficking reparation orders introduced in the Modern Slavery Act work as Parliament intended and that they can be recovered across the EU. The regulations also include a number of amendments to ensure that protections against child sexual exploitation continue to apply in cases of child trafficking for sexual exploitation. This includes ensuring that police can require information from hoteliers in appropriate circumstances.

For the Modern Slavery Act to work, as I believe we all intend it to do, we need to ensure that law enforcement and the judiciary will be able to use it in the spirit in which this House intended, and that we retain or enhance all the protections for modern slavery victims present in other legislation. These regulations are largely technical in nature but are none the less important to ensure that the law protects modern slavery victims, and I commend them to the Committee.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): I am delighted with these amendments and with the placing of the Modern Slavery Act into the other Acts that is a necessary part of making this work. I have only one point to make, and it is in no way a criticism of the Government; on the contrary, I very much support what they are doing. The one problem I have is to be sure that under Regulation 26 the judiciary understand that if there is any confiscation of assets from traffickers or slave-owners, they ought to be prepared to give priority to making

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reparation orders to the victims. That is my only point of concern, to ensure that the judiciary know about that.

Lord Rosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose and impact of this SI, which, as the Explanatory Memorandum says, amends primary legislation in the light of the commencement of sections of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. In particular, the amendments made by this SI ensure that primary legislation that contains references to the existing criminal offences is updated to reflect the new offences under the 2015 Act of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking, as well as slavery and trafficking reparation orders. I do not have any questions to ask so I conclude by saying that we support the purpose of this SI.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for contributing to this debate. It is good to see the guardians of the Modern Slavery Act, if I may call them that, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, here today. They have followed the Act from before it was legislation in pre-legislative scrutiny all the way through and, rightly, are playing their role as guardians of the legislation to ensure that as we implement it, we do so as it should be done.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, raised a very good point about making the judiciary aware. We do not have a direct answer for it, but that is something that we will reflect to the Judicial College and ensure is communicated to them. Otherwise, I thank noble Lords for their support for this legislation as we continue to implement it, and I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016

Motion to Consider

5.15 pm

Moved by Lord Bates

That the Grand Committee do consider the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016.

Relevant document:15th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that the Committee considers this statutory instrument. This fees order is to be made using the charging provisions in Sections 68 to 70 of the Immigration Act 2014, which consolidated and simplified the charging provisions from three previous Acts. The order sets out the maximum amounts that may be charged for broad categories of immigration and nationality functions for the next four years, which is the expected life of the order. Maximum fee amounts are ceilings, which limit the amount that may be charged in subsequent fee regulations.

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Like the previous order, the maximum amount for each category is set to accommodate the highest individual fee in each category. In most cases, the categories will contain a number of different, individual fees. I want to make it exceptionally clear that the maximum amounts are not targets that the Home Office will seek to charge by the end of the four-year period. These maximums will allow the Home Office to adjust fees within these ceilings in order to be responsive over the next four years to the needs of customers, the department and the taxpayer, and to meet the Government’s objective of a border, immigration and citizenship system by 2019-20 that is fully funded by those who use it and benefit most, as announced in the spending review.

The fees order will also enable us to expand the scope of our premium service fees, which will facilitate the introduction of new services in addition to those already offered. The amendments will also provide greater flexibility to deliver services directly to customers and organisations that request increased or tailored levels of support. The introduction of such premium services does not replace or seek to charge for those services that are currently provided for free. We continue to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place to enable scrutiny of our proposals, while immigration and nationality fees will continue to be transparent and set in the best interests of the United Kingdom.

The legislative framework does not allow for the Home Office to put up fees whenever it likes. The legislation requires that immigration and nationality fees proposals must be considered and approved by Her Majesty’s Treasury. They are also agreed by the cross-governmental home affairs committee and an impact assessment is produced on the proposals prior to fees legislation being presented to Parliament. We expect that most fee levels will be subject to an annual review during the four-year period and that fee level changes will be subject to the same cross-governmental approval process. The individual fee levels will be set out in negative regulations. We expect shortly to lay regulations setting out the fees for 2016-17.

We have published a fees table that shows our intentions for individual fees in 2016-17, and I will now explain our proposals. Consideration of the impact of fees on businesses, educational institutions and economic growth continues to be balanced with the government policy that users of a system should pay more towards its costs and therefore reduce the burden on the UK taxpayer. To support the Government’s approach towards recovering an increased proportion of immigration and visa costs and the transition to a self-financing border, immigration and citizenship system, we propose to apply incremental increases to most immigration and nationality categories.

The proposed increases do not impose any additional costs on business. To support economic growth, we intend to make relatively small fee increases for applications related to work, study and visit, which will increase by 2% next year. For example, the fees for short-term visit visas and tier 4 student visas would rise by £2 and £6 respectively.

A number of visa and immigration fees will continue to be set at or below the estimated processing cost. The highest proposed increases in fees in 2016 are for optional

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services that offer an enhanced level of convenience and for routes that provide the most benefits and entitlements —for example, requests for enhanced application services and for indefinite leave to remain.

I know that noble Lords will all support a border and immigration system that controls immigration for the benefit of the UK while improving services to customers and reducing the cost to the taxpayer. I believe that this fees order, as an enabling provision, will help us to achieve this, and I commend it to the committee.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the order. I am, however, a little confused about how much revenue the Home Office intends to generate through this mechanism. The Explanatory Memorandum states:

“This Order sets out chargeable immigration functions and maximum fee amounts which provide for immigration fees to increase at a rate above inflation”.

Understandably, it could be that in order to ensure that the cost of processing these applications—for visas or whatever—is met, the fees have to be set above inflation because the cost of processing them is increasing at a rate above inflation. No one would have any concern about full cost recovery. One would expect that a person applying for a visa would pay the full cost of providing that service.

The impact assessment talks about the Home Office having to ensure that fees for immigration and nationality services make a substantial contribution to the cost of running the immigration system. This seems slightly different from simply recovering the costs incurred. The impact assessment goes on to say that government intervention is necessary to ensure a balanced Home Office budget. It later states that,

“the Home Office estimates that 100% of the costs of front-line Immigration, Border and Citizenship operations will be recovered through fees”.

It goes on to say that it is right that,

“those who use and benefit directly from the UK migration system make an appropriate contribution to meeting its costs”.

Later it refers to the comprehensive spending review, which requires further reductions in the Home Office budget over the next four years. This suggests that fees are being increased simply to cover a hole in the Home Office budget created by the comprehensive spending review. Indeed, the impact assessment says that some fees are set above the cost of delivery. It goes on to say that significant efficiency savings are being made in the immigration system within the Home Office, but that:

“It is appropriate that any remaining shortfall”—

presumably the shortfall in the funding provided by the comprehensive spending review—

“should be met by those who use and benefit from the service”.

The Minister has just said that the immigration service works to the benefit of the UK. It is therefore not simply a case of the immigration system working for the benefit of those people who seek leave to visit the UK or to remain; it benefits all of us. Are those people who apply—that is, only those on whom the Home Office can impose a fee—going to be landed with the shortfall between the efficiency savings and what is provided by the comprehensive spending review for the immigration services?

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It does not seem reasonable that we should penalise those seeking visas and other services simply because the comprehensive spending review penalised the Immigration Service in that settlement. Can the Minister reassure the Committee that these fee increases will not be used to target certain categories of applicant? There could be a potential for discrimination if that were the case. How much of the shortfall in the Home Office funding for the Immigration Service do the Government expect to make up by increasing the fees? Are we talking about the overall Home Office funding shortfall, the shortfall in front-line immigration services or the shortfall in the services that provide visas and so on?

Lord Rosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose and intention of this SI. The order sets out the functions in connection with immigration and nationality for which the Secretary of State may charge a fee, including how fees are to be calculated and maximum fee amounts. Specific fees will be set within the agreed limits in regulations subject to the negative resolution procedure.

The Government’s objective in doing this is to achieve a self-financing border, immigration and citizenship system. This SI replaces the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2015 and is intended to sustain increases to fees set out in subsequent regulations under the negative procedure over the next four years.

In similar vein to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is it the intention that the fees set will be related to an applicant’s ability to pay? That does not appear to be a factor to be taken into consideration. If that is not the case, how will the requirement under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 be met? Under that section, the Secretary of State is required to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the UK in carrying out any function in relation to immigration, asylum or nationality. Such an issue may surely arise if an adult applies for settlement but does not apply for a child or children at the same time because they cannot afford the fee. Presumably Section 55 makes it affordable for children and their families who meet the criteria to make immigration applications for a secure status.

The order sets out the maximum fee for a review of a decision in connection with immigration or nationality, which I think is £400. The Government argued during the passage of the Immigration Act 2014 that administrative review would be cheaper than bringing an appeal. However, the proposed maximum suggests that that might not necessarily be the case. Do the Government intend to provide an independent appeals procedure?

The fees provided for in the SI are uneven and, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, suggest that they are being used as a means to encourage or deter would-be applicants from particular groups or categories from making applications. Is that in fact the Government’s approach so far as setting the fees is concerned? It would appear to be the case.

Table 6 of the order makes provision for fees for expedited processing. This almost brings us back to the discussion we had yesterday about tier 1. It is already the case that premium service centres are offered

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by the Home Office and generate considerable revenue for it. However, some have argued that a twin-track system is developing in which insufficient attention is paid to ensuring that ordinary applications are processed in a timely manner. Those who are rich or desperate or both can pay for the premium service. There is a concern that more premium services, which are forecast and provided for under this SI, would mean a second-class service for everyone else. That concern has been expressed and raised in a number of quarters. Is that a fair comment or concern? It would seem to have some validity. If the response is going to be, “No, it is not a fair comment or concern”, why would the Government say that that was not the case?

The Minister mentioned in his explanation that the intention was that there would be no further increases in the maximum amounts in this SI within the next four years—or at least, as I understood it, they were to be there for the following four years. Can the Government give a guarantee that this will happen and that those maximum figures to which reference was made will not be increased again over the four-year period, or during the four-year period to which the Minister referred? We have concerns about the level of some of these fees because some of the incremental increases are indeed quite considerable. Obviously, the aim of some of the questions I have raised is to seek the Government’s response to those points.

5.30 pm

Lord Bates: I am grateful to noble Lords for their questions, which I will seek to address. Before I do so, it may be helpful to reiterate the broad principles which we are dealing with here. First, we are trying to create a self-financing model—the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that he supported that—which was contained in the comprehensive spending review. The mechanism that we are talking about in the order comes from the Immigration Act 2014 and gives a degree of certainty and understanding to people on the ranges for which they are planning. The broad element is that we want this mechanism to become self-financing, but within that there is a differential, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, invited us to explore this. Of course there is a difference of approach when we are looking at students, for example, who we want to encourage to come here to bona fide universities. We want to maintain their costs at a competitive level to encourage them to come, as with people coming on visitor visas. However, some of the other charges involve cases where there is less obvious benefit across the whole of the UK, and more benefit to the individual concerned. We are saying that in those circumstances the additional fees will go towards keeping the costs down over the four-year period.

I shall deal with some of the specific questions in no particular order. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether having more premium services equates to a poorer standard of service for everyone else. He will not be surprised to hear that that is not so. In-country casework delivery to customers has improved over the last year with service standards being met consistently across all routes. These are optional services that improve customer choice. On customer choice, we know that some of our customers want a faster and

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC216

more personal service so we are expanding and improving our premium services—for example, customers who need a faster decision or need to have their passport returned before a decision has been made on an application because they need to travel in the near future; customers who prefer face-to-face services; and customers who want access to premium services without travelling to UK Visas and Immigration premises. These are all examples of premium services that attract a premium fee.

The question was asked, are the fees being used to deter applications? No; again, we cannot use fees to deter applications. We are introducing a policy and operational measures to reduce immigration abuse and inward migration. We continue to welcome the brightest and the best to the UK. There is no evidence of a relationship between changes in fees and the volume of applications for various visa products.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked how much revenue we intend to generate throughout the lifetime of the order. We expect around £600 million of border, immigration and citizenship system costs, excluding asylum support and customs, to be funded by the Exchequer at the present time. We have also made significant savings, which the noble Lord referred to. Compared to 2010, the Home Office will have delivered savings of around £3 billion in 2015-16. This includes savings and efficiencies in operating and the immigration system. Of course that has to be placed in the context, which I am sure the noble Lord welcomes, that we protected the police budgets during that time. There was a great deal of speculation about that but we did it, andI think it is broadly welcomed by everyone. However, it means that the essential progress towards maintaining a tight control on costs and administration needs to be kept up.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked whether fees are being increased to plug a hole in the Home Office budget. Through making savings and improving efficiencies, we expect to reduce the Exchequer funding requirement by over half by 2019-20—that is, from £600 million down to £300 million. We expect to increase income from fees by circa £100 million in 2016-17. That would mean that the borders, immigration and citizenship income will be circa £1.8 billion in 2016. We estimate that we will need an additional circa £250 million of income from fees by 2019-20 to meet our self-funding objective.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether this would be based on an applicant’s ability to pay. There are costs to the immigration system in processing and assessing such claims and the ability to assert certain rights. Therefore it is right that we have a system that can cover these costs. We will never require—I underline this point—a fee that would be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and indeed there are many fee exemptions. Specific exemptions from application fees are provided to several groups with limited means for applications made within the UK—for example, asylum applications; children who receive local authority support; stateless people; and victims of domestic violence. The Home Office will not require a fee where this would be incompatible with an applicant’s convention rights.

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The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the proposed maximum: does the maximum amount of £400 within the order suggest that the Government have abandoned their intentions for the cost of administrative review to be cheaper? Individual fees are grouped into broad categories in the order so that the maximum amount must allow for the highest fee in that category. The maximum amounts have increased to provide scope to increase immigration and nationality fees to achieve the objective of the borders and immigration system being fully funded. This should not be taken as intent to increase the administrative review fee to the maximum within the border category. I think that that is not exactly spot on regarding what the noble Lord asked; he made a more general point, which was to ask whether, in presenting these orders over four years, when we have put a ceiling in place we do not expect to come back and ask for that ceiling to be raised. That is entirely right, and that degree of certainty on this can be given, which will allow people to plan accordingly.

Lord Rosser: I think the Minister said that it would not be correct to say that one purpose of the fees—I am sure it is not the only one—might be to deter numbers of applications, but am I not right in saying that the impact assessment talks on page 13 about an expected reduction of around 10,000 migrants per year? Now, I may be taking that out of context and I accept that that may be the case, but it seems to me that the last paragraph on that page envisages that there might be a reduction in the number of migrants as a result of the content and purpose of the SI.

Lord Bates: That is well spotted by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser; that is there, although of course the impact assessment relates to broader policy on migration. The noble Lord will be aware that the Government remain committed to trying to put downward pressure on migration levels to the UK, and it was as a reflection of that broader number, which is an assumption used in the Red Book and in the CSR, that we are making that conclusion. We are not drawing a direct link between these fee levels and that level of reduction; that is the broader policy that the Government are pursuing. With that, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigations: Code of Practice) (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Order 2016

Motion to Consider


Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That the Grand Committee do consider the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigations: Code of Practice) (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Order 2016.

Relevant documents: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC218

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, with the Committee’s permission I intend to move all the orders in my name en bloc. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 —or POCA—is a vital and effective tool in the fight against crime; criminals must not financially benefit from their criminality. The Government stated categorically in the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy that we would attack criminal finances by making it harder to move, hide and use the proceeds of crime. In delivering that commitment, we have provided strengthened powers in the recent Serious Crime Act. The matter before us today relates to commencing those and other powers to assist in the enforcement of court orders and recover the proceeds of crime. The powers referred to cannot be commenced until associated codes of practice are in place.

First, it is important to note that many of the powers have already been commenced in England and Wales as of 1 June last year. In order to extend this commencement, as is necessary, to Scotland and Northern Ireland, we are required to make codes of practice that encompass those jurisdictions and bodies using the powers there. The codes will largely replicate those that were considered and approved by your Lordships last year.

We plan to commence all the remaining powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act throughout the UK on 1 March, in so far as they are not already in force. To achieve that, we need to issue the codes of practice that will provide guidance on the use of the powers throughout the UK. Once commenced, the new powers will give officers important new tools for the recovery of criminally obtained assets. The codes before you build on previous codes issued under the Proceeds of Crime Act. It is also of note that they closely follow those issued more widely to police officers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The codes set out established and agreed procedures and safeguards in the operation of powers; they ensure that the powers are used in a targeted, consistent and effective way, thus providing vital reassurance to the public that the powers are being used appropriately and proportionately.

The five orders before this House bring into force a number of codes of practice that provide guidance on the use of various powers under POCA. Four current codes need updating and a new code is required as a consequence of amendments made to POCA by primary legislation already passed by your Lordships’ House. I draw the Committee’s attention in this respect to the Policing and Crime Act 2009, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the Serious Crime Act 2015.

The codes were subject to a full public consultation late last year and have been amended in the light of representations. It is important to note that the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly will be considering codes that fall within their competence due to the devolution position.

5.45 pm

The amendments to POCA that require codes of practice providing guidance on their use are: the power to allow search of vehicles for criminal cash; search and seizure powers to prevent the dissipation of property that may subsequently be used to satisfy a confiscation order; expanded confiscation investigation powers to

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC219

allow the tracing and identification of assets following a confiscation order; expanded civil recovery investigation powers; and a change of court jurisdiction so that the Crown Court rather than the High Court will make investigation orders in relation to cash forfeiture cases. It is important to note for the terms of the debate today that we are not debating the powers themselves but are considering the codes that give guidance on the use of those powers. I am therefore not going to give a detailed technical explanation of the underlying powers, which have already been passed and received their Royal Assent.

In summary, though, one code—cash searches—governs the use of powers to search for cash suspected to be the proceeds of, or intended for use in, crime. Another two orders give effect to codes of practice governing the use of search and seizure powers to prevent the dissipation of property that may be used to satisfy a future confiscation order made under POCA. These codes also govern the use of the power to detain such property. One of these codes is for England and Wales, the other for Northern Ireland. Another order before the House gives effect to a revised code of practice providing guidance on the use of the powers of investigation by law enforcement officers under POCA. There is a final further code, which relates to the use of the investigation powers by prosecutors.

The orders before this House will bring all the relevant codes of practice into effect, ensuring that effective and up-to-date guidance and safeguards are in place, and enabling full commencement of the POCA amendments that I have described. The use of these powers will be guided by the revised codes of practice. It is worth repeating that the codes are an important safeguard to ensure the targeted, proportionate and effective use of the powers in POCA, balanced against the rights of individuals and communities.

The structure of each of the codes is basically the same. They contain a comprehensive explanation of the law and the considerations that officers should apply when using the powers, and explain the need fully to record and justify their use after the event. I therefore ask that the House approve these orders to give effect to the codes of practice.

Lord Rosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for his explanation of these five statutory instruments, which we are rightly dealing with en bloc. I accept his point that they deal with the issue of a code of practice and guidance, and that they reflect legislation that has already been agreed and passed.

As he said, and as at least one of the Explanatory Memorandums states, the first four orders are made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and provide that three revised codes of practice and one new code of practice, giving guidance on the exercise of certain functions under POCA, come into operation on 1 March this year. He says that the revised new codes are required because of amendments to POCA made by subsequent Acts of Parliament.

I note with interest that in respect of only one of the codes, paragraph 4.10 of the Explanatory Memorandum says:

“The code has … been restructured to make it easier to read and understand”.

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I am not sure whether that applies to all the other codes. While that will no doubt help, have these codes of practice—which, as the Minister said, constitute guidance and reflect the amendments made to POCA—been drawn up with a view to increasing the amounts that should be collected, or property seized, under the 2002 Act, or is it not expected or intended that they will have any impact in this regard? This point may well have been discussed when the original legislation went through. Also, if such an impact is anticipated, what is it likely to be? I do not mean down to the last penny but in general terms.

There is a further Explanatory Memorandum relating to the fifth and last of these orders, which is also made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Again, it creates a revised code of practice providing guidance on the exercise of certain functions under POCA, which in this case came into operation on 30 November 2015. More specifically, that fifth order brings into operation a revised code of practice for prosecutors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which replaces earlier codes of practice. As far as I can see, this separate Explanatory Memorandum does not say that the revised code has been restructured to make it easier to read and understand, which is either bad news for prosecutors or means that they are people of exceptional ability who can understand any previous code. I will leave it at that.

Lord Browne of Belmont (DUP): My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive explanation of the orders. I strongly support the measures contained in the five orders which he has presented to the Committee today. I certainly do not wish to prolong the Committee’s deliberations unnecessarily, so I will not discuss the technical complexities of the legislation in detail. Overall, it appears that the new powers granted to the prosecuting authorities will be effective in ensuring that the law is enforced by removing, as far as possible, any possibility of evasion. At the same time, provision is made for the supervision of the operation of the new rules by the appropriate authorities. In Northern Ireland, for example, I am thinking of the role played by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

I particularly welcome the new rules concerning the search, seizure and detention of property in Northern Ireland, set out in the eighth item on the Order Paper. It is generally accepted that, unfortunately, the number of organised crime gangs operating in Northern Ireland has increased significantly in recent years. The law enforcement authorities must have the powers to ensure that activities such as money laundering, dealing in illicit fuel and smuggling cigarettes and drugs are no longer profitable enterprises. The new powers of search and seizure should go a long way to eliminate most of the ill-gotten gains from these activities.

I congratulate the National Crime Agency on its effectiveness in tackling serious and organised crime in Northern Ireland since it began operations with full powers on 20 May 2015. Between 1 April and 30 September 2015, the agency recorded 29 disruptions against organised crime groups and high-priority threats in Northern Ireland. It will be fully engaged in delivering the commitment outlined in A Fresh Start: the Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan.

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Does the Minister agree that in the light of the recent appalling gang-related murders in Dublin, it is essential that the law enforcement authorities in the Republic of Ireland agree to co-operate fully with those in Northern Ireland in taking all necessary steps to bring to an end the cross-border operations of criminal gangs? I fully support these orders and I believe that they will go a long way to thwart the activities of criminal gangs throughout the United Kingdom.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I am grateful for the comments from the Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, which reinforce the comments of Northern Ireland Members in the other place when these orders were scrutinised in Committee there. I agree with him that law enforcement agencies should co-ordinate cross-border; that applies not only to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland but further abroad as well, in the rest of Europe. As with so many other things, the world is getting a small place, and that includes organised crime so it is essential that effective co-operation takes place.

I am grateful for the support from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. He asks whether the orders are intended to increase revenue. We are talking about seizing the proceeds of crime, so obviously if the orders are more effective then we will increase revenue, though it is difficult to say exactly by how much.

The wider package of measures that we are commencing across the UK is mostly to do with ensuring that property is available to be recovered, and increasing the effectiveness of tools that are used to enforce the orders made by the courts. I will not go through all those orders and powers, but I think that there has been general support, not just today but previously when they were passed.

On numbers, I cannot predict what we anticipate because, after all, this is covering the proceeds of crime so it is difficult to estimate what crime is going to take place. However, I can say that in 2014-15 we recovered £199 million, which is the best ever total, and in addition denied criminals access to over £441 million in assets. Hopefully, these measures will improve that.

I think that covers most of the points, except for the noble Lord’s comments about the Attorney-General’s order. Obviously that was written by lawyers for lawyers, so perhaps I can leave it at that.

This has been a useful debate. As I say, I welcome the cross-party support. The effect of serious and organised crime can be felt in communities right across the country. The truth is that it can and does wreck the lives of ordinary people. The powers have been agreed and widely supported and these orders will bring all those codes of practice into effect, thus providing effective guidance safeguards as well as enabling the full commencement of the POCA amendments throughout the UK, as described in my opening speech. I ask noble Lords that these orders be agreed to, and I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC222

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cash Searches: Code of Practice) Order 2016

Motion to Consider

5.58 pm

Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That the Grand Committee do consider the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cash Searches: Code of Practice) Order 2016.

Relevant document: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Search, Seizure and Detention of Property: Code of Practice) (England and Wales) (No. 2) Order 2016

Motion to Consider

5.58 pm

Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That the Grand Committee do consider the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Search, Seizure and Detention of Property: Code of Practice) (England and Wales) (No. 2) Order 2016

Relevant document: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Search, Seizure and Detention of Property: Code of Practice) (Northern Ireland) Order 2016

Motion to Consider

5.58 pm

Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That the Grand Committee do consider the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Search, Seizure and Detention of Property: Code of Practice) (Northern Ireland) Order 2016.

Relevant document: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigative Powers of Prosecutors: Code of Practice) (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Order 2016

Motion to Consider

5.58 pm

Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That the Grand Committee do consider the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigative Powers of Prosecutors: Code of Practice) (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Order 2016.

Relevant document: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC223

Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun Freezing Order 2016

Motion to Consider

5.59 pm

Moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde

That the Grand Committee do consider the Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun Freezing Order 2016.

Relevant document: 16th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, before I start, I would like to make the Committee aware that some minor errors were made when the order was laid. These did not impact on the substance of the order and have now been corrected by way of a correction slip.

I am sure that noble Lords will already be aware of the Litvinenko inquiry, which published its findings on 21 January. This was the independent inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. I start by echoing the words of the Home Secretary in her Statement on that day in thanking Sir Robert Owen for his thorough inquiry and clear yet deeply disturbing conclusions. I am sure noble Lords will be aware of those conclusions but I shall reiterate them today as they are of relevance to the debate.

The key finding was that Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun using polonium-210, a radioactive isotope. The report also found that this operation was probably authorised by Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Federal Security Service at the time, and by President Putin. In response to these conclusions the Treasury laid an order to impose an asset freeze against Lugovoy and Kovtun, the two individuals directly implicated in Mr Litvinenko’s tragic death. I shall set out today why this was an appropriate and proportionate response.

Shortly following Mr Litvinenko’s death, the Metropolitan Police launched a murder investigation in relation to the case. Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun are the prime suspects and there are currently Interpol notices and European arrest warrants against them. While the Crown Prosecution Service has also sought extradition of the chief suspect, Mr Lugovoy, Russia has consistently refused to comply with this request. The Metropolitan Police investigation is still open and I pay tribute to it in extremely challenging circumstances.

In the light of Sir Robert Owen’s unequivocal finding that Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun killed Mr Litvinenko, the Government have taken the view that it is appropriate to take further steps. That is why the Home Secretary wrote to the independent Director of Public Prosecutions asking her to consider whether further action could be taken and why, following the inquiry’s report, the Treasury moved swiftly to impose an asset freeze on the two individuals responsible for Mr Litvinenko’s death. The Treasury took this action under a power contained in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Under the Act the Treasury’s powers include making a freezing order when a threat to the life of a UK national has been, or is likely to be, taken by non-UK residents. The Treasury was satisfied that the roles of Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun in Mr Litvinenko’s

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death clearly fulfilled these criteria. The order will be an effective deterrent and a signal that this Government will not tolerate such threats on British soil.

The asset freeze prohibits UK persons from making funds available to Lugovoy and Kovtun and denies them access to the UK financial system. In circumstances where it is necessary for frozen funds to be used, those wishing to do so must seek a licence from the Treasury.

I am sure the Committee agree that the ideal response to the killing of a British citizen on the streets of London is to bring those responsible to trial in a British court. Until this can be done, the asset freeze, together with the other measures the Government have already taken, sends a clear message that we will defend our national security and rule of law.

Some responded to the inquiry’s conclusions with calls for us to radically reform our relationship with Russia. However, as the Home Secretary set out, the findings of the report do not come as a surprise. Indeed, the roles of Lugovoy and Kovtun and the probable involvement of the Russian state are consistent with long -held assessments of successive Governments. These assessments informed the previous Government’s response in 2007, which included visa restrictions and expelling certain officials from the Russian embassy in London. The conclusions of the inquiry confirm that successive Governments have been right to keep those measures in force to date.

This is not business as usual with Russia. Our relationship with the Russian state is heavily conditioned. The Government have reinforced this message following the publication of the inquiry’s report. We have made very clear our profound concerns to the Russian Government in Moscow and we have summoned the Russian ambassador to the Foreign Office in London. We will continue to demand that the Russian Government do more to co-operate with the investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s death. This must include extraditing the main suspects, providing satisfactory answers and accounting for the role of their security services.

We are very clear about the wider threats posed by Russia, which the Government have outlined in the national security strategy. We have long been aware of Russia’s disregard for international norms and principles. That is why we led the call in the EU for sanctions in relation to Russia’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and why, when we engage with Russia on a variety of issues, including the fight against Daesh, we do so guardedly and with our eyes wide open. We are also clear, however, that it would be a mistake not to engage with Russia on these issues. None the less, we take very seriously the implications of the inquiry’s findings and we will continue to take the steps necessary to protect UK citizens and pursue justice.

I hope that I have assured noble Lords that the asset freeze imposed on Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun is an appropriate and proportionate response to their role in Mr Litvinenko’s death. The Government believe that, in addition to the steps taken in 2007, this order is a proportionate measure and is necessary to send a clear message to those who would wish to undertake similar acts in future. I therefore commend this order to the Committee and hope that noble Lords support the Motion to approve it.

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Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab): As the Minister has outlined, this instrument creates a freezing order that prohibits persons from making funds available to or for the benefit of Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun.

The Home Secretary stated her intention to pursue this course of action in response to the publication of the report by Sir Robert Owen into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The report, which was published last month, confirmed that Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun were responsible for the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, and that it was sanctioned by the Russian state at its highest level. It was an unparalleled act of state-sponsored terrorism and, as my honourable friend Andy Burnham, the shadow Home Secretary, made clear in the other place, we welcome the measures that the Home Secretary announced in response to the findings. We therefore fully support this order today.

The conclusions could not have been more clear or harrowing. While we fully back these regulations, as the Minister might expect I have a number of questions about the specifics of the regulations and how this order relates to what the Home Secretary said last month, particularly with regard to whether further asset freezing is being considered.

I have some specific questions about the order itself. Given the nature and necessity for these regulations to be produced as quickly as possible, it is completely reasonable that no consultation or impact assessment was carried out. However, I have questions about the process of the review that this instrument is required to go through in accordance with the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Paragraph 12.1 on page 3 of the Explanatory Notes states that the Treasury is obliged to keep the freezing order, and therefore the instrument, under review. What form will these reviews take, and how frequently will they take place? Will they be subject to parliamentary scrutiny? In relation to that, can the Minister go into more detail about whether this order is indefinite or subject to an expiry date? What conditions will it be subject to?

The regulations require that the Treasury gives notice to those whom these regulations are directed against. Is the Minister able to tell us whether either of the individuals in question have made representations to a member of the Government regarding this order?

On a technical point, paragraph 3.3 of the Explanatory Notes explains that, disregarding minor or consequential changes, the territorial application of this instrument includes Scotland and includes Northern Ireland. Will the Minister set out what these minor and consequential changes are and whether they will have implications for the policy outcome?

I turn to wider concerns and how they relate to this order. I note that the Home Secretary said in her Statement in the other place:

“I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions this morning asking her to consider whether any further action should be taken, in terms of both extradition and freezing criminal assets”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/1/16; col. 1570.]

This is of particular importance because, as Sir Robert’s report confirmed that no individual committed these crimes alone, there is a network of people who have known and facilitated this crime. We understand that

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC226

Mrs Litvinenko has also prepared a list of names to be submitted to the Government of people who have aided and abetted the perpetrators, against whom she believes sanctions should be taken. What further asset freezing is the Home Secretary considering and what legislation, secondary or otherwise, would be required? Are these asset freezes being considered for other named individuals besides Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun?

The Explanatory Notes mention the risks relating to asset flight. Has there been any suggestion of asset flight since the publication of Sir Robert’s report on 21 January, and noon 22 January, when this order retrospectively applies from?

Finally, we welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement that Interpol notices and European arrest warrants are in place. However, given that these two individuals are reported to be travelling, can the Minister say whether the Government are working with all EU, NATO and Commonwealth allies and asking for immediate co-operation not only on whether they are prepared to take similar action to that outlined this afternoon but also on extradition?

I appreciate that the Minister may have to consult his colleagues in the Home Office on some of these points so may not have all these answers to hand today. If this is the case, I would appreciate it if he would write to me. The far-reaching implications of the report’s findings cannot be overstated and clearly more work needs to be done to deliver justice, which may or may not include further asset freezing. I reiterate that we are committed to working with the Government to bring this about, and end by saying once again that the Opposition completely support this order.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his general support for this order. I will do my best to answer his questions. I am glad that he supports the order because I am not look forwarding to answering his questions when he does not do so.

As I set out in my opening remarks, the Government take the conclusions of this inquiry very seriously. While the inquiry’s finding of probable state-sponsorship of Mr Litvinenko’s death comes as no surprise, we are determined to demonstrate that we will take action to deter those who threaten our national security and the rule of law. National security is of great importance to us all, and any attempt to undermine it must be met with a carefully considered and proportionate response.

I turn to some of the questions that the noble Lord asked. To start with, he asked a very reasonable question about the Explanatory Memorandum stating that we have to keep the freezing order under review. Under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, the Treasury is required to keep under review whether the measure should be kept in force or amended. We will continue to monitor the information we have and will take any further action should the situation develop. However, the freezing order will lapse two years after it was made, as set out in Section 8 of the 2001 Act. We will continue to monitor the evidence, and if the order is still in force after two years, we will consider at that point whether it is necessary and proportionate to make a new order.

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6.15 pm

Schedule 3 to the Act states that the Treasury must provide reasons for designation if so requested by designated persons, and the noble Lord asked whether any of the individuals named have made representation to the Government. The Treasury published a notice online explaining the order and has sent this to subscribers to its financial sanctions updates, as it normally does, but the Government have not received any representations from Mr Lugovoy or Mr Kovtun, and have not notified them directly of their listing. However, the Russian Government have been made aware of the measures we have taken and our reasoning and, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, the Russian ambassador was summoned by the Government after the inquiry was produced.

The noble Lord asked a fairly technical question about,

“Disregarding minor or consequential changes, the territorial application of this instrument”.

The words in that paragraph of that Explanatory Memorandum—and I looked at the other ones I brought forward today, which all contained these words—are included to assist the Speaker in the other place in deciding whether to certify the legislation for English votes for English laws. No minor or consequential changes are envisaged here.

The noble Lord mentioned that these individuals are reported to be travelling, and asked whether we are working with the EU, NATO and Commonwealth allies to ensure that they would be arrested or extradited if they travelled. I can confirm, as I said before, that the Interpol red notices and European arrest warrants are in place in respect of Lugovoy and Kovtun and that international partners are aware of that. The Home Secretary has written to her counterparts in the EU, NATO and “Five Eyes” countries to draw their attention to the Litvinenko inquiry report and to encourage them to enforce these measures robustly so that the two people mentioned can be arrested and extradited. Our overseas missions have delivered the Home Secretary’s letter in person to underline this message.

The European arrest warrants are a sufficient basis for the two men to be arrested by police in an EU member state and face extradition proceedings to the

10 Feb 2016 : Column GC228

UK. As regards Interpol red notices, these alert countries that another country—in this case, the UK—seeks the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition. Therefore, in effect, if a suspect travels to another country, the existence of an Interpol alert would be flagged and UK law enforcement would be contacted. Just for interest, an Interpol red notice extends to all UN member states with some very limited exceptions, which include North Korea.

The noble Lord’s last question was on how this relates to the Home Secretary’s point in her Oral Statement that she has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions has not yet responded to the Home Secretary’s letter, but we understand that she is considering it and her response at present. If there are any more questions that I have not answered, I will of course look at Hansard and make sure that I do.

Lord Tunnicliffe: One question the noble Lord does not seem to have answered is whether other individuals implicated in the case are being considered for freezing orders. Perhaps his quite numerous team have the answer to that question between them.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: As the noble Lord may know, Mrs Litvinenko’s lawyers provided a list of people who she felt should have further action taken against them. Some are members of the Russian authorities who are already under sanctions relating to Crimea and activities in Ukraine. The rest of the list is being considered by the Home Secretary, but so far no action has been decided upon.

I believe that I have answered all the questions. We think that an order under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act is an appropriate way to send a clear message, and we believe that both of the tests required under the Act to make this order have clearly been met. I am grateful for the contributions from noble Lords, and I commend the order to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 6.20 pm.