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House of Commons

Tuesday 6 January 2015

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Deputy Prime Minister

The Deputy Prime Minister was asked—

Devolution of Power (Cities)

1. Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD): What steps he is taking to devolve power to Bradford and other cities and large metropolitan areas. [906783]

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Nick Clegg): The Government have agreed a city deal and growth deal with the Leeds city region, of which Bradford is, of course, a part. The result is new transport, housing and regeneration schemes, such as the One City park, which will directly benefit Bradford. The city deal has already ensured more than 600 new apprenticeships, and 69% of 16 and 17-year-olds involved in the devolved youth contract pilot have been supported into education, employment or training. We are also in active negotiations on a devolution deal to give the area more control over key policy levers, and we hope to make an announcement shortly.

Mr Ward: First, I wish the Deputy Prime Minister a very happy new year. I very much welcome his comments, but can we avoid having to have a metro mayor in the Yorkshire region? Will he reaffirm his belief that the greater devolution, which is very welcome, should not be at the cost of local people deciding the governance arrangements for the Yorkshire region?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I wish my hon. Friend, and Members on both sides of the House a happy new year. On the governance arrangements, clearly we need improved, strengthened governance when we give an area more power. As he rightly suggested, however, this should be a bottom-up process; there should not be a one-size-fits-all blueprint imposed from above. So it is not the Government’s policy to say that every area that has a new devolution deal has to subscribe to a particular form of new governance, be it metro mayor or otherwise. That needs to be driven by each local area, and I suspect that they will arrive at different proposals, according to their needs.

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab): Twenty-odd years ago, before I came to the House, I was the leader of Bradford city council. At that time, there was great budgetary flexibility and councillors had flexibility as to how they spent the money. That flexibility has now gone. Should we not be looking at merging some of these councils in order to cut the bureaucracy? We

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should keep the accountability but seek to merge some of the bureaucracy to improve the conditions for West Yorkshire.

The Deputy Prime Minister: I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that the more different local authorities can do things together to protect and improve front-line public services, the better. I do not entirely agree with his characterisation of the freedoms that local areas now have to use the moneys available to them. We have actually removed a lot of the ring fences that used to mean that Whitehall micro-managed the way money was spent locally, and we have also provided new borrowing powers. For example, tax increment financing is a major new financial innovation that local authorities can deploy.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I, too, wish the Deputy Prime Minister a happy new year. As he will know, Telford & Wrekin council represents a semi-rural area, yet a back-door deal is currently being done with Wolverhampton city council, which covers an urban area. Does he agree that there should be a full consultation with the people of Telford & Wrekin before any such merger? I represent a semi-rural borough, not an urban area.

The Deputy Prime Minister: As we have discussed on numerous occasions, the devolution process is not just an urban phenomenon. We need to make sure that power flows from Whitehall to all parts of the country, be they suburban, urban or rural. It is for each area to decide, when entering a new growth deal, how much they do so not just for cities or city centres, but for the outlying areas. Again, that is left to local discretion.

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): It is great to hear that the Deputy Prime Minister wants a bottom-up process for Bradford, but I wonder why he did not extend the same courtesy to the people of Greater Manchester. We now have an imposed mayor, appointed for several years before anyone gets a say at all. Will the Deputy Prime Minister give me a cast-iron guarantee that this imposed, appointed mayor will last no longer than 2017, which was the date mooted when this cosy backroom deal was announced? How long must my constituents be denied a voice?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I suggest that the hon. Lady speak to the leaders of all the councils in the area, including all the Labour leaders, as my understanding is that they advocated this—

Lisa Nandy: What about the people?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Well, it is not my problem if local Labour council leaders have not consulted people locally—they made this decision. As she will know, shortly afterwards, on the other side of the Pennines, we entered into a very ambitious deal devolving new powers to Sheffield, without following the metro mayor model entered into by council leaders in her area.

Political and Constitutional Reform

2. Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): What steps he is taking to ensure that the residents of Birmingham benefit from the Government's political and constitutional reform proposals. [906784]

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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): A happy new year to you Mr Speaker and to colleagues.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have led the negotiations for a city deal and a local growth deal with Birmingham. The city deal has already delivered almost 3,000 apprenticeships in the city and established the Institute of Translational Medicine, which opens in the summer. The growth deal invests a third of a billion pounds in road, rail and metro improvements, including links from the black country to the new HS2 station, as well as investing in skills and industrial facilities.

Jack Dromey: England cannot succeed through London and the south-east alone. A new devolution settlement is essential. The Minister will know that Birmingham and the west midlands are ambitious to make progress, but does he understand the sense of disappointment that progress thus far has not been what was hoped for and, crucially, that, at the very moment we are talking about greater control over our finances, the Government are cutting in excess of half a billion pounds—the biggest cuts in local government history—from Birmingham city council?

Greg Clark: The leader of Birmingham city council warmly welcomed the growth deal and said that it was a great step forward for Birmingham. The city deals have been welcomed by leaders across the political spectrum and across the country as far more ambitious than anything that has been done for decades. Of course every council across the country needs to make savings. I understand from what the Opposition were saying yesterday that they would go further than that. The hon. Gentleman should be clear that Birmingham is on the rise. The economic prospects and the performance of Birmingham have turned around. In the previous Parliament, the number of net private sector jobs contracted; it is now increasing in Birmingham. That is good news.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. By the content of his answer, the Minister has opened matters a bit beyond Birmingham and we might even stretch to Wiltshire. I call James Gray.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the political and constitutional reforms that would most benefit the people of Birmingham, as well as the people in North Wiltshire and elsewhere in England, would be the early introduction of English votes on English matters?

Greg Clark: I do agree with my hon. Friend. It is right that we correct an anomaly. That should happen as well as the devolution of power within England, which this Government have been pioneering.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): The Political and Constitutional Committee has just issued a report on voter registration. Some 56% of young people in Birmingham are not on the electoral register, and only 44% actually vote. What more can the Deputy Prime Minister do to get those young people on the register in Birmingham and voting?

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Greg Clark: The hon. Gentleman knows this area; we have debated it before. It is incumbent on all of us to encourage people to vote. Now that we have individual electoral registration, it is easier than ever before for young people to register; they just need to go to the website. Over the next few months, we need to encourage all citizens, especially young people, to exercise that right.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): We are talking about devolving power to local people, but money is power. When my constituents find out that the central Government block grant for Birmingham is £640 per person when a combined grant for Leicestershire is £240 per person, the reform they will call for is fairer funding for rural areas.

Greg Clark: Right across the country, we take the view that local people can be the best judges of how they spend the money. It should not be decided in Whitehall. Whether the money is spent in rural areas or in cities, we are pioneering a programme of getting money out of Whitehall and into the hands of local people.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): The best way to make constitutional change is for it to be led by the people and not by politicians. There is now wide support for a people-led constitutional convention. I know that the Deputy Prime Minister agrees with that. When will the Conservatives join the growing consent for such a convention?

Greg Clark: The difference between this Government and the previous one is that we have got on with devolution whereas they just talked about it. The Labour leader of Greater Manchester said that this Government have achieved more in their four years in office than the previous Government did in 13 years, so this should not be kicked into the long grass; we should continue with the programme on which we have embarked.

Local Growth Deals (Lancashire)

3. Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): What discussions he has had with Lancashire local enterprise partnership on the second phase of local growth deals. [906785]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): The Lancashire growth deal agreed in July transferred £230 million from central Government to investments in Lancashire. I have met the chairman of the Lancashire local enterprise partnership to underline the importance of encouraging growth in every part of Lancashire in the next round of growth deals, which are being negotiated at the moment.

Andrew Stephenson: The second phase of local growth deals proposed by Lancashire local enterprise partnership includes a scheme to regenerate the largest redundant mill complex in the county, Brierfield Mill. That scheme is in my constituency and I have raised and discussed it in detail with the Minister. Although I appreciate that he will be receiving many invitations from colleagues across the House to visit their constituencies, may I encourage him to visit Brierfield Mill at the earliest opportunity to see the exciting plans we have?

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Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is right that he has raised this with me before and I am keen to see the scheme that he paints in such glowing terms, so if he is free to see me a week on Friday I will come up to his constituency and view the mill. I am confident that it will be as attractive as the picture he paints of it.

Regional Growth Fund

4. Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effect on economic growth on the regional growth fund. [906786]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): The regional growth fund has already helped create or safeguard more than 100,000 jobs across the country and more still in the supply chain and it is contributing to the 1.75 million more people in work since 2010. I will shortly announce the outcome of round 6 of the regional growth fund, with £200 million available for investment in further job creation.

Neil Carmichael: Does my right hon. Friend agree that to underpin that work, things such as GREEN at Berkeley—the Gloucestershire renewable energy, engineering and nuclear project—in which the Government have invested to improve training in engineering, energy and renewable energy, are exactly the way to ensure that we have jobs that are lasting, sustainable and productive?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we want high-quality jobs to be sustained in the future, we need to invest in skills. That is why the Gloucestershire growth deal will see substantial investment in training in such skills at the former Berkeley power station. I know that he has been a big champion of that.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May I wish you a happy new year, Mr Speaker, and the Deputy Prime Minister a happyish new year—[Interruption.] A little humour, Mr Speaker. May I push the Minister on regional growth funds? The fact is that none of us will turn down help from the regional growth funds and my own constituency has some, but, at the same time, we have a totally demoralised democratic local government in this country that is desperately short of funds and desperately unable to meet the needs of local people. Is it not about time we had democratic, well-resourced local government in this country?

Greg Clark: The news from the shadow Chancellor will not be welcome in the hon. Gentleman’s patch, as the shadow Chancellor has said that there will be more cuts for local government. He might want him to explain that. The leaders of the councils in Leeds warmly welcomed the growth deal concluded in July, which establishes a £1 billion transport fund for west Yorkshire that will benefit the hon. Gentleman’s constituents as well as others across west Yorkshire. That was warmly welcomed by leaders across the region, so I think that he should talk to them.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Surely the best way to achieve regional growth and to help areas such as the north of England is for good neighbours in Scotland to have full fiscal autonomy to counterbalance what the Minister’s colleague from

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Twickenham, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, called the great suction machine pulling life from the economy of other parts of these islands. Why is it Government policy to maintain a system that protects London at the expense of other areas?

Greg Clark: That is complete nonsense. The record of job creation over the course of this Parliament shows that the vast majority of jobs have been created outside London. One thing we negotiated was a city deal with the city of Glasgow that was well received in that great city.

Local Growth Deals

5. Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): What progress he has made on implementing local growth deals. [906787]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): Funding for the local growth deals begins in April this year, but strong progress is being made in implementing the deals even in advance of this. In Gloucestershire the growth hub, which gives advice and support to small businesses, opened at the university of Gloucestershire in October and is already being well used by local businesses.

Richard Graham: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the university of Gloucestershire’s growth hub in the city of Gloucester is making real progress already. May I invite my right hon. Friend to visit it and, while he is there, to take the opportunity to see our exciting plans for the regeneration of Blackfriars in the city centre, which are a key feature of our LEP’s next bid?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) was right to predict a spate of invitations. Of course I will come and visit the new growth hub in Gloucester in the company of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham).

14. [906796] Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): I thank the Minister for the Medway growth deal, which is providing over £30 million to the local area. At the heart of the growth is the development of skilled people. Will he join me in welcoming South East LEP’s new skills capital fund, which is using £22 million for the further education sector to help provide the skills our businesses need to grow?

Greg Clark: I will indeed. The Medway towns have benefited substantially from the growth deal, which is investing in the skills that are required if the jobs of the future are to be well paid and offer the satisfying careers that people want locally.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister to Wiltshire last month for the formal signing of the Wiltshire and Swindon local growth deal. Funding in that deal for the redevelopment of Chippenham railway station could also be of great benefit to Corsham if it enabled the reopening of a platform for local train services. Does the Minister recognise that the benefit would be much wider than to Chippenham alone?

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Greg Clark: The benefits of growth deals go beyond their particular location and help improve the economic prospects of the whole area. The hon. Gentleman is fortunate in Wiltshire in having the rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), as an important advocate for such schemes. The important point is that they are bottom-up and they are proposed by local people.

Devolution of Power (Cities)

6. Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): What steps he is taking to devolve power to cities and metropolitan areas. [906788]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): Cities and their surrounding counties and districts prosper together, which is why I am delighted that the Plymouth city deal, signed last year, also includes businesses and councils in Devon and Cornwall. By opening up South Yard in Devonport to create a commercial marine engineering centre, high-quality jobs will be created not only in Plymouth, but across the south-west.

Oliver Colvile: I thank my right hon. Friend for coming down to Plymouth to sign our city deal this time last year. Plans for a maritime industrial campus are at a good stage, and we would very much welcome his coming down to have a look at them. To give an extra boost to that city deal proposal, I urge him also to speak with the Treasury about ensuring that we have an enterprise zone in that part of the dockyard.

Greg Clark: I am keen to see South Yard be a success—I am certain that it will be. Many of the advantages of an enterprise zone are already available to councils, through simplified planning rules and discounts on business rates, but I will of course study my hon. Friend’s proposal in detail.

David Wright (Telford) (Lab): It is quite obvious how to devolve more powers to large metropolitan areas, but how do we deal with towns, such as Telford, that sit outside large metropolitan areas? Would it not be better to throw the issues about broader devolution right across England into a constitutional convention?

Greg Clark: It would not, because that would delay the progress we have made. With regard to the hon. Gentleman’s part of the world, if we go to local people and ask them to work together with their neighbours, right across the country we are seeing that they are able and willing to do precisely that. All the deals that have been struck have been proposed locally and are having a big impact on local economies, including in Telford.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Given that the voters of Bury, when asked in a referendum, made it quite clear that they were against the idea of having an elected mayor, and given that across Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities there are already 645 elected councillors, if 645 elected councillors cannot solve the problems of Greater Manchester, what makes my right hon. Friend think that 646 elected officials will make any difference?

Greg Clark: The proposal was agreed unanimously by all the councils in Greater Manchester. It is important to be clear that the mayor is taking powers that were previously exercised from Whitehall, so this is not about

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taking powers away from any of those authorities; it is about transferring to a successful city—that is what Greater Manchester indubitably is—the ability to advance its prospects even further.

Electoral Roll

7. Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the completeness of the electoral roll. [906789]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Sam Gyimah): Research by the Electoral Commission on the completeness and accuracy of the register shows that the decline in registration levels between 2000 and 2010 has stabilised since 2011. The Government take seriously the need to have a complete and accurate register, are making electoral registration more accessible through online registration and have invested £4.2 million, shared between every local authority and five national organisations, to get those in harder-to-reach groups on the register.

Graeme Morrice: Can the Minister tell the House how many fewer voters there were on the electoral register for England and Wales in December 2014, compared with the previous year, and whether he is alarmed at the reduction?

Mr Gyimah: The full December register has not been published yet so it is impossible to tell the state of the register as at December. As the hon. Gentleman knows, individual electoral registration is a two-year project. We are mid-way through it and it is proving very successful. Nine out of 10 electors were transferred to the electoral register, and online registration is proving very successful. [Official Report, 21 January 2015, Vol. 591, c. 1-2MC.]

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Many thousands of east Europeans have chosen to come to live and work in this country. The register published in my constituency shows some 3,000 east Europeans who are not qualified to vote, yet some 4,000 people with similar names are shown as eligible to vote in the general election. Will my hon. Friend order an urgent review of this to make sure that only those who are eligible to vote can do so at the election?

Mr Gyimah: Individual electoral registration is about the completeness and accuracy of the register so that only those who are eligible to vote are on the register. If there is a specific problem in my hon. Friend’s local authority and local area and if he writes to me about it, I will look into it.

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Even before the move to individual electoral registration, 7.5 million eligible voters were not on the register. As a result of the move, there is a risk of a further 5 million people falling off the register. Many accuse the Electoral Commission of being ineffective. Remarkably, the Electoral Commission has said that as long as the electoral register does not deteriorate further, this is a measure of success. Does the Minister agree that the Electoral Commission has not been ambitious enough?

Mr Gyimah: I cannot speak for the Electoral Commission, but as the right hon. Gentleman knows, individual electoral registration is the biggest modernisation of our electoral system for more than 100 years. He

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also knows that nobody who was on the register in January 2014 will not be on the register come the 2015 election, so there is no risk there. Finally, the £4.2 million that the Government have invested in ensuring that we reach under-represented groups is well targeted. Authorities that have more under-represented groups received more money. We have learned the lessons from Northern Ireland, which went through the same process, and have safeguarded the existing system.

Topical Questions

T1. [906808] Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Nick Clegg): As Deputy Prime Minister, I support the Prime Minister on a full range of Government policy initiatives—[Laughter.] I do not understand the hilarity. Within Government I take special responsibility for this Government’s programme of political and constitutional reform.

Ian Murray: The Deputy Prime Minister says that he supports the Prime Minister on a full range of Government policy; I should think that as the Deputy Prime Minister he supports the Prime Minister on the whole range of Government policy. The Government have been incredibly complacent about the role of individual voter registration. I have over 10,000 students in my constituency, many thousands of whom are not registered. What is the Deputy Prime Minister going to do about that? How is he going to spend the £10 million emergency fund? Is it not a recognition that this is a huge problem across the country and should be dealt with?

Mr Speaker: Order. I remind Members that topical questions are supposed to be shorter.

The Deputy Prime Minister: The new system is supported on all sides of the House. It was originally planned by the previous Government to move to a system of individual voter registration, so that we move beyond the paternalism which assumed that the head of a household would always register the people in that household. The new system gives everybody the individual right to decide for themselves how and when they want to be registered. As the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), just explained, we are providing resources and are considering providing more resources to local authorities in those areas where certain groups are at present under-registered.

T5. [906812] Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): Across the world hundreds of thousands of Christians are being perniciously persecuted for their faith, beaten with nail-studded wooden clubs in Sri Lanka, abducted and killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, burned to death, forcibly married and on death row in Pakistan, and children are chopped in half or sold into slavery by IS in Iraq. We know of this in this House, and of much more. What are the Government doing about it? Is it not time for this country to appoint a global ambassador for religious freedom?

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The Deputy Prime Minister: I am sure everybody is shocked not only by the news but by the litany of abuse, persecution and violence that is inflicted on Christians and all religious denominations that are persecuted minorities around the world. The Government, through bilateral engagement and working with partners in international organisations, funding projects, and providing religious literacy training for Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, do a lot to counter this. There is also, as the hon. Lady will know, an active advisory group on international freedom of religion or belief, which we strongly support. The question whether we should go further—of course, we should always keep an open mind on this—and create an envoy or an ambassador on religious freedom is not quite as straightforward as she implies. Other countries that have taken that step have found that those ambassadors and envoys are excluded from visiting certain countries. That is why the best course of action at present is for each of the Foreign Office Ministers to retain the responsibility for promoting freedom of religion and belief in the areas of the world which they cover.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister said that it was the Liberal Democrats who put the heart into this Tory-led Government. Can he tell us where is the heart in the bedroom tax, where is the heart in making low-income people worse off, and where is the heart in giving tax cuts to millionaires while more people go to food banks? If there is a heart in this Government, it is a heart of stone.

The Deputy Prime Minister: At the election, there were 600,000 more people in relative poverty than there are now. There were 300,000 more children in relative poverty, 200,000 more pensioners in relative—[Interruption.] I know that Labour Members do not what to hear this, but the right hon. and learned Lady seems to think that we lived in a world of milk and honey before 2010 and that all the problems in the world were created by this coalition Government. Manufacturing declined three times faster under her party’s Government than it did under Margaret Thatcher. Inequality is now lower than at any point since 1986. We are a Government who have sorted out her mess, and done so fairly.

Ms Harman: Once again, the Deputy Prime Minister has shown that he will say anything to defend the Government and that he is completely out of touch. The reality is that without the Liberal Democrats, there would be no VAT hike, no trebling of tuition fees and no dismantling of the NHS. No one is fooled by the Lib Dems’ attempts outside this House to distance themselves from the Tories. The public know that this Government have not got a heart, and the right hon. Gentleman is making a mistake if he thinks the public have not got a brain and do not realise this. That is why no one will trust the Lib Dems again.

The Deputy Prime Minister: I will tell you what I think is heartless and incompetent: going on a prawn cocktail charm offensive to the City of London in the run-up to the last election and allowing the banks to get away with blue murder. The banks blew up on the right hon. and learned Lady’s watch because they did not

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heed our warnings that they were getting up to irresponsible lending practices. I will tell you what is heartless: crashing the British economy and costing every household in this country £3,000. I will tell you what is heartless: giving tax cuts to very, very wealthy folk in the City and making their cleaners pay higher taxes through income tax. Come next April, we will have taken over 3 million people on low pay out of income tax—the majority of them women. That is fair; and it is something we did that she did not.

T14. [906821] Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): In his speech yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister appeared to revive the spirit of “The Wizard of Oz” when he claimed that Lib Dems would put heart into the Conservatives and spine into Labour. As Deputy Prime Minister, does he see his role as Dorothy, in a dream world on the yellow brick road, the Wizard, who turns out to be all smoke and mirrors, or the Scarecrow, who needs a brain?

The Deputy Prime Minister: A well prepared and much—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. Whether the question is well prepared or not is not for the Chair to decide; what the Chair does want is to hear the answer.

The Deputy Prime Minister: A well prepared and obviously much rehearsed question. My view, as the hon. Gentleman’s party hares off to the right and the Labour party hares off to the left, is that the majority of the British people want us to stick to the course of fixing the economy but doing so in a spirit of fairness and compassion. That is why my party, unlike the other two, will remain firmly camped on the centre ground.

T2. [906809] Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): A high-skill, high-wage economy needs more of our young people going into apprenticeships, so will the Deputy Prime Minister explain how last year 6,000 fewer young people started an apprenticeship than the year before? Is not this simply a Government who have betrayed the promise of Britain’s young people?

The Deputy Prime Minister: That is an absolutely ludicrous assertion. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary has presided over the biggest expansion of apprenticeships in this country since the second world war. We have seen 2 million new apprenticeship starts under this Government—a far, far higher rate of apprenticeship starts than ever occurred under 13 years of the Labour Government.

T15. [906822] Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Despite the fact that London is the powerhouse of the economy and continues to subsidise the rest of the United Kingdom, there are still pockets of deprivation. What powers will my right hon. Friend propose be devolved to the Mayor of London and to London’s local authorities to combat those areas of deprivation?

The Deputy Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman may know, the growth deal for London had a particular focus on giving greater flexibility and freedom to decision makers in London to address the skills gaps not only in

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the economy as a whole but in London in particular. As he rightly alluded to, there are of course pockets of real deprivation in our capital city, but there are also pockets of folk, both young and old, who simply do not have the skills needed to get themselves back into the labour market.

Mr Speaker: Mr Ian Davidson. Not here.

T4. [906811] Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): From Lincolnshire to London, chief constables are expressing mounting concern over the Government’s proposed cuts to policing leading to neighbourhood policing being hollowed out, response times getting longer, victims being let down and, crucially, public safety being put at risk. Are they right?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Of course, the police have had to absorb 20% reductions in their budget and it is extraordinary—we should all pay tribute to police forces up and down the country for this—that they have none the less equally presided over a decline in crime rates to historically very low levels indeed. I am extremely confused this morning—[Interruption.] Let me explain, and the confusion will then be on the other side of the House, not on this side. The Labour party has vilified the coalition Government, day in, day out, for taking difficult decisions to balance the books, but I read this morning that it would actually inflict more cuts on local government and would not relieve the public sector pay restraint on millions of people in the public sector. I would be interested to know what Labour’s solution really is. It criticises us for things it now apparently wants to do itself.

Mr Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): Will the Deputy Prime Minister take this opportunity to acknowledge that one of the singular successes of the Scottish referendum campaign was the engagement of new first-time voters from the age of 16 and above? Given the imminent general election, will he encourage local authorities throughout the United Kingdom to build on that groundswell of young people’s engagement with politics—I cannot believe, and I am sure my right hon. Friend does not, that what happened in Scotland is not a reflection of the level of potential interest that exists throughout the rest of the UK as well—with a view to building, perhaps in a future Parliament, what Holyrood is likely to do for next year’s Scottish elections and extending the franchise for House of Commons and all levels of parliamentary elections in the future?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend. I hope that those who doubt the wisdom of moving towards extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds—there are, of course, some in this House who still doubt it—will look carefully at the experience of the Scottish referendum, which mobilised huge public participation not only across all communities and age groups, but, perhaps most especially, among 16 and 17-year-olds. I think that any doubts anyone might have had about the wisdom of extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds should be dispelled by that experience. I, like my right hon. Friend, look forward to a time when we have genuine cross-party consensus about giving all 16 and 17-year-olds across the United Kingdom the right to vote.

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T6. [906813] Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): This summer, one or two former Ministers may seek gainful employment in the corporate sector. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments is effective at ensuring that big corporate interests are not able to buy inside influence improperly?

The Deputy Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman will know, the point of the advisory council is precisely to ensure that improper influence is not secured by the employment of those who have recently held ministerial office. Of course, the rigour with which the advisory council operates should always be kept under review, and if the hon. Gentleman has suggestions about how we can make it more rigorous I am very keen to hear from him.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Further to the earlier exchange on Bradford, may I urge the Deputy Prime Minister not to devolve more powers to Bradford council, which has consistently shown that it does not care about Shipley in its district, but only about its central Bradford heartland? My constituents feel that decision making in Bradford is just as distant, if not more so, than decision making in Whitehall. May I urge him instead to allow my constituents in Shipley and Keighley the opportunity of a referendum to decide whether they want to break away from Bradford and form their own unitary authority, which would be the same size as Calderdale council and allow some genuine local decision making?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I do not want to comment on the prospects of Shipley splitism and separatism, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s sense of grievance about where decisions are taken—in Bradford or Shipley—will not dim his enthusiasm for something that this coalition Government have pioneered, which is the devolution of power from Whitehall to all parts of the country. I hope that these local difficulties can be resolved, such that we can devolve more power to all areas of the country.

T7. [906814] Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): It has been reported in The Guardian, so it must be true, that the Deputy Prime Minister is spending at least two days a week in his constituency because he fears losing his seat to Labour’s Oliver Coppard. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the role of Deputy Prime Minister is now part time; and if it is, will he give up half his salary?

The Deputy Prime Minister: It is a novel concept for the hon. Gentleman to seek to criticise me for doing the work that I have done with great pleasure and relish for the past 10 years, which is to be a dutiful constituency MP, as well as a party leader and Deputy Prime Minister. I make no apologies for the fact that week in, week out I attend—as I hope the hon. Gentleman does—to constituency duties as a constituency MP.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): May I wish the Deputy Prime Minister a happy new year? I have made a resolution not to be nasty to the Liberal Democrats. [Interruption.] No, I am not going to break it. He has

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been very courageous. He has been a courageous leader of the Liberal Democrats. He has socked it to the Labour party at the Dispatch Box today. He is supporting the Prime Minister. He is even sounding like a Tory. Has he thought of joining us?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I could give the hon. Gentleman so many reasons why I would never join him. Without in any way seeking to breach the festive spirit, I would say that he stands as a constant reminder of why I would never join his party.

T8. [906815] Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): With people falling off the electoral register—potentially 12 million by the next election—does the Deputy Prime Minister support our plans to trial online voting and to look at holding elections at weekends?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Of course we should have an ongoing debate about how we can make voting easier, bring it more up to date and make sure that the whole experience of participating in elections is a 21st-century experience and not a 19th-century one. Debates on those kinds of proposals should continue, but they should not be to the exclusion of making sure that we introduce individual voter registration successfully. That is the reason we are making particular efforts, not least by giving substantial support to local authorities in parts of the country with the highest numbers of unregistered voters so that they can go out and get them on the register.

Mr Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire) (Con): Happy new year to you, Mr Speaker, and to the Deputy Prime Minister. Will he clarify what he said to me at his last Question Time? He said that the failure to support the Boundary Commission’s changes was linked in some way to House of Lords reform. I have gone back and studied the coalition agreement, and it is quite clear that there was no such linkage whatsoever; it was linked to the alternative vote referendum. Will he put the record straight, and explain why he introduced a measure in 2010 and then voted against it in 2013? Was it purely for party political advantage?

The Deputy Prime Minister: As the right hon. Gentleman will have seen from looking at his well-thumbed copy of the coalition agreement, the section on constitutional and political reform floated a package of measures, including House of Lords reform, boundary reform and party funding reform. Unfortunately, on a number of those crucial items—for instance, on party funding reform and House of Lords reform—his party decided not to see through those reforms. I just think that most people accept that constitutional reform is best done, first, on a cross-party basis and, secondly, not on a piecemeal basis. That is why I think it was right, when it became obvious that there was no longer cross-party consensus in favour of ambitious constitutional reform, that the deal was off.

T9. [906816] Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): The Deputy Prime Minister accepted over £30,000 in donations from Autofil in Nottinghamshire, which is transferring 160 British jobs to Bulgaria. If those jobs were in Sheffield, would he still be taking the money?

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The Deputy Prime Minister: As I said in response to an earlier question, it is of course for a private company to decide how it makes its own arrangements. I certainly make no apologies for the transparent way in which I and colleagues in my party receive donations—a lot more transparently and a lot less in hock to vested interests than the huge dollops of subsidy that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues receive from the trade unions.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): From suicide crisis to life-threatening eating disorders, too many of my constituents with mental health problems find it difficult to get timely help. What can the Government do to ensure, in a supportive way, that the NHS treats mental health as seriously as physical health?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend, and for a long time one great injustice has been that mental health services have been treated like a sort of Cinderella service in the NHS. We are finally starting to right that wrong by putting mental health on the same legal footing as physical health in the NHS, and next year we will introduce new access and waiting standards for mental health, as have existed for physical health for a long time. I hope that my hon. Friend knows that a few weeks ago I announced a complete overhaul of the way in which eating disorders—particularly those suffered by youngsters—are dealt with, so that that is done more properly than in the past.

T11. [906818] Dame Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): Given that the Deputy Prime Minister and his Lib Dem Ministers are rowing back from coalition policies at Olympic speeds, why are they still carrying red ministerial boxes and taking ministerial salaries in a Government whom they are so antagonistic towards?

The Deputy Prime Minister: First, I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her honour—I am sure I do so on behalf of the whole House. I hope she will understand a rather simple distinction between our pride in the things that we have done in this coalition Government—taking people out of tax, expanding apprenticeships on a scale never done before, giving healthy meals at lunchtime to children, providing two, three and four-year-olds with more child care and pre-school support than ever before, and revolutionising our pension system so that the state pension is provided at a decent rate—and the disagreements about the future that of course political parties have, whether in coalition or not. I disagree with the Labour party’s mañana, mañana approach to never really dealing with the deficit, and with the Conservative party’s approach of carrying on with cuts even after the deficit has been dealt with. That is a perfectly reasonable disagreement about the future that we will all argue about over the next four or five months.


The Attorney-General was asked—

Domestic Violence

1. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): What recent steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to ensure that prosecutors are able more effectively to prosecute cases of domestic violence. [906833]

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The Solicitor-General (Mr Robert Buckland): New guidance on handling cases of domestic abuse was announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions on 29 December last year, and that will help the CPS to deal effectively with a projected 20,000 more cases this year than two years ago. The updated guidance sets out the handling of all aspects of domestic abuse offending, including the many ways that abusers can control, coerce and psychologically abuse their victims. The new proposed offence of coercive and controlling behaviour announced by the Home Secretary will be introduced in the Serious Crime Bill.

Tim Loughton: I congratulate the Solicitor-General on the progress made so far, but a recent study showed that families experiencing domestic violence are 23 times more likely to abuse their children under the age of five. Does he acknowledge that children, who are more often than not the victims, often inherit those domestic violence traits themselves, and what is he doing to protect children from domestic violence abusers as early as possible?

The Solicitor-General: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s continuing work in this field, both when he was a Minister and as a Member of Parliament. The CPS guidelines are clear that the presence of children must be treated as an aggravating factor when deciding whether or not to prosecute. Often, criminal justice procedures are difficult for children and young people, who feel that they have to take sides, and special measures are available if they have to give evidence. I will do everything I can to ensure that children are protected within the criminal justice system.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): Last spring in my constituency two women were brutally murdered by their partners within a three-week period, one alongside her toddler daughter. In both cases, families, friends and others in the community were aware that abuse was taking place. Is the Solicitor-General content that evidence gathered by the police from others outside the direct situation is being used effectively and passed to the CPS to aid in prosecutions?

The Solicitor-General: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I cannot comment on those specific cases, but she makes an important point about collaboration among agencies, whether social services or other arms of local government. The CPS and the police are clear that there needs to be even better collaborative working to ensure that tell-tale signs are not missed before it is too late.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I welcome the announcement of a new measure on domestic abuse by coercive and controlling behaviour. Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm whether this important proposed legislation, which could have had a real impact on the life of Hollie Gazzard, who was brutally murdered in Gloucester not long ago, will be complete before this Parliament comes to an end?

The Solicitor-General: My hon. Friend raises a tragic case. The Government have such cases very much in mind when making sure that the full course of domestic violence conduct is reflected by the criminal law. The Serious Crime Bill will be in Committee next week, and

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is the platform on which these important reforms will be introduced. I very much hope that Royal Assent will be achieved before the Dissolution of Parliament.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): Recent press reports have suggested that cuts to legal aid have been putting victims of domestic violence at a disadvantage, and even deterring them from pursuing their cases at law. Will the Attorney-General be making representations to the Justice Secretary on this serious matter?

The Solicitor-General: My particular concern is the prosecution of cases involving domestic abuse. I am happy to say that numbers continue to rise, both in terms of the proportion of conviction rates and the absolute number of police referrals. In fact, we have now reached the highest number of police referrals ever recorded.

Social Media

2. Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): What steps he is taking to develop a greater level of public understanding of the legal framework applicable to social media. [906834]

The Attorney-General (Jeremy Wright): Where appropriate, I publish online warnings about potential prejudicial reporting that had previously only been given to the mainstream media. We also send tweets warning social media users of the risks of being in contempt of court. I intend to look again at whether there is anything more that can be done to raise awareness in this area. In addition, the Crown Prosecution Service publishes online its guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media. These set out the approach that prosecutors should take when deciding whether to prosecute.

Mr Jones: The inappropriate use of social media can cause immense harm to innocent people; there was a case just before Christmas of a young man who was driven to suicide by the actions of online bullies. What actions can my right hon. and learned Friend take to ensure that people understand that their unlawful conduct online is subject to precisely the same sanctions as such conduct offline?

The Attorney-General: I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend’s point. It is important for everyone to understand that if they engage in behaviour online and on social media that would be punished under criminal law in other circumstances, it will be punished under criminal law. As I said, the CPS is making an effort to publish its guidelines on a number of matters. This is one of them and there was a public consultation prior to it. We all need to play our part to ensure that people understand the law in this area.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Does the Attorney-General share my concern about the increase in Islamophobia and racism on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the inability of site owners to take the postings down? Will he have a meeting with the companies concerned to urge them to take down these postings, rather than face prosecution?

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The Attorney-General: I do share that concern, and I am very happy to meet social media providers and others to discuss what more we can do. As the right hon. Gentleman says—I am sure the House generally agrees—it is important that everyone understands that social media is not a space where one can act with impunity. Social media providers, and all those who use social media, need to understand clearly that criminal law applies.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): What steps can be taken to ensure that the judiciary, as well as members of the public, understand that at the commencement of trials it is absolutely imperative that no proceedings are communicated via social media, particularly in relation to very high profile legal proceedings?

The Attorney-General: The hon. Gentleman is right. In all cases, the judiciary need to give clear directions that social media is to be used cautiously and, for jurors, not to be used at all. It is important for jurors to understand that, which is why we have put in statute offences that jurors may commit if they use social media to communicate what they are doing, or in other ways behave inappropriately and not in accordance with their oath. We will always look at ways to explain that more clearly to all who are involved in court proceedings.

Assault against Prison Officers

3. Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to ensure that assaults against prison officers are more effectively prosecuted. [906835]

The Attorney-General (Jeremy Wright): I believe very strongly that assaults on prison officers should be taken seriously and dealt with robustly by prosecutors. The CPS is currently working with the police and the National Offender Management Service to develop a national joint protocol on crimes in prisons, focusing on offences against prison officers. This is something I helped to instigate as prisons Minister and I am very pleased to see it happening. The CPS legal guidance on prison offences also outlines that if the victim is a prison officer performing his or her duty, the public interest is heavily in favour of prosecution.

Chris Heaton-Harris: I thank the Attorney-General for his answer. As he knows, my constituency contains two prisons and a secure training centre, so I would like to be sure that a prison officer who is the victim of assault would be entitled to exactly the same service as other victims outside prisons.

The Attorney-General: Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The custodial institutions he refers to are on the boundary between his constituency and mine—I know them well—and like me he represents people who work in the prison system. They are entitled to protection; in particular, they can make a victim impact statement, as can other victims of crime. In addition, it is possible—and I would encourage the use of these—for a prison community impact statement to

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be made. Prisons are unique communities and can be affected substantially by criminal offences, so it is important that sentencers take that into account when sentencing.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): We know that with the shortage of prison officers the number of assaults on individual officers has increased. Has the number of prosecutions for those assaults also increased?

The Attorney-General: The hon. Lady will understand that I cannot comment on particular prosecution decisions, but she will know that in my last job and this one I have made my views plain: I think it is important that where there is evidence Crown prosecutors prosecute in cases where prison officers are assaulted. Such assaults should never happen, of course, but we have tightened the protocols to make it clear that where they do so and evidence is present Crown prosecutors should proceed against those who assault prison officers, because those who work in our prison system are entitled to the full support of the law in what they do.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Given the increasing incidence of violence in prisons, I welcome the personal interest that the Attorney-General has taken in the issue and his determination that prosecution will follow assaults on prison officers. Does he agree that it is essential that the state protects prison officers with the full force of the law, given the important work they do on our behalf?

The Attorney-General: I agree with my right hon. Friend. I restate the point that, as he and the House understand, it is not for politicians to make decisions on individual prosecutions, but it is important that we send the clearest guidance we can to Crown prosecutors about when prosecution should follow. It is important, too, that sentencers make full use of the sentencing guidelines in this respect. The sentencing guidelines are clear that where an offence is committed by a serving prisoner, the sentence that follows, if a conviction occurs, should be consecutive and not concurrent. It is important that prosecutors do their bit to make that clear too.

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): The officers at HMP Risley in my constituency are concerned about the increasing violence in prisons, but other public sector workers, such as hospital and ambulance workers, are also on the front line. Will the Attorney-General ensure that the CPS takes a stand on those cases and prosecutes them rigorously, and will he discuss with his colleagues in government the need to introduce a particular offence, carrying an exemplary sentence, of assaulting a public sector worker in the course of their duties?

The Attorney-General: I certainly agree that it is important that where public servants are assaulted their public service is taken fully into account not just by prosecutors but by sentencers. The hon. Lady will be aware that assaulting someone while they are serving the public is an aggravating feature for sentencers to take into account. That is as it should be. However, we will continue to consider whether the law needs to be strengthened. She will know that many people, in this Government and the previous Government, have considered whether a specific offence should be created for assaults on those serving the public.

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4. Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): If he will take steps to encourage the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute people for treason in cases where that offence is suspected to have been committed. [906836]

The Attorney-General (Jeremy Wright): In all cases referred for a charging decision, the CPS should use whichever offence, including treason, is appropriate to the facts of the case. However, modern criminal offences, including terrorism offences, usually offer a better chance of a successful conviction than would a prosecution for treason.

Mr Hollobone: British jihadists who go abroad to support ISIS are aiding and abetting the Queen’s enemies, and now that we have the horrific spectacle of British citizens beheading other British citizens and citizens of allies on international television, should it not be made clear to these people that it is worse than murder and terrorism—it is treason—and that should they ever be apprehended they should be prosecuted for such?

The Attorney-General: I have a good deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. The point I would make is a purely practical one. I think it important that treason remains available to prosecutors in appropriate cases and I wish to see that continue, but I also think it important to recognise that there are specific practical difficulties in the prosecution of treason—whether it be the establishing of the direct or constructive levying of a war under one limb of the offence or indeed defining the sovereign’s enemies under the other. It is important that we prosecute effectively.

Stalking and Harassment

5. Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to ensure that prosecutors are able more effectively to prosecute stalking and harassment cases. [906837]

The Solicitor-General (Mr Robert Buckland): Most recently, a joint police and CPS protocol on stalking was launched in September last year. The CPS legal guidance has also been revised to reflect this development, and training has been provided to prosecutors on the new stalking offences. Prosecutions for these offences have increased by more 20% in the last year.

Andrew Stephenson: My constituent, Jane Clough, a nurse at Blackpool Victoria hospital, was murdered in 2010 by her stalker, Jonathan Vass, who stabbed her 71 times and then slit her throat in the hospital car park. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that stalking is a serious offence that often leads to even more serious crimes?

The Solicitor-General: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to him for his work with Mr and Mrs John and Penny Clough, Jane’s parents. In fact, their work on the Justice for Jane campaign and the dignity with which they have conducted themselves in order to achieve important changes in the law is a real exemplar of how to achieve something positive from something so appalling.

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Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): Between November 2012 and June 2014, 1,447 CPS lawyers completed the cyber-crime cyber-stalking course, which was developed by the CPS for all prosecutors. However, in a written answer from the Solicitor-General in October 2014, I was advised that a lower figure now applied. Will he please give us an update on the progress of how many CPS lawyers are undertaking this very important training?

Mr Speaker: May I in a very gentle way say that lawyers’ questions and answers tend to be learned and lucid, but also rather long? Perhaps the Solicitor-General can disprove the trend.

The Solicitor-General: The right hon. Gentleman and I share a continuing interest in, and passion for, reforming the law on stalking and harassment and ensuring that implementation is carried out. I am able to update him. As of 31 December last year, 1,402 CPS employees had undergone the training.

Service Prosecution Authority (Sex Offences)

6. Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with the Service Prosecution Authority on its effectiveness in prosecuting rape and other sexual offences in the armed forces which took place (a) in the UK and (b) overseas. [906839]

The Solicitor-General (Mr Robert Buckland): The Attorney-General and I meet the director of service prosecutions regularly and discuss casework issues at those meetings, including the prosecution of rape and other sexual offences, whether they are alleged to have been committed here or overseas. The Service Prosecution Authority has adopted CPS best practice guidelines to make sure that sexual offences are prosecuted to the highest standard.

Phil Wilson: Does the Minister agree that decisions to prosecute allegations of rape and sexual assault in the military should be subject to an independent review, given that only five cases of alleged rape were prosecuted in 2013?

The Solicitor-General: It is difficult to compare the CPS with the SPA because the sheer number of cases before the SPA will be much lower. When it comes to decision making on prosecution, CPS best practice is replicated in the SPA, and joint training and a lot of joint working takes place. The problems identified by the Liberty report, among others, are more to do with the investigation of offences as opposed to their prosecution.

Mr Speaker: I call Mr Karl Turner.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is very nice to be popular.

Does the Attorney-General agree that the very low level of rape and sexual assault prosecutions in the military is a direct result of both a lack of independent scrutiny by civilian authorities and the discretion given to commanding officers to hear cases summarily themselves?

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Does he think it would be helpful if regular inspections of the Service Prosecution Authority were to be put on a statutory footing?

The Solicitor-General: May I first welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position and offer warm congratulations to him? The point he makes is perhaps more relevant to other types of sexual offences that are not included in the schedule to the Armed Forces Act 2006. When it comes to rape and serious sexual offences, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the rigorous standards used by the CPS are those adopted by the SPA as well. The joint training and joint working I mentioned allow the Attorney-General and I the reassurance we need to make sure that these serious matters are prosecuted effectively.

Errors in Law (Costs)

7. Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the cost to the public purse of errors in law made by the Crown Prosecution Service when bringing forward prosecutions. [906840]

The Solicitor-General (Mr Robert Buckland): There are a number of safeguards, both in the CPS and in the criminal justice system, to minimise the impact of errors in law. They include the CPS casework quality standards, judicial oversight, and the appeal process itself. There is no central record of the overall cost to the public purse when such errors of law occur, but whenever errors are identified, the CPS works to address them.

Kevin Brennan: May I encourage the Solicitor-General to try to calculate the cost? Obviously, we should like to know what impact staff cuts in the CPS might have on the costs of cases, and, in particular, how they might affect the ability of the CPS to prepare and present cases. In that spirit, will the Solicitor-General undertake to try to identify the cost and let the House know what it is?

The Solicitor-General: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the spirit in which he asked his question. I can tell him that the total value of cost awards against the CPS was only 0.2% of its budget, and that, within that percentage, identifying specific errors of law was going to be very difficult. However, I can assure him that only 142 appeals against conviction were allowed last year, and that very few of those will have involved an error of law on the part of a CPS lawyer. An error might well have been made by the trial judge, or might have been made at some other point in the system, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the number of errors of law committed purely by CPS lawyers is very small indeed.

Pre-charge Bail

8. Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): When he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss the length of pre-charge bail. [906841]

The Attorney-General (Jeremy Wright): I regularly meet the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss matters affecting the CPS, as my hon. Friend might expect. We discussed the Home Office’s consultation

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paper on limiting police pre-charge bail before it was published, and I expect the CPS to contribute to that consultation.

Mr Chope: How would my right hon. and learned Friend feel if, like one of my constituents, he was subjected to the ignominy of a highly publicised arrest, suspended from his job, and put on pre-charge bail for 11 months before being released without charge? How is such oppressive treatment of innocent people consistent with the spirit of Magna Carta?

The Attorney-General: I do not think that oppressive treatment is consistent with the spirit of Magna Carta. In this of all years, we should consider very carefully what my hon. Friend has said, and I think that that is why the Home Secretary initiated the consultation. We need to consider all aspects of this matter. It is right to balance against the important points that my hon. Friend has made the need to ensure that, in complex cases, investigation is given its proper time, and that victims and witnesses are protected, as they can be, by conditions attached to pre-charge bail. However, he is right in what he says, which is why we are considering the issue.

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Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: May we have a very brief question from Mr Barry Sheerman, and a very brief answer?

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I have encountered a case in which someone was bailed for even longer without being charged. That has ruined the lives of two people, and it has gone on and on. What is the longest period of bail without charge of which the Attorney-General is aware?

The Attorney-General: I cannot answer that question off the top of my head, but I will of course write to the hon. Gentleman, and I agree with him. We need to consider this issue carefully, and to ensure that in the generality of cases there is a clear expectation of a maximum length of time that people should spend on pre-charge bail before minds are made up about what to do in such cases. That is what the consultation is about, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman and others will contribute to it.

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Points of Order

12.38 pm

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) was today released from police bail. No further action was taken, and, indeed, he was never charged with anything. Given that, unfortunately, he had to be named on the Order Paper in connection with his arrest, do you think, Mr Speaker, that today’s news should also be noted on the Order Paper?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, of which I did not have notice, but which is highly topical. What I can say to him, which I hope will be of interest to him and to the House, is that I am today writing—the letter has been drafted, and awaits signature—to the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), requesting that the Committee look into the ancient practice whereby, in such situations, a Member’s arrest is reported to the House, to establish whether, in modern circumstances, such a practice is no longer required, or at any rate, at the very least, requires amendment. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to others.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you are aware of the concerns that I have raised with Ministers in the House about the current situation at G4S-run Altcourse prison in my constituency, which I have pursued in written parliamentary questions. Last night I was advised, in a written response from the prisons Minister, that G4S had been instructed to complete a “strategic plan” for Altcourse in the light of a recent murder in the prison. The plan has now been completed, and has been submitted to the National Offender Management Service. However, the Ministry of Justice is refusing to share the document with me.

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Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, how I can possibly monitor what is going on in the jail in regard to the improvements that need to be made—and respond to my constituents’ very real concerns—while I am being denied access to information that should be shared with me, as the local Member of Parliament, before I meet officials at the jail?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. My simple advice to him is to use the opportunities open to him to air the matter. For example, although I can make no offer today and give no guarantee of immediate success, it is open to him, if he wants to joust on the matter with a Minister, to seek an Adjournment debate. It would be a highly pertinent topic for such a debate. He might want to reflect on that.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope this is a point of order. We discussed the Magna Carta this morning. Surely the House should take the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta seriously. How much opportunity will we have to discuss the Magna Carta and the need for a new Magna Carta, and to celebrate something that has been the basis of so many democracies throughout the world?

Mr Speaker: I can advise the hon. Gentleman that much is planned, but if I were to respond in detail to his point of order I would unfairly and unduly delay the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), who has been waiting patiently to move his ten-minute rule motion. What I can say is that a great deal will happen, there will be opportunities on the Floor of the House and, knowing the legendary indefatigability of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), I feel sure that he will take his chance to be part of the process.

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Internet Communications (Regulation)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

12.41 pm

Sir Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the regulation and practices of email communications.

The Bill would ban open text e-mail disclaimers from the electronic communications of all UK Government Departments, agencies and councils and all UK limited companies.

We have all been there. A short e-mail comes in from a friend, colleague or company and we hit print. Then we look in horror as page after page spews out. The e-mail itself is not the end. It is often not even the beginning of the end—merely the end of the beginning. What follows is a disclaimer, of varying lengths and comprehensibility, informing us that the e-mail we have just received is intended for a specific recipient, that it may contain confidential information, and that it must not be used, disclosed, stored or copied. Should we find that we are not the intended recipient, we are instructed to destroy the e-mail—to erase it both from existence and from our memory—and to make immediate contact with the sender to alert them to the mistake. That same disclaimer appears on every subsequent e-mail.

Frankly, disclaimers are not worth the paper they are unnecessarily printed on. They attempt unilaterally to create a contract between the sender and the recipient, without asking for the consent of the recipient. They aim to scare the unintended and unaware recipient of a misplaced e-mail into doing what is asked of them, despite there being no obligation to do so. Even if there is a legal obligation not to divulge something confidential, why bother to say so at length when it is already covered by our law and does not need repeating? Little thought is ever given to whether the disclaimers are necessary or even if they mean anything, yet companies, councils and Government Departments take the view that, if others have them, it must mean that they ought to as well. That is simply not the case. Legal opinion is agreed that they hold little if any weight and the chances of one being enforced are minimal. In essence, they add nothing. If anyone really feels the need to issue a legal warning, then stick on a little link as a footer, or a header attachment that is not in open format.

The Economist, displaying typical good sense, noted in 2011 that the European Commission has already declared that any attempt to impose a contractual obligation on a consumer who has not had the opportunity freely to negotiate it must be struck out by the courts. An e-mail disclaimer is a perfect example of such an attempt, particularly as the vast majority come after, not before, the body of the message. Legally, disclaimers attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted, and at the same time they fly in the face of common sense, for everyone knows that if we get a letter that is meant for someone else, we either find them so we can give it to them, or we return it to the sender. The written envelope does not need a legal warning on the outside, and neither does an e-mail.

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What causes the greatest frustration, however, is their interminable length, and on a BlackBerry, for instance, the inability to delete them. Judging from the cross-section of e-mails in my inbox, I estimate that most fall within 100 and 200 words in length. I am pleased to report, Mr Speaker, that Parliament’s own disclaimer is among the pithier ones floating around cyber-space, coming in at a slim 60 words. I regret, however, that it lags some way behind the disclaimer that follows e-mails from the Department for International Development, where, in what I consider to be one of my proudest ministerial achievements, I managed, against the forces of unnecessary bossiness, to whittle it down to a mere 17 words. Indeed, it was more of a little footer than a real disclaimer. None of those 17 words, I should add, attempted to impose an obligation on the recipient. Instead, they simply encouraged them to learn more of DFID’s work, and it provided a link to the DFID website and Twitter account. As in so many things, DFID ought to be an example for the rest of Whitehall to follow—and you and I surely agree, Mr Speaker, that short is beautiful.

Even the Labour party, in a marked departure from the norm, has embraced the concept of austerity—if only when it comes to disclaimers. As you will appreciate, Mr Speaker, I am not a regular recipient of the little red missives sent out by Labour, but am reliably informed that their disclaimer is fewer than 50 words. It is with a heavy heart, however, that I confess that my own party, which has demonstrated such admirable restraint with the public finances over the past five years, cannot replicate this self-control in its own 183-word disclaimer. As the Prime Minister has said in this House, there is still much more to be done, and, I would add, much less to be printed.

In some cases, the practice has gone beyond parody, however. In 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported that the disclaimer appended to an e-mail from the investment bank Nomura Group ran to a staggering 2,578 words. If I were to have devoted the entire length of my speech in support of this Bill to simply reading out that disclaimer, I would not even have come close to reaching the bottom. Rather than attempting to do so, I will set out—echoing a further little Leninist moment—“What Is To Be Done.”

This Bill would require all Government Departments, agencies and councils, and all UK limited companies, to do away entirely with open format disclaimers. Even today, I call on all of them simply to amend them voluntarily without delay—why not set an example, and just do it? Only by exposing disclaimers for the toothless waffle that they are can we hope to stem their proliferation, and by doing so we can end the practice that leaves page after page of repeated disclaimers clagging up the bottom of e-mail chains for no good reason.

Enough is enough, Mr Speaker. Never again do we want e-mail chains that say in one line “Fancy lunch, mate?” and then immediately the one line is followed by 20 undeletable lines of legal officiousness.

It is a matter of national pride that it was a British computer scientist who invented the worldwide web. This moment of innovative genius should not be allowed to be tarnished by the very worst of sluggish, bureaucratic verbiage that is represented by the e-mail disclaimer. They are way out of date—a hangover from the early days of the internet which have long since been overtaken. They are as arcane as waving a red flag to warn pedestrians

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of an approaching vehicle. It is high time, therefore, that we put a stop to these meaningless missives that clog up our inboxes, deplete our printer cartridges of precious ink and cut down forests’ worth of paper. The footer and the header can survive, but let us now condemn the needless disclaimer to the dustbin of internet history. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Sir Alan Duncan, Damian Green, Christopher Pincher and Steve Baker present the Bill.

Sir Alan Duncan accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March, and to be printed (Bill 146).

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Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. (83A(9)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, in place of paragraphs (5) to (7) of the Order of 2 December 2014:

(1) Proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken in two days in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration–

(a) shall be taken on the days shown in the first column of the following Table and in the order so shown;

(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times shown in the second column.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

First day


New Clauses and new Schedules relating to powers to seize travel documents or temporary exclusion from the United Kingdom; amendments to Part 1; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to terrorism prevention and investigation measures; amendments to Part 2; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to data retention; amendments to Part 3; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to aviation, shipping and rail; amendments to Part 4.


Second day


New Clauses and new Schedules relating to the risk of being drawn into terrorism; amendments to Part 5; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to the Terrorism Act 2000; amendments to Part 6; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules; remaining proceedings on consideration.


(3) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00pm on the second day.—(James Brokenshire.)

Question agreed to.

6 Jan 2015 : Column 165

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

Consideration of Bill, as amended in Committee of the whole House.

[1st Allocated Day]

New Clause 1

“Imposition of temporary exclusion orders

‘(1) The Secretary of State may by notice (a “TEO”) impose a “temporary exclusion order” which requires an individual not to return to the United Kingdom on an individual if conditions A to E in section [Conditions A to E] are met.

(2) In this Act “temporary exclusion order” means requirements, restrictions and other provision which may be made in relation to an individual by virtue of section [Conditions A to E] “prior permission of the court” and Schedule [“Proceedings relating to temporary exclusion orders”].

(3) An individual subject to a TEO may not return to the UK unless—

(a) the return is in accordance with a permit to return issued by the Secretary of State before the individual began the return, or

(b) the return is the result of the individual’s deportation to the United Kingdom.”—(Mr Hanson.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.51 pm

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Conditions A to E—

‘(1) Condition A is that the Secretary of State reasonably suspects that the individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism-related activity outside the United Kingdom.

(2) Condition B is that the Secretary of State reasonably considers that it is necessary, for purposes connected with protecting members of the public in the United Kingdom from a risk of terrorism, for a temporary exclusion order to be imposed on the individual.

(3) Condition C is that the Secretary of State reasonably considers that the individual is outside the United Kingdom.

(4) Condition D is that the individual has the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

(5) Condition E is that—

(a) the court gives the Secretary of State permission under section 3, or

(b) the Secretary of State reasonably considers that the urgency of the case requires a temporary exclusion order to be imposed without obtaining such permission.

(6) During the period that a temporary exclusion order is in force, the Secretary of State must keep under review whether condition B is met.”

New clause 3—Prior permission of the court—

‘(1) This section applies if the Secretary of State—

(a) makes the relevant decisions in relation to an individual, and

(b) makes an application to the court for permission to impose measures on the individual.

(2) The application must set out a draft of the proposed TEO notice.

(3) The function of the court on the application is—

(a) to determine whether the relevant decisions of the Secretary of State are obviously flawed, and

6 Jan 2015 : Column 166

(b) to determine whether to give permission to impose measures on the individual and (where applicable) whether to exercise the power of direction under subsection (9).

(4) The court may consider the application—

(a) in the absence of the individual;

(b) without the individual having been notified of the application; and

(c) without the individual having been given an opportunity (if the individual was aware of the application) of making any representations to the court.

(5) But that does not limit the matters about which rules of court may be made.

(6) In determining the application, the court must apply the principles applicable on an application for judicial review.

(7) In a case where the court determines that a decision of the Secretary of State that condition A, condition B, or condition C is met is obviously flawed, the court may not give permission under this section.

(8) In any other case, the court may give permission under this section.

(9) If the court determines that the Secretary of State‘s decision that condition D is met is obviously flawed, the court may (in addition to giving permission under subsection (8) give directions to the Secretary of State in relation to the measures to be imposed on the individual.

(10) 1n this section “relevant decisions” means the decisions that the following conditions are met—

(a) condition A;

(b) condition B;

(c) condition C; and

(d) condition D.”

New schedule 1—Proceedings relating to Temporary Exclusion Orders—


1 In this Schedule—

“appeal proceedings” means proceedings in the Court of Appeal or the Inner House of the Court of Session on an appeal relating to temporary exclusion order proceedings;

“the relevant court” means—

(a) in relation to TEO proceedings, the court;(b) in relation to appeal proceedings, the Court of Appeal or the Inner House of the Court of Session;

“rules of court” means rules for regulating the practice and procedure to be followed in the court, the Court of Appeal or the Inner House of the Court of Session.

Rules of court: general provision

2 (1) A person making rules of court relating to TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings must have regard to the need to secure the following—

(a) that the decisions that are the subject of the proceedings are properly reviewed, and

(b) that disclosures of information are not made where they would be contrary to the public interest.

(2) Rules of court relating to TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings may make provision—

(a) about the mode of proof and about evidence in the proceedings;

(b) enabling or requiring the proceedings to be determined without a hearing;

(c) about legal representation in the proceedings;

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(d) enabling the proceedings to take place without full particulars of the reasons for the decisions to which the proceedings relate being given to a party to the proceedings (or to any legal representative of that party);

(e) enabling the relevant court to conduct proceedings in the absence of any person, including a party to the proceedings (or any legal representative of that party);

(f) about the functions of a person appointed as a special advocate (see paragraph 10);

(g) enabling the court to give a party to the proceedings a summary of evidence taken in the party‘s absence.

(3) In this paragraph—

(a) references to a party to the proceedings do not include the Secretary of State;

(b) references to a party‘s legal representative do not include a person appointed as a special advocate.

(4) Nothing in this paragraph is to be read as restricting the power to make rules of court or the matters to be taken into account when doing so.

Rules of court: disclosure

3 (1) Rules of court relating to TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings must secure that the Secretary of State is required to disclose—

(a) material on which the Secretary of State relies,

(b) material which adversely affects the Secretary of State‘s case, and

(c) material which supports the case of another party to the proceedings.

(2) This paragraph is subject to paragraph 4.

4 (1) Rules of court relating to TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings must secure—

(a) that the Secretary of State has the opportunity to make an application to the relevant court for permission not to disclose material otherwise than to the relevant court and any person appointed as a special advocate;

(b) that such an application is always considered in the absence of every party to the proceedings (and every party’s legal representative);

(c) that the relevant court is required to give permission for material not to be disclosed if it considers that the disclosure of the material would be contrary to the public interest;

(d) that, if permission is given by the relevant court not to disclose material, it must consider requiring the Secretary of State to provide a summary of the material to every party to the proceedings (and every party’s legal representative);

(e) that the relevant court is required to ensure that such a summary does not contain material the disclosure of which would be contrary to the public interest.

(2) Rules of court relating to TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings must secure that provision to the effect mentioned in sub-paragraph (3) applies in cases where the Secretary of State—

(a) does not receive the permission of the relevant court to withhold material, but elects not to disclose it, or

(b) is required to provide a party to the proceedings with a summary of material that is withheld, but elects not to provide the summary.

(3) The relevant court must be authorised—

(a) if it considers that the material or anything that is required to be summarised might adversely affect the Secretary of State’s case or support the case of a party to the proceedings, to direct that the Secretary of State—

(i) is not to rely on such points in the Secretary of State’s case, or

6 Jan 2015 : Column 168

(ii) is to make such concessions or take such other steps as the court may specify, or

(b) in any other case, to ensure that the Secretary of State does not rely on the material or (as the case may be) on that which is required to be summarised.

(4) In this paragraph—

(a) references to a party to the proceedings do not include the Secretary of State;

(b) references to a party’s legal representative do not include a person appointed as a special advocate.

Article 6 rights

5 (1) Nothing in paragraphs 2 to 4, or in rules of court made under any of those paragraphs, is to be read as requiring the relevant court to act in a manner inconsistent with Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention.

(2) The “Human Rights Convention” means the Convention within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998 (see section 21(1) of that Act).

6 (1) Rules of court relating to TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings may make provision for—

(a) the making by the Secretary of State or the relevant individual of an application to the court for an order requiring anonymity for that individual, and

(b) the making by the court, on such an application, of an order requiring such anonymity;

and the provision made by the rules may allow the application and the order to be made irrespective of whether any other TEO proceedings have been begun in the court.

(2) Rules of court may provide for the Court of Appeal or the Inner House of the Court of Session to make an order in connection with any appeal proceedings requiring anonymity for the relevant individual.

(3) In sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) the references, in relation to a court, to an order requiring anonymity for the relevant individual are references to an order by that court which imposes such prohibition or restriction as it thinks fit on the disclosure—

(a) by such persons as the court specifies or describes, or

(b) by persons generally,

of the identity of the relevant individual or of any information that would tend to identify the relevant individual.

(4) In this paragraph “relevant individual” means an individual on whom the Secretary of State is proposing to impose, or has imposed, measures.

Initial exercise of rule-making powers by Lord Chancellor

7 (1) The first time after the passing of this Act that rules of court are made in exercise of the powers conferred by this Schedule in relation to proceedings in England and Wales or in Northern Ireland, the rules may be made by the Lord Chancellor instead of by the person who would otherwise make them.

(2) Before making rules of court under sub-paragraph (1), the Lord Chancellor must consult—

(a) in relation to rules applicable to proceedings in England and Wales, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales;

(b) in relation to rules applicable to proceedings in Northern Ireland, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.

(3) But the Lord Chancellor is not required to undertake any other consultation before making the rules.

(4) A requirement to consult under sub-paragraph (2) may be satisfied by consultation that took place wholly or partly before the passing of this Act.

(5) Rules of court made by the Lord Chancellor under sub-paragraph (1)—

(a) must be laid before Parliament, and

6 Jan 2015 : Column 169

(b) if not approved by a resolution of each House before the end of 40 days beginning with the day on which they were made, cease to have effect at the end of that period.

(6) In determining that period of 40 days no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.

(7) 1f rules cease to have effect in accordance with sub-paragraph (5)—

(a) that does not affect anything done in previous reliance on the rules, and

(b) sub-paragraph (1) applies again as if the rules had not been made.

(8) The following provisions do not apply to rules of court made by the Lord Chancellor under this paragraph—

(a) section 3(6) of the Civil Procedure Act 1997 (Parliamentary procedure for civil procedure rules);

(b) section 56(1), (2) and (4) of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 (statutory rules procedure).

(9) Until the coming into force of section 85 of the Courts Act 2003, the reference in sub-paragraph (8)(a) to section 3(6) of the Civil Procedure Act 1997 is to be read as a reference to section 3(2) of that Act.

Use of advisers

8 (1) In any TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings the relevant court may if it thinks fit—

(a) call in aid one or more advisers appointed for the purposes of this paragraph by the Lord Chancellor, and

(b) hear and dispose of the proceedings with the assistance of the adviser or advisers.

(2) The Lord Chancellor may appoint advisers for the purposes of this paragraph only with the approval of—

(a) the Lord President of the Court of Session, in relation to an adviser who may be called in aid wholly or mainly in Scotland;

(b) the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, in relation to an adviser who may be called in aid wholly or mainly in Northern Ireland;

(c) the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, in any other case.

(3) Rules of court may regulate the use of advisers in proceedings who are called in aid under sub-paragraph (1).

(4) The Lord Chancellor may pay such remuneration, expenses and allowances to advisers appointed for the purposes of this paragraph as the Lord Chancellor may determine.

9 (1) The Lord President of the Court of Session may nominate a judge of the Court of Session who is a member of the First or Second Division of the Inner House of that Court to exercise the function under paragraph 8(2)(a).

(2) The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland may nominate any of the following to exercise the function under paragraph 8(2)(b)—

(a) the holder of one of the offices listed in Schedule 1 to the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002;

(b) a Lord Justice of Appeal (as defined in section 88 of that Act).

(3) The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales may nominate a judicial office holder (as defined in section 109(4) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005) to exercise the function under paragraph 8(2)(c).

Appointment of special advocate

10 (1) The appropriate law officer may appoint a person to represent the interests of a party in any TEO proceedings or appeal proceedings from which the party (and any legal representative of the party) is excluded.

(2) A person appointed under sub-paragraph (1) is referred to in this Schedule as appointed as “special advocate”.

6 Jan 2015 : Column 170

(3) The “appropriate law officer” is—

(a) in relation to proceedings in England and Wales, the Attorney General;

(b) in relation to proceedings in Scotland, the Advocate General for Scotland;

(c) in relation to proceedings in Northern Ireland, the Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

(4) A person appointed as a special advocate is not responsible to the party to the proceedings whose interests the person is appointed to represent.

(5) A person may be appointed as a special advocate only if—

(a) in the case of an appointment by the Attorney General, the person has a general qualification for the purposes of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990;

(b) in the case of an appointment by the Advocate General for Scotland, the person is an advocate or a solicitor who has rights of audience in the Court of Session or the High Court of Justiciary by virtue of section 25A of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980;

(c) in the case of an appointment by the Advocate General for Northern Ireland, the person is a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland.”

Amendment 18, in clause 2, page 2, line 5, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) The court may impose a temporary exclusion order on an individual following an application from the Secretary of State if the court is satisfied that conditions A to D are met.”

Amendment 21, page 2, line 6, after “D”, insert “or condition E”

Amendment 22, page 2, line 17, at end insert—

‘(6A) Condition E is that the Secretary of State has provided evidence, whether or not conditions A to D are met, to substantiate that the individual has, inconsistently with his duty of loyalty to the United Kingdom, conducted himself in a manner seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom and that he has taken an oath, or made a formal declaration of allegiance to another state or territory seized, governed or administered de facto by an organisation demanding allegiance to that organisation, having given definite evidence of his determination to repudiate his allegiance to the United Kingdom.”

Amendment 19, page 2, line 18, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “court”

Amendment 23, in clause 3, page 2, line 29, after “years”, insert “or, where section 2(6A) applies, for a period of not less than two years specified by the Secretary of State.”

Amendment 20, in clause 11, page 7, line 21, at end insert—

““the court”

(a) in relation to proceedings relating to a temporary exclusion order in the case of which the excluded individual is a person whose principal place of residence immediately prior to leaving the United Kingdom was in Scotland, means the Outer House of the Court of Session;(b) in relation to proceedings relating to a temporary exclusion order in the case of which the excluded individual is a person whose principal place of residence immediately prior to leaving the United Kingdom was in Northern Ireland, means the High Court in Northern Ireland; and(c) in any other case, means the High Court in England and Wales;”

6 Jan 2015 : Column 171

Mr Hanson: It is a pleasure to be here in this new year to deal with this important Bill. I mention the new year because, although we are now in 2015, this is effectively still 2014 for the Minister and me, as we are dealing with the matters that we dealt with just before Christmas in almost the same format, having had the Committee stage of the Bill on the Floor of the House and Report here now.

We have tabled a number of new clauses and amendments that have a reassuring similarity to the matters that we discussed before Christmas—[Interruption.] Indeed, they are almost identical, as the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) suggests. I am confident, given the concerns that have been expressed by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House and the points that were fully debated before Christmas, that the Minister and his very able Whip, the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), will have had an opportunity to reflect on these matters over the Christmas period and to understand that there is real concern not only among Labour and Conservative Members but among Liberal Democrat Members about some of these matters.

Let me start by repeating some of the givens for those of us on the Opposition Benches. It is a given for us that the terrorism threat remains high. It is also a given for us that the exclusion provisions are a valid and useful addition to the armoury of terrorism prevention, and that they have our support. I must place on record, however, the fact that there are those among the population at large who feel that the provisions go too far. For example, we have had representations from Liberty, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and others expressing concern about the measures. I believe that the measures are proportionate, but today’s new clauses and amendments are aimed at strengthening that proportionality, providing judicial oversight and ensuring that we adopt a constructive approach to the difficult and challenging issues that the Government have to deal with.

We share the Government’s policy objective of supporting the prevention of terrorism, as the terrorism threat is high. The Government’s own assessment shows that some 500 individuals have travelled to Syria and the surrounding areas in recent months, and that 50% of them have sought to return to the United Kingdom. We do not know what status they want to return under. Some might have forsaken terrorist activity; others might be returning to engage in further recruitment exercises. We do not know their status, and there is a real need for the assessment that the Government propose. The Home Secretary’s report to Parliament on the joint terrorism analysis centre’s assessment of the threat level, produced independently of Ministers, acknowledges that the level is still severe and that a terrorist attack is highly likely, although there is no evidence to suggest that one is imminent. All Members need to be cognisant of the increased threat following the assessment by JTAC in August. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has indicated that the assessment of the Metropolitan police, on behalf of the UK police, is that five terrorists a week are now travelling, and that up to 250 are returning. The Government need to address that issue.

New clauses 1, 2 and 3 and new schedule 1 aim to introduce balance to the Government’s proposals, to ensure judicial oversight of these key issues. New clause 1

6 Jan 2015 : Column 172

has been tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) and me, and it seeks to ensure that the temporary exclusion orders can be introduced in the form that the Government want.

New clause 2 proposes conditions A to E. Condition A states that the Secretary of State must reasonably suspect that

“the individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism-related activity outside the United Kingdom”.

Condition B states that the Secretary of State should reasonably consider that the issue of the order

“is necessary, for purposes connected with protecting members of the public”.

Condition C is

“that the Secretary of State reasonably considers that the individual is outside the United Kingdom.”

Condition D is

“that the individual has the right of abode in the United Kingdom.”

Condition E relates to the Secretary of State believing that action should be taken.

New clauses 1 and 2 mirror what the Government have already said. We have tabled new clause 3 because we believe that a court needs to agree to the Secretary of State’s application for a temporary exclusion order. It would allow the Secretary of State to make an application to the court to ensure that the conditions in new clauses 1 and 2 had been met. Under new clause 3, the court would have to consider the Secretary of State’s application. It may do so

“in the absence of the individual”

about whom the application is being made. It may also do so

“without the individual having been notified of the application”


“without the individual having been given an opportunity…of making any representations to the court”.

This would provide judicial oversight of the Secretary of State’s application to put in place a temporary exclusion order.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman accepts that there is a substantial threat, although he says that we do not know exactly what it is or what the status is of the people who might wish to return. In respect of the right of abode, does he think it is appropriate that a person should be allowed to come back here if they have formally renounced their allegiance to the United Kingdom and purported to give allegiance to another state or territory and if they are known to have the intention of committing jihadist acts of violence?

Mr Hanson: I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman’s speech in support of his own amendments in due course. These are difficult questions, and we might be straying into the area of deprivation of citizenship, which we discussed when considering other legislation last year. The Bill and our proposals would provide judicial oversight of decisions to exclude made by the Secretary of State. The issues of right of abode and citizenship are difficult, because if an individual retains British citizenship but is undertaking the type of activity

6 Jan 2015 : Column 173

the hon. Gentleman is alluding to, mechanisms are in place in the Bill and other legislation to take effective action to ensure that that is addressed in a legal framework. It is difficult to say that an individual cannot have a right of abode, because that makes them, in effect, stateless, and therefore the problem remains one for the UK passport holder, but it is not a problem within the UK. We need to reflect on that extremely carefully.

1 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Is not the nub of the matter, as raised by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) simply this: it is for the court to consider all the factors involved, hence the need for judicial intervention and decision making? This should not be left to the Home Secretary.

Mr Hanson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling his amendments, which have a similar hue to ours, in that we are trying to put in place judicial oversight. Given the concerns that have been raised since we discussed the Bill in Committee, I hope the Minister will again consider our new clauses. They would create a court process through which the Secretary of State would have to go to place an individual on a temporary exclusion order, as there is currently no judicial process before one can be awarded. The new clauses have not come out of the blue; they have arisen because of real concerns following the Prime Minister’s initial announcement in August that he would introduce this legislation. Those concerns have come from a number of authoritative sources. We discussed these matters prior to Christmas, but it is worth repeating the concerns.

David Anderson QC is tasked by the Government with being the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, and both at the time of the Prime Minister’s announcement and in evidence given on 26 November to the Joint Committee on Human Rights he has raised big sceptical objections to the proposed TEOs against suspected jihadist fighters. He told the Joint Committee:

“The concern I have about this power—the central concern about it—is where the courts are in all of this…if the Home Secretary wants to impose a TPIM”—

the other legislative tool the Government currently have—

“she has to go to the court first, and if the court thinks she has got it wrong, it will say so...one will want to look very carefully to see whether this is a power that requires the intervention of the court at any stage, or whether it is simply envisaged as something that the Home Secretary imposes…if you are abroad when this order is served on you, it is a little difficult to see in practical terms how a right to judicial review could be exercised.”

Those are key issues, because what the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has said is that under the TPIM legislation designed by this Government, the Home Secretary has to go to court to get a TPIM before one can be imposed on an individual. A TPIM restricts severely an individual’s movement in the UK and imposes a range of conditions on that individual. The TEO will have the same legislative impact, in that it will severely restrict an individual’s movement. As I said, that restriction might well be perfectly valid—it may well be in the interests of terrorism prevention and be a positive measure to protect British citizens—but it needs to have judicial oversight to ensure that an individual is able to challenge

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it without the right of judicial review. I agree with David Anderson QC and I want the Government to respond today to his concerns, as well as those of right hon. and hon. Members.

Sir William Cash: I have looked through the minutes of evidence taken before the Joint Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday 26 November and I can find no reference, either in the questions asked or the answers given by the reviewer, to the text of the 1961 convention on the reduction of statelessness and, in particular, article 8(3). That was not even raised, and I do not think it is possible to have a coherent discussion about the nature of either the right of abode or the implications of what we have just been discussing without making reference to the convention. No reference was made to it there whatsoever.

Mr Hanson: Let us look at those issues in due course. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make a contribution and the Minister will respond. I am trying to focus on our new clauses, which are about putting in place a reasonable level of judicial oversight. I have cited what the independent reviewer said because when the Prime Minister launched this policy those concerns were stated outside this House much more severely and harshly than they were when the independent reviewer appeared before the Joint Committee. The point he makes is that the Government’s defence at the moment is that there is an opportunity for judicial review, which is an expensive, long and time-consuming process and which may not be able to be exercised from outside the jurisdiction of UK shores. Under the TPIM legislation, Ministers have to go to a court, whereas under the TEO proposals, as currently put forward, they will not. Our main proposal in the new clauses is to put in place a regime that mirrors that of the existing TPIM legislation. This is not a new, fanciful procedure; it is one the Government have drawn up, as it mirrors their proposal, and I hope they will consider it seriously.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Does the shadow Minister accept that these temporary arrangements have a level of urgency that is often not quite there in the TPIM-type arrangements, which is why the Government perhaps feel that adopting judicial oversight as opposed to a judicial review process would be unwise? Perhaps he would go into some detail on the underlying urgency issues relating to the temporary seizure of passports, which we are going to be discussing in the next two days.

Mr Hanson: I accept that there will always be an element of speed required on occasion to examine issues such as the temporary exclusion of an individual, but this will not always be an urgent matter. The Government will know of and will be tracking individuals seeking to return; they will have intelligence on that and will be able to prepare and take action on individuals. I know from my experience of being a Minister in a range of Departments that if speed on legal requirements is needed, it can be done. I have often as a Minister authorised legal action to be taken in the morning that is taken through the courts on the very same day. I have done that in the Ministry of Justice in regard to prison strikes and in the Home Office in relation to a range of other measures—it can be done. The question is: is the

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Home Secretary’s decision on these matters the fount of all wisdom? It may well be—let us not put too fine a point on it. There will be occasions when the Home Secretary is making a perfectly rational and valid decision based on evidence that someone is a potential threat to the UK and therefore needs to be excluded. The question for the House is simply this: should there be an opportunity for someone other than the Home Secretary—the courts—to make a judgment as to whether the Home Secretary has acted proportionately and within the law, and has justifiable reasons for so acting? That could be done in camera or in public—that is for us to consider—but we are making our proposal because the same provision is in place for TPIM legislation. If TPIM legislation is dealing—and I know from personal experience that it is—with those at the very sharp end of the potential terrorist threat, where evidence is around but necessarily cannot always be shared in public, then that can also be done in the case of temporary exclusion.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I welcome Labour’s conversion to judicial oversight in the matter of temporary exclusion orders. Given that the right hon. Gentleman has moved so far to reach this place, will he and the Labour party now support such oversight for other counter-terrorism measures?

Mr Hanson: As someone who had the privilege of holding ministerial position in the previous Government, I can say that we often had judicial oversight of a number of measures or sunset clauses. We are not late coming to this matter. This is a rerun of a debate that we had in Committee in December. I am grateful that the Minister has had Christmas and new year to reflect on these issues and to hear some wider argument from his own Members.

It is clear that the Government face difficult challenges not just from the Opposition but from Members on their own Benches. In Committee on 15 December, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) said that he had some concerns about this provision not having judicial oversight. In a long intervention, he said:

“I had not intended to speak today…What concerns me today is the issue of the Home Secretary herself exercising the power. I am concerned that it comes about without prior judicial approval or, indeed, without being a power of the court, which would be my preference.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Security Public Bill Committee, 15 December 2014; c. 1219.]

Those are the words not of the Opposition but of Government Back Benchers. I notice that the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) is in his place. [Interruption.] I hope to be able to attract his attention. I am not sure which source he spoke to, but his words are quoted in the Independent on Sunday so they must be true. He said that he was “sympathetic” to the amendments and “would find it hard” to vote against them. I hope that he reflects on those points today. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier), who until very recently was Solicitor-General, said:

“There is disquiet about a few aspects of this Bill in its detail.”

Our new clauses back up the concerns of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), which he expressed before the Bill went into Committee. There is real disquiet from a number of Members.

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Indeed, I am pleased to see the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) in his place. According to the

Independent on Sunday,

he said that he would

“listen to all the arguments with some care”

before deciding which way to vote. Undoubtedly, he is listening to the arguments with some care before deciding how to vote. I know that he is a good colleague of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden. I wish to place it on the record that concern over these matters is growing. In fact, a late entrant to this festive party appears to be the Liberal Democrats.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): What about Second Reading?

Mr Hanson: Perhaps they were there on Second Reading. I might be a bit old fashioned, but I thought that one of the purposes of Government committees—when I was a Minister I served on many such committees in the backrooms and bowels of government—was for Ministers to thrash out what should be in a Bill before it is presented to the House. Today’s edition of The Guardian has an article on this matteragain, it must be true. It says:

“A fresh coalition row has broken out after Nick Clegg told the home secretary, Theresa May, that she will face a parliamentary defeat on the government’s counter-terrorism bill unless judges are given oversight of plans to impose temporary exclusion orders on some terrorist suspects returning to Britain.”

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Is that the best the right hon. Gentleman can do—reading out bits of newspapers?

Mr Hanson: Well, it strikes me that when TheGuardian newspaper reports that the Deputy Prime Minister is challenging the Home Secretary behind the scenes about judicial oversight, it is an important matter to bring before the House of Commons.

1.15 pm

If the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) can give me some confirmation that there is a genuine concern in his party—not just from the Back Benchers but from the Deputy Prime Minister—about these proposals, then it is important that that is shared. The Guardian article, which I will read out just for the benefit of the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), goes on to say:

“The Liberal Democrats have always sought to follow David Anderson’s advice. He is quite clear on the need for judicial oversight in this area. That is why we are seeking government amendments to be brought forward in the House of Lords on the oversight of temporary exclusion orders.”

The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not need to wait for the House of Lords. He and his right hon. and hon. Friends could, if they so wished, vote for these proposals today. The language used in our new clauses mirrors, word for word, the Government’s own legislation on TPIMs—the type of amendment they might bring forward if they win their back-stage battle on these issues. If he and his hon. Friends vote on this today it would save us having to go through those arguments again after this has been to the other place.