Ben Gummer (Ipswich) (Con): I was at Ipswich hospital this morning to talk to the senior clinical team. They have exceeded their targets in A and E—it is the fifth best performing hospital in the country—and they have done so because of their work. Will the Secretary of State

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congratulate them, and does he regret the politicking that undermines their incredible efforts in the service of my constituents?

Mr Hunt: The services that the Ipswich team have been delivering are absolutely brilliant, and I congratulate them. I thank my hon. Friend for his support for their work, which I know is so important for the people of Ipswich.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): The Secretary of State said that 14 major incidents have been declared. I am told by a senior front-line worker that many hospitals are declaring internal major incidents—they have done so for some time—because that is more politically expedient and does not get into the press. How many internal major incidents have been declared in the past month?

Mr Hunt: To my knowledge, over the past few weeks there have been 15 major incidents, including internal ones. Three have now been stood down, making a total of 12 at the moment.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): The Cumberland infirmary in Carlisle is coping and improving. However, to improve more quickly, it needs to conclude the acquisition by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust as soon as possible. Will the Secretary of State do everything he can to help to achieve that, as I believe it will lead to better health care, both in A and E and generally, in Carlisle?

Mr Hunt: I am very sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s view. Indeed, I have spoken to him about it on several occasions. I very much hope that the merger can go ahead as soon as possible.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): What is being done to address staff well-being during this exceptionally pressured period? Repeated pressure on A and E—with staff being required, or volunteering, to do extra shifts—does in the end put pressure on staff, and may cause burn-out and risk to patients. What is being done to attend to that issue?

Mr Hunt: There are two things. First, as I am sure the hon. Lady does, I take every opportunity to praise the work being done by staff through a very difficult and challenging period. Secondly, the practical way in which we can most help them is to try to recruit more staff where we possibly can, and to make sure that resources are not a barrier to recruiting more staff. We have about 5,000 more nurses in hospitals compared with 12 months ago, and that has made a difference.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State stood up and said that he takes personal responsibility for everything that happens in the NHS. Given that his Government undertook a costly and time-consuming reorganisation, does he now regret that people took their eye off the ball in relation to the highly predictable population shifts that have led to the pressure on A and E?

Mr Hunt: I am afraid that that is an example of the politicisation of the NHS that people find so distressing. Those reforms were not enacted in Wales, which is run

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by the hon. Lady’s party, and A and E performance there is significantly worse. It does not make any logical sense to blame A and E performance on those reforms.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Royal Bolton hospital says that it is in crisis because it cannot discharge patients. The Secretary of State says that the hospital and local authority in Bolton are talking to each other, but Bolton council has had £100 million-worth of cuts. What will he do to reverse the cuts in social care that have created the crisis in our hospital?

Mr Hunt: If the hon. Lady is making a criticism, I would ask her what she is going to do, because the shadow Chancellor confirmed this week that he will not find extra money for social care. I will tell her what we are doing. We are merging the social care and local NHS systems to try to stop people being pushed from pillar to post, and to give them the joined-up, compassionate, safe care that we think is an absolute priority. That is happening in Bolton—I have visited facilities in Bolton that are displaying excellent care—and we should support such efforts, not criticise them.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): In January 2013, I raised with the Health Secretary the incident in which an 84-year-old lady had to wait 11 hours for an ambulance. This Christmas, a 101-year-old lady had to wait six hours for an ambulance, and an 89-year-old pensioner also had to wait 11 hours for an ambulance. When do individual incidents of failure become a pattern, and is the Health Secretary himself an individual incident of failure?

Mr Hunt: I take huge interest in individual examples of where things have gone wrong, and that has informed a lot of my approach to the job. Just like A and E departments, when ambulance services get calls, they have to triage them and deal with the highest-priority calls quickest. The calls they get can sometimes be dealt with after a period of hours, but other calls are much more urgent. The important thing for ambulance services is to know that we are backing them with more paramedics, more investment and more ambulances, and that is what we are doing.

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): One of my constituents, an 80-year-old woman, collapsed at home over the weekend. She had to wait an hour for an ambulance to arrive, and she then waited 10 hours in A and E before being treated by medical staff. For most of that time she was on a trolley in a corridor. Will the Secretary of State apologise to my constituent? Does he not regret wasting billions of pounds on a top-down reorganisation of the health service, instead of using the money to fund the additional doctors and nurses who could have treated my constituent and thousands of others like her across the country more quickly?

Mr Hunt: Management costs in the NHS doubled under the hon. Gentleman’s Government; under this Government, they have been cut by £1 billion a year, which is paying for 9,000 more doctors and 3,000 more nurses. That is the reality of the NHS under this Government—1 million more people are getting operations every year—and if he really believed in the NHS, he would support and welcome that, rather than criticise it.

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Stormont House Agreement

1.49 pm

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mrs Theresa Villiers): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the political talks in Northern Ireland, which culminated in the Stormont House agreement on 23 December. When I last had occasion to update the House, after the visit to Belfast of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, I reported that 10 weeks of talks had so far failed to deliver consensus on any of the key issues. I made it clear that the stakes over the coming days were high, and that without an agreement before Christmas we were unlikely to get so close again for months, or even years.

Further intensive discussions duly took place on Wednesday 17 December and continued on Thursday and Friday of that week. Resuming on Monday 22 December, the negotiations continued overnight, concluding some 30 hours later at around lunch time on the 23rd. At that stage, we presented the parties with a final heads of agreement, reflecting the many weeks of discussion and with the input of both the UK and Irish Governments, in accordance with the three-stranded approach. Key issues covered included the finances of the Stormont Executive, reform of the devolved institutions and the legacy issues of flags, parading and the past. I will take each in turn.

The agreement sets a path for the Executive to put their finances on a sustainable footing for the future, averting the impending budget crisis that was threatening the stability and credibility of the institutions. That includes the implementation of welfare reform, with certain agreed adaptations to be paid for out of the Northern Ireland block grant, alongside efficiency measures and reforms to the public sector. Measures to improve the way the devolved institutions work, including provision for an official Opposition, a reduction in the number of Government Departments and a cut in the number of Members of the Legislative Assembly by 2021 are also part of the agreement. A commission on flags, identity and culture is to be established by June and, based on the party leader discussions in the summer, proposals set out by the Government will open the way for a devolved system of adjudicating on parades, to replace the Parades Commission.

Crucially, the agreement also sets out broad-ranging new structures to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past. They include an oral history archive, a new historical investigations unit to look at the deaths that occurred as a result of the troubles, and an independent commission for information retrieval to be established by the UK and Irish Governments. All those bodies will be required to operate in a balanced, proportionate, transparent and accountable way, preventing any group or strand of opinion from being able to subvert the process or try to rewrite history.

The new system puts the needs of victims and survivors at centre stage and has reconciliation as a key goal. Consensus on how to deal with Northern Ireland’s past has eluded successive Governments since the Belfast agreement was signed 17 years ago, so the significance of the progress that has been achieved should not be underestimated. The Government have agreed to contribute

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£150 million over five years to help fund the structures dealing with the past, meaning that the Police Service of Northern Ireland can devote its efforts to policing the present rather than the past. That funding forms part of a wider package of significant financial support from the Government amounting to about £2 billion of additional spending power. That is made up of a combination of new funding and important flexibilities in relation to existing resources, and it is targeted at Northern Ireland’s specific circumstances—the legacy of its divided past, its divided society and its overdependence on the public sector.

Last, but certainly not least, the agreement paves the way for legislation to devolve the power to set the rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland. A Bill will be presented to the House shortly for First Reading. If the Stormont parties press ahead on agreeing their final budget and on delivering welfare reform legislation, the Government will use all their best endeavours to get the corporation tax legislation on to the statute book before Dissolution. The parties in Northern Ireland have made it clear that they believe that corporation tax devolution can help them rebalance the economy and attract investment, not least because of Northern Ireland’s unique position of having a land border with the Republic of Ireland. I welcome the fact that it is this Government who are delivering that momentous and transformative change, subject to the important conditions contained in the agreement, and I call on the Opposition today to commit to supporting the Bill as a key part of the Stormont House agreement.

The agreement involves compromise on all sides, and it has been widely welcomed. First Minister Peter Robinson hailed it as “a monumental step forward” for Northern Ireland. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called it “a remarkable achievement” and

“a fresh start we need to seize with both hands”.

President Obama said that Northern Ireland’s political leaders have shown that

“there is a way to succeed for the benefit of all”,

and Secretary of State Kerry called their actions “statesmanship, pure and simple”.

Securing an agreement is not the end point—far from it. There is much work ahead on implementation for the Executive, for the UK Government and, where appropriate, for the Irish Government. However, I give this assurance: if the parties in the Executive press ahead on that, the Government will implement our side of the agreement, and we will do it faithfully and fairly. There are no side deals.

In closing, I pay tribute to Minister Charlie Flanagan for his crucially important contribution to the process. I would also like to thank the United States Administration, and in particular Secretary Kerry’s special representative, Gary Hart, for their support. I thank all the officials at the Northern Ireland Office who worked so hard on the process. Above all, I would like to record my appreciation for the leadership and determination shown by Northern Ireland’s Executive parties.

In the Government’s view, the Stormont House agreement represents a genuine and significant step forward for Northern Ireland, offering the prospect of real progress on some of the most intractable issues faced there—problems that have defied multiple attempts to resolve them over the years. This agreement gives the

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five parties in the devolved Executive the chance to refocus and work together with renewed confidence for a more prosperous, more stable, more united and more secure future for the people of Northern Ireland. I urge them to seize the opportunities it presents to build a brighter future for Northern Ireland, and I commend the agreement to the House.

1.56 pm

Mr Ivan Lewis (Bury South) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement. The Opposition welcome many aspects of the agreement that she has outlined to the House. It is not perfect, but it is a genuine advance on the stalemate of the past two years. I congratulate the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary of State and their counterparts in the Irish Government on their painstaking and, I am sure, at times painful facilitation of the talks. I also recognise the contribution of US Secretary of State Kerry’s special representative, Senator Gary Hart.

Throughout the political impasse of the past two years, we have repeatedly called for the Government to play a more active role. We hope that the right lessons have now been learned about the consequences of disengagement for political stability and momentum in Northern Ireland. I am sure the Secretary of State will agree that there is no room for complacency. As we have seen in the recent past, unresolved issues such as parades and flags have the potential to fuel public concern, disorder and, ultimately, political instability.

I want to pay tribute to Northern Ireland’s political leaders for stepping back from the abyss and restoring some level of public confidence in their capacity to move Northern Ireland forward. It should be acknowledged that they face unique challenges in managing the transition from a society scarred by conflict and sectarianism to a more normalised society. However, that acknowledgement does not mean exemption from difficult political choices about priorities, or an expectation of blank cheques from this or any future Westminster Government.

Turning to the agreement itself, we welcome the adoption of a viable budget for the next financial year. It is right that it includes some elements of welfare reform while excluding the pernicious bedroom tax, which an incoming Labour Government will scrap. However, we remain concerned by the Government’s rush to introduce legislation on corporation tax devolution, a decision that will have profound implications for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. We believe that there should be a proper consultation process, including an analysis of the financial impact of significant reductions in corporation tax on Northern Ireland’s block grant, before legislation is introduced in this House.

It is good news that a comprehensive system for dealing with the past has finally been agreed. It is to be hoped that, over time, victims and their loved ones will develop confidence in the integrity of the new architecture and get the truth and justice that they have been denied for too long. We also strongly support the Government’s decision to make new investment available to boost integrated education. That is one of the most powerful manifestations of what a shared future can mean for Northern Ireland.

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I have a number of questions for the Secretary of State. What assessment have the Government made of the impact on the block grant if Northern Ireland reduced corporation tax to the levels of the Republic of Ireland? What criteria will be applied to determining whether penalties will be levied by the Treasury next year in connection with welfare reform? What is the time scale for the creation of the new system to deal with the past? What negotiating process will be put in place to deal with unresolved issues such as parades, flags, and other identity issues such as the Irish language? Finally, what process has been agreed to monitor the implementation of the agreement? I am sure the Secretary of State will agree that it is one thing to reach an agreement, but for the sake of credibility, it is incredibly important that that agreement is now implemented.

Mrs Villiers: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his expression of support for much of what is in the agreement, and for his kind comments about the work in which I and Minister Flanagan took part. As ever, I refute his allegation of a period of disengagement. At no stage have this Government been disengaged from Northern Ireland. We have actively worked throughout our time in office, not least in agreeing an economic pact that saw us working more closely with the devolved Executive in Northern Ireland than ever before, in addition to bringing the world’s media to Northern Ireland for the tremendously successful G8 conference.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments about progress on budget matters. Those on both Front Benches are united on the point that there will be no blank cheques, and the Government have put forward a significant and important financial package, reflecting Northern Ireland’s specific circumstances. I was disappointed to hear his comments on corporation tax devolution, because I think that change could have a significantly transformative effect on Northern Ireland’s economy. Northern Ireland is in a unique position in the United Kingdom, because it shares a land border with a jurisdiction that has a much lower rate of corporation tax. I urge the hon. Gentleman to urge the shadow Chancellor to allow Labour to support that change, which I believe is good for Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the implications for the block grant. The Azores criteria mean that any future reduction in corporation tax in Northern Ireland needs to be funded from the block grant. Various estimates have been made of what that might look like, but at this stage it is impossible to be certain, not least because no final decision has been made on what the rate would be reduced to.

On the criteria for calculating welfare shortfall payments, the £114 million due in financial year 2015-16 is dependent on progress on implementing welfare reform. The quicker welfare reform is introduced and is up and running, the lower the shortfall payment will be. The time scale on the past is a key point, and the Government are keen to start working with the Northern Ireland Executive on the work needed for those institutions. They will certainly need Assembly legislation and in all likelihood they will also need Westminster legislation, and we are getting on with those matters.

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The agreement sets out provision for a commission on flags to be established by June, and it is important that we press ahead with that. There is clearly more work to be done on that issue and on parades, and the agreement provides for further work by the Office of the Legislative Counsel of the Executive, bringing forth options that can then be consulted on for reform of the parading system. The process for monitoring will start with its first meeting between the Executive and the Government by the end of January. The final paragraphs of the main part of the agreement set out a system for monitoring implementation, and that will be taken seriously by the Government. It will, of course, involve the Irish Government, where appropriate and consistent with a three-stranded approach, and we look forward to getting down to work with the Executive on those matters.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for providing an advance copy of her statement. What discussions has she had with the parties in Northern Ireland about moving the Assembly and the Executive towards becoming a more efficient decision-making body?

Mrs Villiers: My hon. Friend will find a section in the agreement on that. There is a commitment to draft a protocol on the use of the petition of concern, and to set out more clearly the sorts of issues on which it should be deployed. There are important changes to the way the Executive work, so that Ministers from the smaller parties can get business on to the agenda. There are proposals for reform of the MLA expenses system, and a commitment to a future reduction in the number of MLAs. I am sure that more could be done in terms of institutional change, but the agreement is a real step forward. In particular, I draw the House’s attention to the provision for an official Opposition for the first time in the history of the devolved institutions.

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State and all the party leaders on reaching an agreement, not least in view of the Prime Minister’s astonishingly premature exit from the previous summit, and his lack of engagement, which has been greater than that of any Prime Minister for more than 20 years. How can the Secretary of State be sure that this process will not long-grass the key flashpoint issues of parades and flags? On corporation tax, is she aware of Sir David Varney’s 2007 report to the Treasury, which showed that 95% of businesses in Northern Ireland do not pay corporation tax? That is not a silver bullet; it will leave a £300 million hole, or 3%, in the block grant, if there is equalisation with the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs Villiers: I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister has been closely engaged with this process, and the visit he made along with the Taoiseach was significant in moving things forward. The financial package that he was able to agree with the Treasury was a crucial part of our progress. This Government have delivered significant achievements on some of the most difficult issues that Northern Ireland faces, and that is in large part due to work done by the Prime Minister.

I have acknowledged that there is more work to be done on the difficult issues of parades and flags, and no one would say for a moment that this agreement is the last word. I will be working, as will my officials and

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colleagues in government, to find a way forward on those matters, and ensure that they are not long-grassed and that we make real progress. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, those issues can cause huge disruption in Northern Ireland and poison the political relationships that are crucial to making the Executive work effectively. He says that corporation tax devolution is not a silver bullet. I agree that on its own it will not transform the Northern Ireland economy, but combined with other economic reform, a focus on skills and competitiveness, and economic reform across the board, it can have a significant and transformative effect. That is why I am disappointed that Labour is not supporting it.

Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on her statement, and all parties involved on showing real perseverance through some intractable negotiations. On the past, I pay tribute to all those at the Historical Enquiries Team who produced reports on cases that may have been low profile but nevertheless presented a real agony to relatives and friends of murder victims. I hope that the successor organisation will continue to publish such reports as they are of immense importance to those individuals. Looking to the future, the decision to introduce a Bill on corporation tax is tremendous and a tribute to all parties—the Opposition should remember that all political parties wish for it. Grow NI has overwhelming support from the business community in Northern Ireland, and estimates a cost of £200 million to £300 million if the tax were dropped to the level of the Republic. That is a very small investment in total Government spending of £23 billion in Northern Ireland. What issues does the Secretary of State believe might impede the progress of that Bill on to the statute book before March?

Mrs Villiers: I agree with my right hon. Friend about the importance of reports by the HET. Paragraph 30 of the agreement provides that the historical investigations unit will continue to provide those types of reports to families as part of its work. I pay a warm tribute to the work my right hon. Friend has done on corporation tax. He championed it alongside Grow NI, business groups and Northern Ireland’s political leaders, particularly the Democratic Unionist party, and it is a tremendous achievement that the Bill is now so close to being presented to Parliament. That is a real tribute to my right hon. Friend’s work as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. The Chair is obviously keen to accommodate everybody, but can I please appeal to each colleague to put one pithy question, not a miscellany of inquiries for which, frankly, we do not have time?

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): On 15 December, the Secretary of State told this House:

“the north Belfast panel”—

on parades—

“will be constituted shortly.”—[Official Report, 15 December 2014; Vol. 589, c. 1136.]

The Secretary of State knows that we did not negotiate on the issue of parades in the talks and that, of course, the Ligoniel parade was outside the ambit of those

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talks, but can she tell the House why, eight days later on 23 December, she went back on her word, did not consult the Unionist parties, did not consult this House and has not made any further statement other than to retract and give to Sinn Fein the opportunity to announce that the panel was not going ahead? Why did she do that? Is that not an act of gross bad faith? Is it not something that will cause immeasurable trouble in the days, weeks and months ahead? The festering sort of the denial of human rights to the people of Twaddell is not going to go away. If she does not intervene and do something—it is her responsibility; it is not devolved—it will get worse and worse in the weeks and months ahead.

Mrs Villiers: I fully appreciate how strongly the right hon. Gentleman feels. I am absolutely determined to continue to work with him and with Northern Ireland’s party leaders to find a way forward to ensure that we find a way to resolve the parading impasse. As we have had the chance to discuss, the trouble with the panel was that it did not have enough support. It never had nationalist support. The Unionist coalition that had called for it to be set up in the first place could not produce a public statement in support and had actually broken up—some of the smaller parties had walked out. None of the smaller parties were making the case for the panel publicly, and there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm among the smaller parties. I regret the way the news came out. I have apologised to the right hon. Gentleman for that, but now we need to move forward and find something that will work to try to resolve the impasse in north Belfast.

Mr Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) and all the staff who worked on this. It is a real achievement. My right hon. Friend knows that I am not much given to flattery, but it is a real achievement for which she deserves congratulations. She said that this is not the end. Going forward, will she ensure that those who were perhaps stumbling blocks—I understand Sinn Fein was a little bit difficult about welfare reform—are not allowed to stop this process in its tracks, and that we all work towards an Northern Ireland that is exactly like the rest of the United Kingdom, where people can go about their daily lives without fear, without corruption and without criminality?

Mrs Villiers: I thank my right hon. Friend for his kind comments. I echo his praise for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who worked with great assiduousness and devotion on these matters alongside, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, many of the civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office. It is a tremendously important step forward that the political parties together were able to find a compromise on welfare reform. It does involve a top-up from the block grant to reflect Northern Ireland’s circumstances. Agreement on welfare reform was essential to putting together a sustainable budget. The important thing now is for a final budget to be agreed by the end of January and for progress on a welfare Bill passing through to consideration stage in the Assembly before the end of February. Those are the next steps.

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Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. Can she possibly give us a little more detail on the specifics for the implementation of the legislation in the Chamber here in Westminster and in the Assembly? What particular legislation will apply to both? In relation to victims and the past, the detail is quite light. Many people will believe that the information sought in relation to inquests by those who have been deliberately affected—the victims and survivors—will not be met, because it falls far short of Haass and Eames-Bradley.

Mrs Villiers: I expect the House to receive news on legislation on corporation tax in the very, very near future. We are working on how the structure of legislation in the Assembly and Westminster on the rest of the package is precisely to be formulated. The procedures for review and monitoring are set out in paragraphs 73 to 75. In relation to inquests and the provision of information to families, it is crucial that we all work on this. The agreement has a commitment to reform. There is an acknowledgement that the current inquest system is not meeting the needs of the families effectively enough and not delivering the Government’s obligations under article 2 effectively enough. That will be a hugely important priority for the UK Government. We hope to work closely with the Department of Justice in the work that it will no doubt be doing on this.

Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): I welcome the fact that an agreement was reached, but will the Secretary of State set out exactly how much extra money has been given to the Northern Ireland Assembly to make the deal happen? Does she regret that, yet again, we have shown that if the parties of Northern Ireland hold out for long enough, Westminster will eventually cave in and send more money over?

Mrs Villiers: I can outline the financial package, but it is a fair one. It was not a blank cheque. It recognises that Northern Ireland faces specific problems that the rest of the United Kingdom does not. In outline, it involves £150 million over five years to help to fund work on the past; flexibility to use £700 million of capital borrowing to fund a voluntary exit scheme for four years; a contribution of up to £500 million over 10 years of capital funding for shared and integrated education; £350 million of borrowing for capital infrastructure projects; and the flexibility to use the receipts from asset sales and capital funding to repay the welfare shortfall payments.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I welcome the replacement of the Parades Commission, which in my view has done more harm than good. May I take up the point made by the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds)? There is one parade that is causing huge long-term problems in north Belfast. Will the Secretary of State get involved personally? Will she talk to the Orange Order directly? Will she visit Twaddell avenue camp, as many of us have, and actually talk to the people there to understand why they feel so strongly about this very small amount of road that people are deliberately trying to stop them going back along? Until that is sorted, none of this talk about parades commissions or new bodies will work. She has the power to get this solved.

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Mrs Villiers: I assure the hon. Lady that I will certainly be meeting the Orange Order and others who have a very strong interest in these matters. I fully appreciate the huge importance that both sides of the dispute place on them. I have been actively involved, and I will continue to be actively involved to try to find a way forward. This dispute is in nobody’s interests and we need to find a way to solve it.

Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) (LD): I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and I pay tribute to all the party leaders, and the Prime Minister, who helped to make it happen. I am disappointed that there was not more progress on the Parades Commission. We have kicked it back to June and to the middle of the marching season, which is going to be rather difficult. I would also like to pay tribute to the decision to have an independent audit on the cost of division. That will be terribly important to help us move forward. My question, however, relates to paragraph 69 and shared and integrated education. The Secretary of State knows there is a world of difference between shared education and integrated education. I would be grateful for her take on what she believes that means and what impact it will have on education in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Villiers: Clearly, there is much work to be done on parades. Whatever had gone into the agreement, there were always going to be decisions to be made on the implementation process. I agree that the proposal to have an independent audit of the cost of division is very important—a point championed in particular by the Alliance party. There is obviously a slightly blurred division between integrated education and shared education, but what they both have in common is that they ensure that the children who go through those schools have the chance to get to know and learn alongside children from other community backgrounds. That is a crucial means of helping to deliver a shared and united future for Northern Ireland. That is why the Prime Minister has given a substantial commitment to supporting integrated and shared education through funding.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): With so many people throughout Northern Ireland feeling profoundly disillusioned with the performance of the Northern Ireland Assembly, will the Secretary of State accept that it is imperative that the political parties make the agreement work this time and that they do so with a generosity of spirit? I speak as someone who absolutely loathed direct rule and who is passionate about devolution and ensuring that the Assembly survives and succeeds to serve the whole of Northern Ireland.

Mrs Villiers: I welcome the hon. Lady’s sentiments. She is absolutely right. This is an opportunity for Northern Ireland’s political leaders to make it work. Anyone who thinks the agreement takes us in the wrong direction needs to reflect on the alternative: increasing chaos over the budget and increasing tension over a range of issues. This is an opportunity. There is work ahead of us all to implement the agreement, however, and I hope that everyone in the House will urge the Northern Ireland parties to seize the opportunity and make the agreement work for all of Northern Ireland.

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Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): My right hon. Friend will recall the behaviour of the Democratic Unionist party over the vote on 42-day detention in the last Parliament, the deal for which cost this country about £1 billion. From the numbers she just gave my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills), it would seem that this latest deal has cost the taxpayers of Great Britain another £1 billion. Does she, like me, fear for the fate of this country if, by some mischance, there is not a clear Conservative majority at the next election and the Administration has to rely on that lot over there?

Mrs Villiers: My hon. Friend will be aware that the Conservatives are campaigning for a majority Conservative Government at the general election, not for coalitions of any sort. I will not comment on the history of the 42-day vote. I am keen to emphasise the crucial role played by First Minister Peter Robinson and the DUP in delivering a significant package of reforms for Northern Ireland.

Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): I pay tribute to the Secretary of State and her team and to the Irish and American Governments, who were involved in the talks over a protracted period. On many of these issues, the Stormont House agreement provides a road map for Northern Ireland, particularly around finances, but much deeper reform is needed than simply filling the holes. I also believe in dealing with the past. However, on other key and volatile issues, such as parading and flags, this has simply become a parking garage where things will be left to sit until the difficult period over the summer. What will she do personally to remain engaged on those key issues? It is clear that there is not the will across all parties to come to a mature resolution on them.

Mrs Villiers: I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments and pay tribute to the sterling work done by her and her party in moving things forwards on all these issues through the cross-party talks and in other ways. She is right to describe the agreement as a road map. As ever with agreements in Northern Ireland’s history, this is a further staging post, and the next journey along the road will be implementation. Of course, I will be directly involved in keeping everything moving on implementation. Given the comments we have heard, I will no doubt be spending a lot of time on parading matters over the coming weeks.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her hard work and all the political parties in Northern Ireland on delivering this agreement. However, may I press her for a little more information about how we can rebalance the economy in Northern Ireland? As I understand it, 80% of the economy there is dependent on the public sector. I am keen that there is not a significant impact on taxpayers in my constituency.

Mrs Villiers: On rebalancing the economy, as I have said, the devolution of corporation tax—assuming that the conditions are met—could have a transformative effect. In addition, the economic pact sets out other means to deliver the competitiveness that Northern Ireland needs to rebalance its economy. It will require reform of the planning system—that was proposed in

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the Assembly, but has not progressed as yet; crucially, a strong focus on skills and education; and measures to reduce red tape, which is why the pact contains a commitment by the Executive to a reduction of red tape. The Enterprise Minister has followed that up with some important work.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): I welcome the advance copy of the statement that the Secretary of State gave us, but I am rather perplexed at the attitude towards corporation tax of the Labour Front-Bench team. We have worked hard to achieve this, and for it to be delayed would be a shame.

On the financial agreement, the Secretary of State said that she would allow the proceeds of specific agreed asset sales to be retained entirely by Northern Ireland. What are those assets? Will she confirm whether they include the port of Belfast, Translink, the water service and/or Northern Ireland car parks?

Mrs Villiers: It is important that the Executive give proper consideration to those and all other assets of a similar nature, but it would not be right for me to prejudge what sale proposals the Executive might develop. Each asset will be considered in relation to the provision in the agreement’s financial annexe.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I add my voice to those who are congratulating my right hon. Friend, her team and everyone involved in getting agreement at Stormont House? It is fantastic.

I am pleased that there is to be a new historical investigations unit. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that the investigation will continue into what happened to the late Captain Robert Nairac GC and where his body might be located?

Mrs Villiers: I reiterate my sympathies and condolences to Robert Nairac’s friends and family, who must feel the pain of their loss even after so many years. Of course, a process is already in place for seeking the remains of the disappeared, and I do not think it would necessarily be impacted on by the HIU’s work. However, as part of the implementation process, we will work out how it will interact with existing bodies.

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words about the achievement of this agreement. There were many people who said a Conservative-led Government could not do this kind of thing. Well, they have been proved wrong.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): On corporation tax, I am quite happy for the north to adjust its corporation tax to compete with the south, but this is also a Westminster Government, so we need to be clear that doing that will not disadvantage other parts of the UK, including places such as the one I represent.

On the demise of the HET, the Northern Ireland Committee heard just before Christmas that because of budget cuts to the police, the work of the HET, which we thought would end in three years, will not end for nine. We have been told today that there will be legislation in this House and Belfast. When does the Secretary of State envisage the legislation going through and the HIU being put in place? What does she think the time scale for concluding all those investigations will be? Will it be shorter or longer than we thought?

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Mrs Villiers: Obviously, the PSNI has made some difficult announcements in recent weeks in seeking to absorb budget reductions, but the funding package and agreement, when implemented, will provide some relief. I hope that means that the work the PSNI indicated would take much longer than it had originally expected can be completed more quickly. We have put forward our proposal, and we hope that the HIU will complete the bulk of its work within five years.

On corporation tax, it is key to recognise that Northern Ireland is different and that there are specific reasons to justify its devolution in Northern Ireland that do not apply to the rest of the UK.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on the patience and resolve she has shown in helping the parties reach an agreement, particularly on the milestone of establishing an official Opposition in Northern Ireland, which is an important step forward in the normalisation of politics in the Province.

On the past, it is great that we have seen a degree of agreement between the parties, but does she agree that nothing in the agreement should imply an amnesty for the criminal gangs who preyed on the people of Northern Ireland for so long?

Mrs Villiers: Absolutely not. There are no amnesties in the agreement. This Government do not support such things, and they would not be justified in this instance.

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): The Secretary of State mentioned parades a number of times, and those will be a problem in the future. Does she therefore understand the frustration of my constituents at the Drumcree protest, which has been ongoing for 16 years? The panel gave us the possibility of finding a model to deal with that parade, but the rug has again been pulled from under us. Does she understand the complete frustration?

Mrs Villiers: I do, and the hon. Gentleman and I have discussed the Drumcree situation on many occasions. It is important in north Belfast to focus urgently on finding an inclusive process to bring the two sides together. That is why I will be meeting many of the different groups involved in the next few days and discussing these matters with the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) and the First Minister tomorrow.

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on her role in securing the agreement. Does she agree that the proposed independent commission on information retrieval should attach the same importance to requesting information from the British Government as is attached to pursuing the cases of the disappeared people who were victims of IRA murders during the troubles?

Mrs Villiers: Certainly, and it is crucial that the work on the disappeared is allowed to continue. Thankfully, it has been possible to find answers in relation to a number of cases. Sadly, many have so far not been resolved, but the good work done by the Independent

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Commission for the Location of Victims Remains is a good model on which to base the ICIR’s work for the future.

Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): Let me say to the hon. Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) that if he is faced with the choice of the Scottish nationalist party or a Unionist party, he may have cause to think again about the comments he just made.

The Secretary of State will join me in welcoming the progress we have made on dealing with our troubled past in Northern Ireland. She knows the hard work that was put in during the talks to achieve this outcome, which is a victim-centred outcome. However, many of those victims were victims of people operating from the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic; indeed, some were murdered in the Irish Republic. Will she ensure that the Irish Government hold good to the commitment and obligations they have undertaken in the agreement to co-operate fully with all the institutions dealing with the past and release all papers, documents and files held by Irish state forces that will assist in the apprehension of those responsible for those murders?

Mrs Villiers: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his hugely important work in the cross-party talks and for delivering what I believe is a good agreement overall, although his input on the past has been particularly highly valued. It is important that all participants—the UK Government, the Irish Government and the Executive parties—play their part and live up to the obligations they have undertaken. Minister Flanagan has repeated on many occasions that his Government would co-operate with those institutions; I have every confidence that they will do so.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): I commend the statement and acknowledge the comprehensive efforts made by all involved in reaching the agreement. The Secretary of State alluded to the need to ensure that the process did not become a rewriting of history. Will she go further and indicate to the wider public in Northern Ireland that there has to be a distinction between the genuinely innocent victims in the past who were murdered and butchered, and those who caused that murder and butchery and happened to be caught up in violence of their own hand?

Mrs Villiers: Of course there is a very clear distinction between those two. I know that there continues to be controversy around the way that the law defines a victim, which has been the barrier to taking forward the proposal for a pension for severely physically injured victims. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the agreement commits to there being further work on whether we can find a way to enable that pension to be taken forward without raising those problems around the definition of “victim”. It is a difficult issue, but one that we should all continue to try to find an answer to.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): Failure to agree on contentious issues such as flags and parading has led to violent protests, as we all know. What additional steps has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that the PSNI has adequate resources to guarantee security for the people of Northern Ireland and the capacity to police public events?

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Mrs Villiers: The hon. Lady makes an important point. The agreement will help partly by providing extra funding for institutions that are doing work on the past that is currently done by the PSNI, but the financial annex attached to the financial package also contains an obligation on the Executive to do what they can to minimise reductions in police funding. Given the financial realities, it seems inevitable that there will be reductions in PSNI funding to some degree, but the UK Government would certainly like these to be kept to an absolute minimum, which is why it is in the financial annex to the agreement.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Minister for her statement and for all the hard work that she and many others did to achieve the Stormont House agreement. We in the Democratic Unionist party ensured that the bedroom tax would not be implemented in Northern Ireland thanks to the flexibilities and the top-ups that we secured through the Northern Ireland block grant. Sinn Fein, of course, opposed that, but they never turned up in this Chamber to vote against it. However, this time Sinn Fein have joined with the DUP to agree a deal, which means that there is now no obstacle to a revised welfare reform Bill for Northern Ireland. Can the Minister set out the time scale for welfare reform in Northern Ireland and the legislative process through this House?

Mrs Villiers: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comment. It is a hugely important step that the five parties reached an agreement on a way forward on welfare reform. It is indeed a matter for the Northern Ireland parties that they have applied the top-up in relation to certain matters, including the spare room subsidy, which they are funding through their block grant. It is now vital that progress is made on implementing welfare reform as soon as possible, so that we can press ahead with the rest of the agreement.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Secretary of State will be glad that I will not rehearse the issues of welfare and finance that many of us concentrated on in the negotiations. She is right that we should not understate certain aspects of the agreement. However, it would also be wrong to oversell other aspects, where we have superficially strimmed the long grass, not least in respect of parades. Does she now regret her misadventure in proposing a panel on north Belfast, believing that that would somehow assist the talks, when we now know from the Unionist parties that their position was that, on the expected promise of the panel, they were not going to negotiate on parades in those discussions?

Mr Dodds: Rubbish.

Mark Durkan: We heard it from them today and we heard it from their leaders this week. That is why we had all the nugatory discussions in Stormont House about parades, and therefore ended up with no negotiations on parades, and those who wanted a panel have now ended up with no panel. That is the Secretary of State’s fault.

Mrs Villiers: I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and the Social Democratic and Labour party for the work they did on welfare reform and, in particular, the past,

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where their ideas have been highly influential. I think everyone would acknowledge that there is more work to be done on parades, and that it will be crucial to take that forward for the good of all in Northern Ireland whose lives are potentially disrupted by parades and for those who want to conduct their parades and express their culture in the way they have for hundreds of years.

As for the panel, as I said to the right hon. Member for Belfast North, unfortunately there was just not enough support for it. It was well intentioned, and I still believe that we need to find a way to mediate between the two sides and find an inclusive process that can engage as widely as possible. It became apparent that the panel would not be able to do that. We need to find a way forward, and I will be working with the Northern Ireland Executive and their parties to seek to do that.

Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): The Secretary of State mentioned the establishment of a commission to consider flags and emblems. Does she agree that it is absolutely outrageous that the people of Northern Ireland are not permitted to have their flag, the flag of the United Kingdom, displayed on their driving licences like everywhere else in the United Kingdom—the SDLP is trying to out-green and out-Sinn Sinn Fein—especially bearing in mind that people in Northern Ireland died to keep Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom and beat the provos?

Mrs Villiers: These are hugely sensitive issues and these matters have been under discussion in various forums for many years, and the proposal to have a broader civic conversation and debate about finding a way forward is a good one. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it was first proposed by Dr Richard Haass in the work that he and Meghan O’Sullivan did. We simply do not have all the answers on how all these matters need to be resolved. Including as many people as possible in finding a way forward on these sensitive and crucial questions of identity is an important step towards that.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): The additional money made available to Northern Ireland through flexibility and borrowing, and the extra money for the additional institutions, will be welcome. Despite what the hon. Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) said in his little Englander outburst, which helps nationalism more than the nasty nationalists of this House do when it comes to the break-up of the Union, this is something that Northern Ireland needed.

The important thing is to rebalance the economy as well. Will the Secretary of State spell out for us what exactly she means when she says that the Government will use their “best endeavours” to get the legislation on corporation tax through Parliament? Does that mean that that might not happen, and if not, why can she not give total clarity that the legislation will go through before the end of this Session?

Mrs Villiers: As I have said before, the reality is that introducing legislation at this stage of a Parliament runs the risk of running out of time for it, in which case we become dependent on the Opposition for getting it through. We will try to speed it through as best we can, assuming that the Northern Ireland Executive do their bit. We had hoped to introduce the legislation in December,

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in which case we would have been pretty confident of getting it through on time without the support of the Opposition. Given the delay of a few weeks, it is more uncertain. That is why I put the question I did to the shadow Secretary of State, but we will certainly try our very best to get this legislation on the statute book.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): I congratulate all the parties involved in enabling the statement to be made and in achieving the agreement, which is a significant step forward for Northern Ireland. The rising inequality and rising child poverty that we have seen under this Government and their hostility to public sector work have had an impact on Northern Ireland, creating a potential breeding ground for paramilitaries and political extremists. Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with the Chancellor about the impact on Northern Ireland of the decisions this Government have taken and of increasing poverty? What is she going to do to support a peaceful future by ensuring that Northern Ireland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, is able to have a more equal future than it has had in the recent past?

Mrs Villiers: I have had many discussions with the Chancellor on Northern Ireland matters. This Government’s economic plan is working for Northern Ireland. There has been significant inward investment and a significant number of jobs created, and the Northern Ireland economy is predicted to grow at a faster rate than the economies of many major developed economies around the world. The economy is turning around in Northern Ireland, which is a result of the work done by this Government.

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Points of Order

2.43 pm

Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 4 December in answer to written question number 216656 about cuts to the east coast main line by the new operators Virgin and Stagecoach and the reduction in the number of stops, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport with responsibility for rail franchises, the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), replied with a list of stations that would receive a reduction of one daily stop. This included Dunbar station in my constituency, and as you can imagine, Madam Deputy Speaker, it caused great upset and distress for many of my constituents. However, today I was contacted by Stagecoach which informed me that my constituents and I have been misled. What assistance can you give me to ensure that the Under-Secretary corrects her answer, provides more accurate answers in future and apologises to my constituents?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her intention to raise a point of order. Unusually, it seems that she has had better news than she expected. The hon. Lady is well aware that the content of a ministerial answer is not a matter for me, but I am quite certain that if the Minister has inadvertently given a wrong answer, she will take the first opportunity to correct it. I have every confidence that those on the Treasury Bench will convey to the relevant Minister the points that have been made.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During the urgent question on A and E, I challenged the Secretary of State to say whether he regretted the Government’s recommendation to close the A and E at Lewisham hospital, and he accused me of misleading my constituents and therefore of misleading the House. I have in my hand the recommendation of the special administrator’s report, published on 7 January 2013, which recommends closure of Lewisham’s A and E and its replacement with an urgent care centre. Given that the Secretary of State accepted that recommendation and was then forced to rescind it after a judicial review in October 2013, can you give me some guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how I can get the record put straight and bring the Secretary of State back here to correct what he said because I was not misleading the House or my constituents?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the point of order, but as I said to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell), the contents of what a Minister has said at the Dispatch Box or elsewhere is not a matter for me. He asks how he might draw attention to the facts, but he has just done so. Once again, I am confident that those on the Treasury Bench, from whom I am receiving nods of agreement, will make sure the Minister is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s point. No one wants the record of this place ever to be wrong, and it is important to correct it at the first opportunity.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On Monday this week, the Prime Minister chose to make only a written statement

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on the European Council meeting instead of his customary oral statement during which Members can question him on the issues raised. Given the intensification of the eurozone crisis and its implications for Britain, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to which there has been much opposition, and the many other important matters that have been raised, it was vital for the Prime Minister to report to the House in person and submit to questioning from Members, even if on a later day than usual. Will you use your good offices, Madam Deputy Speaker, to seek to persuade the Prime Minister to make his European Council statements orally on all occasions so that all Members have an opportunity to question him personally and in public?

Madam Deputy Speaker: It is kind of the hon. Gentleman to suggest that I might have any influence whatsoever over the Prime Minister. I can assure him that of course I do not. But he does, and it is open to him, as indeed it is to any Member, to submit an application for an urgent question, which Mr Speaker would consider. If the urgent question is truly urgent, the Prime Minister or another Minister would be obliged to come to the House. I can also advise the hon. Gentleman that if he wishes to debate the matter, he can apply to do so through the good offices of the Backbench Business Committee.

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Alcohol Labelling (Pregnancy)

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

2.48 pm

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require establishment of a statutory scheme providing for clear and consistent labelling of alcoholic beverages as they relate to foetal health and safety and that of pregnant women; and for connected purposes.

Seven thousand children a year are born in the UK damaged by alcohol. That is one in every 100 births. Mild brain damage can be caused to children by even small amounts of alcohol at the wrong time during pregnancy, especially in the early stages when an embryo does not have the protection of a bloodstream. Much scientific evidence suggests that there is no safe limit when it comes to drinking in pregnancy, but sadly not everyone is aware of the dangers. The chief medical officer says:

“Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. However, if they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one or two units once or twice a week and should not get drunk.”

She goes on to say:

“There is uncertainty about how much alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy”.

The CMO also says that if a low level is consumed, there is no evidence of harm to an unborn baby. However, this view is not universally shared.

The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome UK tells us that there is no way to know for sure what impact drinking alcohol might have on an unborn baby. The same point is made by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. According to NOFAS, a similar amount of alcohol might affect one baby but not another. We know that heavy drinking and binge drinking during pregnancy increase the risk of foetal alcohol syndrome, which is characterised by physical deformities, but there is a lack of consensus on the effects of smaller amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, as is shown by the apparent contradiction between that advice and the advice given by the chief medical officer.

The effects on a child can range from reduced intellectual ability and attention deficit disorder to heart problems and premature death. Many children experience serious behavioural and social difficulties that last a lifetime. In fact, what most of us take for granted is a lifelong struggle for them, and the damage that has been caused cannot be reversed. Not everyone whose mother drinks during pregnancy suffers damage that affects his or her life chances, and this is certainly not an attack on women, but the damage that is done by alcohol to too many children shows the need for action, and it shows that too many of us do not understand the potential risks of drinking alcohol at any point during pregnancy.

In 2007, Lord Mitchell introduced a private Member’s Bill which led to a voluntary system of labelling in the UK, but not all alcohol containers feature a warning, and there is also the vital question of how effective the labels are. The label that is used is only a few millimetres high, and is supposed to show a picture of a pregnant woman taking a drink with a line crossed through the picture to suggest that the woman should not be drinking

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alcohol. However, many people do not notice the symbol or realise what it is. The fact is that the labels in this country are inadequate, as well as not being universal. However, labels on containers are not the only way in which awareness needs to be increased. In Canada, four to 11-year-olds learn about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, which ensures that awareness is ingrained in the minds of the new generation. Posters about foetal alcohol syndrome are displayed in railway stations, airports, surgeries and shops.

I am pleased to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), is present. During my Westminster Hall debate on 14 October, she referred to the review by the chief medical officer. That review appears to be taking a very long time to complete. I hope that the chief medical officer will listen to the British Society of Gastroenterology, which wants to see a decent-sized warning message in writing rather than just a symbol on labels.

The president-elect of the British Medical Association, Sir Al Aynsley Green, told me that he thought there should be a much fuller debate about the risks to children from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. He suggested that the Government should examine the evidence from Canada, where education and awareness of the risks are combined with support for children, families and professionals who are dealing with the effects of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. In the United States and in Canada, labels on all containers of alcohol include the message “Women should not drink alcohol while pregnant or trying to conceive”. In the United Kingdom, symbols are more common than warning messages, and when a written warning is used, it is so small that, like the symbols, it is hard to read. However, improving labelling is only part of the answer. We also need to help the children who are damaged, and those who are trying to support them or live with them.

My Bill is about making sure that all the facts are available, and about avoiding confusing or conflicting advice, whether it comes from the Government or from

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other sources. The existing labels are inadequate, which is why I am calling for a mandatory system of labelling that is clear, cannot be easily missed, and gives the best advice. That advice must be for women not to drink at all while they are pregnant or trying to conceive. Such a system of labelling should be designed to reduce the number of children who are damaged at great cost to themselves and to society.

I invite those who say that my Bill will make no difference to meet some of the children who have been damaged because their mothers did not know of the dangers and continued to drink. I invite them to talk to carers, to teachers and to NHS staff who are trying to help the children who are struggling to deal with a world in which their brains do not function properly as a result of damage caused during pregnancy. I invite them to say what they would do to reduce the number of children who are damaged during pregnancy as a result of the drinking of alcohol. If improving labelling is not part of the answer, then what is?

To the drinks industry I say, “Consider the content of the labels now, look at what happens in Canada and the United States, and make the necessary changes without legislation.” Some children will continue to be born suffering permanent damage from the effects of alcohol consumed by their mothers during pregnancy, but evidence shows what is needed if we are to reduce the number of children who suffer in this way. So to the Government I say, “Update the guidance, and support my Bill.”

Question put and agreed to.


That Bill Esterson, Rosie Cooper, Tracey Crouch, Nia Griffith, Julie Hilling, Kelvin Hopkins, Barbara Keeley, Tim Loughton, Lisa Nandy, Jim Shannon, Sir Andrew Stunell and Dr Sarah Wollaston present the Bill.

Bill Esterson accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March and to be printed (Bill 147).

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Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

[2nd Allocated Day]

Further consideration of Bill, as amended in Committee of the whole House

Clause 24

Power to issue guidance

2.57 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I beg to move amendment 7, page 15, line 21, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

‘(5) Before giving guidance under this section, or revising guidance already given, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament—

(a) the proposed guidance or proposed revisions; and

(b) a draft of an order providing for the guidance, or revisions to the guidance, to come into force.

(6) The Secretary of State must make the order, and issue the guidance or (as the case may be) make the revisions to the guidance, if the draft of the order is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(7) Guidance, or revisions to guidance, come into force in accordance with an order under this section.

(8) Such an order—

(a) is to be a statutory instrument; and

(b) may contain transitional, transitory or saving provision.”

This would ensure that statutory guidance produced under Clause 24 was subject to an affirmative resolution of each House.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 6, in clause 29, page 17, line 29, leave out subsection (7) and insert—

‘(7) To support panels exercising their functions under this section the Secretary of State must—

(a) provide guidance on the exercise of those functions;

(b) provide a list of approved providers for de-radicalisation programmes that may be referred to under subsection (4); and

(c) ensure that the providers listed under paragraph (b) are subject to monitoring.”

This would give a greater role to the Secretary of State in supporting the role of local support panels. The Secretary of State would have to provide guidance (rather than it being optional) and she would also have to provide a list of approved providers for de-radicalisation programmes and ensure they would be subject to monitoring.

Diana Johnson: Let me begin by expressing my horror at the terror attack that took place in Paris today. I am sure that the thoughts of the whole House will be with the family and friends of the victims of that attack, and, of course, we all stand in solidarity with the French people at this time.

Part 5 of the Bill contains measures to counter extremism in communities and to deal directly with vulnerable individuals. As Ministers will recall, it was the last Labour Government who introduced both the Prevent agenda and the Channel programme, and we remain absolutely committed to supporting and, indeed, strengthening both policies. Obviously the Government reviewed Prevent when they came to office, and it is important for us to view the measures in the Bill in the

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context of the changes that they introduced. I think that those changes are a rather mixed bag, and I am not sure that they were particularly successful.

Both Prevent and Channel require a partnership between central Government and local agencies, and amendments 7 and 6 are intended to ensure that the Government support local bodies in the delivery of both programmes. While we agree that Prevent should involve local delivery, it seems to us that the recent problems stem from central Government. There has been a marked decline in Prevent’s funding, which has fallen from £17 million a year to just £1 million. Some of that clearly resulted from a conscious decision, but there also appears to have been mismanagement. Every year £5.1 million has been allocated for local delivery, but I understand that over the past four years more than 60% of it has gone unclaimed.

In Committee, I raised a number of concerns about the delivery of Prevent at national level, and about the monitoring and support supplied by central Government to local agencies. I am sure that the Minister for Security and Immigration, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire)—although I am pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) in the Chamber today—recalls that I spoke at length about my concern about the performance of the Department for Education. I do not want to go through all that again, but I think that the Government’s role should be formalised in the Bill so that we know what is expected of them.

3 pm

So, we have no problems with the principle of the general duty on public bodies to prevent terrorism, but this could mean a number of different things, and it is therefore important that the guidance is as full and effective as possible. In Committee, we tabled an amendment to mandate the issuing of guidance. As a consultation on the draft guidance was then issued—I think on the last day before the Christmas recess—we have not tabled that amendment again, but we do still feel that the guidance that has been issued, and which is subject to consultation, should be subject to a very full debate and approval by both Houses of Parliament. That is why we have tabled amendment 7.

I shall raise some issues with the current guidance but first I want to emphasise the potential scope of the guidance. Under the enabling provisions as currently drafted in the Bill, the guidance could be written and rewritten by the Secretary of State at will. The guidance is very important because it could have a bearing on free speech, academic freedoms and patient-doctor relations, but under the Bill as currently drafted, Parliament would have no role in overseeing what is in it.

My other concern is that one set of guidance will apply to numerous bodies, as set out in schedule 3, and therefore will have to apply in very disparate settings. There are also real issues as to how the guidance will cover Scotland and Wales. The consultation document states:

“Where English and Welsh authorities are different, however, the guidance has so far been drafted only to apply to the English authorities. It is the hope and intention of the UK Government that Scottish authorities will be included, and that this guidance will be applicable to authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.”

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The guidance is therefore supposed to cover all countries in the UK, but consideration has, at this stage, been given only to England. Will there be fresh consultation looking specifically at Wales and Scotland once agreement has been reached with the respective Administrations about which bodies within those countries it will apply to?

There is similar confusion over two-tier local authorities, which was also a matter I raised in Committee. The guidance that has been issued simply states:

“In two-tier areas, county and district councils will need to agree proportionate arrangements for sharing the assessment of risk and for agreeing local Prevent action plans”,

but nothing more is said about how that is going to work and how the relative burden should be shared between different authorities. I have to say that I do not think that local government will find this guidance helpful in the way it is currently drafted.

In addition to these issues about where the guidance is to be implemented, there are a number of issues with the guidance itself. My key concern with the document is that there is very little help for public bodies in identifying what terrorism actually is. The document talks about tackling both violent and non-violent extremism, but contains very little to help public bodies identify either. I think we can draw important comparisons with child abuse and domestic violence in this regard. Improving best practice in those areas has required better understanding of the indications of abuse. Everyone agrees we should stop child abuse and violent extremism, but in both cases the problem is that public bodies have often failed to spot the key signs. This document does not do enough to remedy that for extremism and terrorism.

The guidance is very strong on procedures, but short on content. There is a real danger that the guidance could result in a series of time-consuming tick-box exercises performed by public bodies at all levels, without any improvement in the identification or understanding of violent extremism, and that is something we should all want to avoid. For example, there are frequent instructions for bodies to conduct risk assessment exercises, but no guidance on how they should conduct such an exercise, or what factors they should prioritise. If we look specifically at health care we see that duties are placed on a whole host of bodies, and then Monitor, the Trust Development Authority and the Care Quality Commission are all expected to monitor compliance. However, it is envisaged that those bodies—which are already over-stretched—should just check that processes have been followed. I therefore question whether this is the most effective way of ensuring that the Prevent agenda is implemented.

I have similar concerns about the higher education sector. The document’s references to that sector envisage that the Higher Education Funding Council for England will be conducting monitoring and evaluation of the processes that the sector will have to undertake. I wonder whether the Minister might be able to help me understand what happens in Wales and Scotland—as far as I am aware, HEFCE covers only England.

When I met Calie Pistorius, the vice-chancellor of Hull university, which is in my constituency, and its student union president, Richard Brooks, I was very impressed when I learned from both of them about the procedures and practices already in place at the university for dealing with external speakers and room bookings,

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for example, and for making sure that everybody understands their responsibilities and that there is effective communication. The university and its student union have been identified as one of the best examples of working together to ensure that issues of concern to Prevent are dealt with effectively on that campus, and I pay tribute to them for the work they are doing.

All this focus on processes in the consultation document risks detracting from outcomes and wasting time and effort. At a time of huge cuts in the public sector, we should be trying to minimise the burden on public bodies, particularly those facing very low risks.

Much has been made of this guidance applying to nurseries. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) has raised that, and he makes the important point that that setting will generally face a low risk, as will district councils in the Outer Hebrides, for example, yet these bodies will still have to fulfil the processes under Prevent. The guidance document therefore needs to include some differentiation to enable this to work in practice. I want to ask the Minister about childminders in particular, as they are identified in the consultation document. What exactly is a childminder expected to do to fulfil the Prevent requirements, especially as we know that small children—boys and girls—often like to play and act using toy guns and swords? What does the Minister think childminders should be expected to do in such circumstances, in the light of the Prevent consultation?

Throughout the document there is a real failure to deliver a proper analysis of the problem. The introduction makes clear that the focus should be on “Islamist extremists”, and it is clear that a much lower priority is given to white supremacists, for example. I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions about that. Can she tell me how many referrals to the Channel programme have been for people proclaiming white supremacist views? It would be helpful to have the numbers on that. We have seen the rise of the far-right parties across Europe, and in recent days the demonstrations in Germany. Recent cases such as that involving Anders Breivik show that we should never be complacent about the dangers from the far right and white supremacists. Will the Minister address that point in relation to the Prevent consultation document?

Why does the guidance refer to “Islamist extremists” as though that was just one single thing? The guidance states that the aim of Prevent is to tackle Muslim extremists who have an anti-west agenda, yet we know that the current conflicts in the middle east—particularly those in Syria and Iraq, which are fuelling ISIS—are not between Muslims and the west but are intra-Muslim conflicts. Intra-Muslim tensions have also been identified in numerous UK cities and linked to a series of attacks. We believe that the Prevent agenda should address such intra-Muslim conflicts as well. At the moment, those elements seem to be absent from the guidance.

In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) talked about counter-narratives. The Muslim community is trying hard to combat sectarianism with a narrative of peace and unity, and we support it in doing that. Public bodies should be supporting community bodies in doing that, but they need guidance on how best to undertake that work. Again, that is completely absent from the consultation document.

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That leads me to my second overall criticism of the consultation document: the lack of evidence to support what is in it. If the consultation document had said that a particular piece of research revealed a problem with Prevent delivering in certain areas or identifying certain issues, it would have been much easier to understand the measures in the document, but such evidence is not there. As I said in Committee, the Government do not seem to have done enough to monitor the implementation of their revised Prevent agenda across the country and across different bodies. They are now reacting in a blanket fashion because they have not done the necessary work to identify the weaknesses of the revised programme. It is welcome that the guidance includes some brief details about what the Home Office will do to support public bodies, but this could be expanded on, and it seems almost entirely limited to the Prevent priority areas. What about the rest of the country? These duties will be placed on public bodies throughout the country, not just those in the Prevent priority areas.

I want to ask about the Prevent priority areas, because they are a little muddled. Under the previous Government, there were 92 priority areas. This Government reduced the number to 23, but they then realised that that was not quite right. They reinstated funding to some areas, such as Greenwich, and the number of Prevent priority areas rose to 30. The consultation document says that there will be 50 Prevent priority areas, yet the Bill’s impact assessment refers to about 90 local authorities facing high risk. This is a bit of a mess. Do the Government know how many high-priority areas there are? Will the Minister tell us the actual number? Is it 90 or 50? In the light of the issues that I have raised, it is important that Parliament should have an opportunity to scrutinise the guidance, once it has been finalised. At the moment, all we have is the consultation document, which has large gaps in it.

I turn to amendment 6 and the Channel programme, which will be placed on a statutory footing alongside the rest of Prevent. As with Prevent, it is a policy area of enormous importance, and the Opposition support efforts to strengthen it. Once again, however, the Government are placing obligations on local authorities without making provision to ensure that they will be properly and fully supported by central Government.

Clause 28 provides for the creation of local assessment and support panels in every local authority, but once again the Bill is being implemented before a decision has been made about what will happen in Scotland. The Bill puts on to a statutory footing only a small part of the Channel process, and of course what it is putting into statute should already exist. It is surprising that the Government have not been able to provide evidence of how many councils have already created such boards, given that that information has been asked for.

The first stage of the Channel programme is not covered by the Bill. That is the stage at which an individual is referred to the police because of concerns about radicalisation. Under the current system, numerous local bodies can make a referral including schools, colleges, universities, youth offending services, local authority troubled family teams, charities and voluntary groups. The police then conduct a screening process. Only after that does the statutory footing appear to kick in.

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3.15 pm

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that this provision should relate not only to public bodies? If an individual believes that someone is likely to become radicalised, it really should be incumbent on that individual to tell someone about it so that something can be done. It is not only bodies such as schools that should have responsibilities in this area; individuals should, too.

Diana Johnson: The hon. Gentleman makes the important point that we all have a responsibility in this area. My concern, however, is about the specific responsibilities being placed on local authorities and other public bodies under the Channel programme. We must make sure that we get this right, which is why I am focusing on why the first stage of the programme is not being placed on a statutory basis but the second stage is so being placed. I wonder whether that is the best way of doing it. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, however.

Only when a person has been identified as at risk will the provisions in clause 28(3) kick in. That subsection allows a chief officer of police to make a referral to the local support panel that has been set up by the local authority. My first concern is with the level of expertise that those panels must have, and that is where amendment 21 comes in. As provided for in the Bill, local support panels will have to assess the individual’s risk of radicalisation and tailor a support panel to address the risks. The issues involved are complex and varied.

The current guidance cites 22 vulnerability indicators that could lead to a Channel referral. The panel must weigh up those factors and tailor a support package, which could have any number of elements. In some areas, however, the panel will be addressing issues that it has never faced before, such as sectarian hatred, which can be exacerbated by poorly provided support. That is why we feel that the Home Office needs to support local panels by providing an approved list of support providers who are able to give the specialist interventions needed to address the specific issues facing the individual.

This is a crucial stage of the Channel process and it should be recognised in the Bill. My understanding is that the Home Office is already doing this work to some extent, and I welcome the Minister’s commitment on Second Reading to continue to do it, but as we are putting the obligations of local authorities into the Bill, I think we should also be placing the responsibilities of central Government in the legislation. That could be particularly important for local authorities that are making referrals for the first time. I have repeatedly asked for the number of occasions on which each local authority has made a Channel assessment and referral, but unfortunately my requests for that information have been repeatedly refused. However, there must be many parts of the country that have never had to deal with issues such as these before.

This Government have repeatedly claimed to be stepping up efforts to stop Prevent funding going to organisations that are radicalising people, but that cannot be done unless the Home Office takes a lead in vetting those bodies. Under clause 32, the Home Secretary may indemnify Channel providers, so it is accepted that the Home Office has a role in that regard. It therefore seems reasonable for it also to have a role in assessing and

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vetting providers and ensuring that they are fit for purpose. These are really important issues. I know the Minister shares the commitment to making sure this Bill is as good as it can be and to getting Prevent and Channel right. I therefore hope she will realise that the support the Home Office is providing on Prevent and Channel needs to be reviewed again and improved, and that the guidance that has been issued as a consultation document can be improved in many areas. I hope she will feel able to accept the amendments.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): Today’s events in Paris are yet another shocking reminder of the threat we all face, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and colleagues of the victims. I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in condemning that barbaric attack, and I am sure the whole House stands united with the French people in our opposition to all forms of terrorism.

Part 5 of the Bill and schedules 3 and 4 deal with an important area of our counter-terrorism work: preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. That was subject to a long and insightful debate in Committee, and I recognise and welcome the deep interest many right hon. and hon. Members have in the area. The shadow Minister made a number of points about the Prevent programme in general, and I wish to address those before dealing with the specifics of the amendments.

The hon. Lady made a point about funding for Prevent, so let me make it clear that this Government are committed to the Prevent programme: £40 million has been allocated for Prevent spending in 2014-15, and the spending has been £36 million in 2011-12, £35 million in 2012-13 and £39 million in 2013-14. She knows as well as anybody that the spending is not just done by the Home Office and that that is spending across government, including by local authorities, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Home Office. It is worth saying that the Prime Minister announced on 25 November that an additional £130 million was being made available for increased counter-terrorism work, which includes Prevent activity. With that funding, we will introduce a clear legal obligation on our universities, prisons, councils and schools to play their part in tackling extremism. The new funding being made available will also include additional resources for programmes to prevent radicalisation.

The hon. Lady asked about the Prevent projects. We have delivered more than 180 community-based Prevent projects since 2011, and we are currently supporting more than 70. Prevent local projects have reached more than 45,000 people since early 2012. All our current Prevent projects are focused on the current threat, including Syria and Iraq. In the 2013-14 financial year, Prevent local co-ordinators in our 30 Prevent priority areas worked with more than 250 mosques, 50 faith groups and 70 community groups. In addition, since the revised Prevent strategy was issued in June 2011, we have trained more than 120,000 front-line public sector workers to identify and support those at risk. We are currently rolling out new updated training, through the Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent—the WRAP training

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programme—now in its third iteration. We have seen a significant rise in the number of referrals to the Channel programme, which provides tailored support to people identified as being at risk of radicalisation; the Association of Chief Police Officers reported a 58% increase in the past year. Since April 2012, there have been more than 2,000 referrals to Channel, and hundreds of people have been offered support.

Let me now deal with the amendments. Amendment 7 is a repeat of an amendment first tabled in Committee, which was taken to a vote. It concerns the guidance that the Secretary of State may issue to specified authorities that are subject to the new duty to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Under clause 24, the specified authorities subject to the duty must have due regard to such guidance in carrying out that duty. Amendment 7 would require that the guidance may be issued only subject to parliamentary approval. In Committee, hon. Members were clear that an amendment of this type was not required, at least not at that stage. Clause 24 already provides that the Secretary of State must consult before issuing guidance and, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Security and Immigration announced to the House by written ministerial statement on 18 December, that consultation has already begun.

The shadow Minister asked about the draft guidance on which we are consulting. It is draft guidance, and we will be holding regional consultation events to explore further examples of best practice with those who will be subject to the duty. The consultation exercise also includes an opportunity for people to comment via the website, or by e-mail or post. It is aimed at all those who will be subject to the duty, as well as the public at large.

This public consultation provides sufficient opportunity for interested parties, particularly those who will be subject to the Prevent duty, to scrutinise and influence the guidance. The guidance will benefit from extensive consultation and expert input, and I trust that the final guidance that is published will be all the better for having had this period of formal public consultation. The draft guidance, which we are currently consulting on, sets out, over 40 pages, the type of activity we expect specified activities to consider when complying with the duty.

The starting point for all specified authorities will be an assessment of the risk in their area, institution or body. Where a risk has been identified, they will need to develop an action plan to address it. Staff training and working together with other partners will be key themes.

Let me give some examples of what we expect a specified authority to consider when complying with the duty. Local authorities should ensure that publicly owned premises are not used to disseminate extremist views. Higher education institutions should have policies and procedures in place for the management of events on campus and for the use of all university premises that apply to all staff, students and visitors. Further education providers should have policies in place relating to the use of IT on their premises. Schools and their governors should make sure that they have training to give them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism, and know where and how to refer children and young people for further help.

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The health sector should ensure that training is provided to front-line staff to ensure that where there are signs that someone has been or is being drawn into terrorism, the health care worker can interpret those signs correctly and is aware of and can locate support for them. Prisons should offer support to an individual who is vulnerable to radicalisation or move them away from an individual of concern, and those at risk of radicalising others should face the removal of privileges and segregation from others. The police should support individuals vulnerable to radicalisation, for example, through the Channel programme and support partner organisations to deliver Prevent work.

Those are just a few examples, and the shadow Minister asked about childminders. Carers in early years have a duty of care to the children in their care similar to existing safeguarding responsibilities. We are not expecting childminders or nursery workers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life, but we expect them to take action where they observe behaviour of concern. It is important that children are taught fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way. For children in early years, that is about learning right from wrong and challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes—for example, if a child makes anti-Semitic remarks.

Bob Stewart: If someone, perhaps a childminder, has a worry about a threat and reports it, are they guaranteed anonymity? Is a system in place to guarantee that people are not found out, including when reports are fallacious?

Karen Bradley: I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for his comments. I understand that anonymity would be provided to people coming forward in that circumstance.

The shadow Minister asked about areas with low risk. The guidance sets out very clearly that we are looking for a risk-based approach, but areas need to understand the local risk. This is the starting point, and we are clear that the type and scale of the response will vary. She also asked about the number of Prevent priority areas. The Government have changed our method for prioritisation of local authority areas since 2011 and it is now based on assessment of the risk of exposure to radicalisation in specific areas rather than on simple demographics. The prioritisation also takes into account activity that we have seen by terrorist organisations and terrorist sympathisers. The process is regularly reviewed and activity is currently focused on 30 local authority priority areas where the risk of radicalisation is identified as being higher. Those priority areas received funding for a dedicated Prevent co-ordinator and are able to bid for funding for targeted local projects to work with communities and partners. There are also a further 14 supported areas where we support projects only.

Diana Johnson: I thank the Minister for going through the answers to my questions in such detail. The impact assessment says that 90 local authority areas are at high risk, the consultation document identifies 50 priority areas and the Minister is now talking about 30 areas and an additional 14 areas. These numbers all seem a bit confused to me. Will she say the exact number of Prevent priority areas the Government are concerned about?

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3.30 pm

Karen Bradley: If the hon. Lady will give me a few moments, I will come on to that point.

We do not believe that it is crucial for the guidance to be subject to additional parliamentary approval because we are conducting a wide-ranging consultation and, although the specified authorities must have regard to the guidance, they are not required to follow it in all cases. That is not an uncommon approach for statutory guidance of this nature and we set that out in detail in the delegated powers memorandum published with the Bill. However, I recognise the need for these issues to be properly considered, and that is why my hon. Friend the Minister for Security and Immigration made clear in Committee our intention to await the conclusions of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform before giving further consideration to whether we should make any changes of this sort. I hope that the hon. Lady will agree that that is a sensible approach and will be content to await the report of that Committee. On that basis, I invite her to withdraw the amendment, so that we can return to the issue in the other place.

Let me now turn to amendment 6, which would amend clause 29 to require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to support panels in carrying out their functions. The amendment would also require that the panel had sight of the list of approved providers for deradicalisation programmes and that the providers were subject to monitoring. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration and Security explained in Committee, Channel is a multi-agency programme that provides support to people identified as vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. It has been in operation in all areas of England and Wales since 2012. In Scotland, the relevant programme is known as Prevent Professional Concerns. It is the Government’s hope and intention that these provisions should also apply to Scotland and discussions with the Scottish Government are ongoing.

As the hon. Lady asked about the devolved Administrations, I want to confirm that we are speaking to the Scottish and Welsh Governments about how the duty should be implemented in those Administrations and consulting on how we should make the guidance appropriate to bodies in Scotland and Wales, particularly because the different legal system in Scotland might mean that we need to implement things differently there. As part of the process, we are consulting them on how the duty should be monitored and enforced.

Diana Johnson: It is very helpful to hear the Minister set that out, but once agreement has been reached with the devolved Administrations, will there be a further period of consultation on the guidance, so that local authorities and other bodies can comment on what has been agreed between the Governments?

Karen Bradley: I am not sure that that is how we envisage it happening, but we are consulting and working very closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we take into account their views and get this right for them.

The hon. Lady asked about the number of priority areas under Prevent, so let me clarify. There are currently 30 Prevent priority areas, and we anticipate that that

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will rise to up to 50 in the next financial year. The impact assessment allows for up to 90 priority areas, should the need arise.

The hon. Lady asked about referrals to Channel relating to the far right and whether the Channel programme targeted only Muslim radicalisation. Like Prevent as a whole, Channel covers all forms of terrorism and extremism related to terrorism. It does not target Muslims and anyone can refer a person of any age, ethnicity or faith background to Channel. A significant number of people who have started receiving support through Channel were referred for far-right concerns. ACPO has reported that around a quarter of Channel referrals relate to the far right.

The hon. Lady has expressed concern about the expertise that panels must have and has retabled the amendment that we considered in Committee. Clause 28 includes provision for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to support panels in carrying out their functions. I can assure the hon. Lady that existing guidance is being updated in consultation with relevant persons, including those who deliver on the ground such as panel chairs. My right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, will issue this guidance before the provisions are commenced.

Local panels assess the individual’s risk and, if appropriate, develop a support package. It is the job of the panel members to provide advice in respect of their areas of expertise, and to arrange, where agreed, support interventions from their services. Interventions that are delivered by such statutory partners are subject to existing monitoring arrangements.

In respect of theological or ideological support, the police representative will recommend to the panel the provider most suited to the case. The list of approved providers for such support is already made available to key members of the panel.

Safeguards and measures are in place to monitor the support providers—I hope that that reassures the hon. Lady—and they are all bound by a service level agreement with the Home Office that sets out the terms and conditions of their appointment, including conduct. In addition, the police, as part of their co-ordination role, regularly review progress made against any interventions commissioned. Any misconduct or quality concerns will be treated seriously by the Home Office, with the option of terminating an agreement with a provider.

On this basis, I hope that the hon. Lady is reassured that amendment 6 is unnecessary. I invite her to withdraw amendment 7, so that we can return to the parliamentary scrutiny of the Prevent guidance in the other place.

Diana Johnson: I am grateful to the Minister for going through my questions in such detail. On amendment 7, I am surprised that the Government are not willing to agree that both Houses should have the opportunity to scrutinise the final version of the guidance, which we have not yet seen. I note what she said about keeping the matter under consideration. I am sure that the matter will be returned to when the Bill goes to the other place. On that basis, I will not seek to divide the House on amendment 7. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Schedule 3

Specified authorities

Karen Bradley: I beg to move amendment 13, page 47, line 10, at end insert—

“A person carrying out a function of an authority mentioned in section 1(2) of the Local Government Act 1999 by virtue of a direction made under section 15 of that Act.”

This amendment would add the authority specified to those subject to the duty contained in clause 21 and would make the relevant entry consistent with the corresponding entry in Schedule 4.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 14 to 17.

Karen Bradley: In respect of the duty to have due regard to preventing people from being drawn into terrorism in clause 21, the Government have tabled a number of corrective amendments to the list in schedule 3, which specifies the authorities subject to the duty. The amendments will ensure that the intended specified authorities are subject to the duty.

Amendment 13 would add:

“A person carrying out a function of an authority mentioned in section 1(2) of the Local Government Act 1999 by virtue of a direction made under section 15 of that Act.”

This appears in schedule 4, as regards Channel, and should also appear in schedule 3. The effect will be to ensure that where local authority functions are transferred, for example to commissioners if an authority is failing, the duty will apply to them too.

Amendment 14 will add the principal of a secure college to the criminal justice section of schedule 3. That will ensure consistency with schedule 4. Amendment 15 will remove an unnecessary entry. An institution

“within the higher education sector within the meaning of section 91(5) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992”

will also be a qualifying institution within the meaning of section 11 of the Higher Education Act 2004, which has its own entry.

Amendment 16 ensures that the privately funded higher education providers are listed in schedule 3 as intended. They are covered in schedule 4, as regards Channel, but are at present missing from schedule 3. The draft guidance published for consultation has been drafted as though they are included in schedule 3. Amendment 17 corrects an inadvertent error by removing reference in schedule 3 to police authorities.

Diana Johnson: Very briefly, I was surprised that there was reference to police authorities when they were abolished by the Government some time ago. I guess that that is what comes when Bills are hastily drafted. I have one question for the Minister, which relates back to the issue of Scottish bodies that will be covered by the Bill. Currently, they are not listed anywhere. When will we have a list of the Scottish bodies that are covered?

Karen Bradley: I thank the shadow Minister for her question. If she will forgive me, I will have to get back to her on that point at a later date.

Amendment 13 agreed to.

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Amendments made: 14,  page 47, line 16, at end insert—

“The principal of a secure college.”.

This amendment would add the authority specified to those subject to the duty contained in clause 21.

Amendment 15, page 47, leave out lines 20 to 22.

This amendment would remove an unnecessary entry. An institution within the higher education sector within the meaning of section 91(5) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 would also be a qualifying institution within the meaning of section 11 of the Higher Education Act 2004 (which has its own entry).

Amendment 16, page 48, line 25, at end insert—

(b) courses of a description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988 (higher education courses).”.

This amendment would make the relevant entry consistent with the corresponding entry in Schedule 4.

Amendment 17, page 49, leave out lines 5 and 6.(Karen Bradley.)

This amendment removes references to police authorities which no longer exist.

Clause 36

Privacy and Civil Liberties Board

Diana Johnson: I beg to move amendment 3,  page 22, line 14, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations made by statutory instrument establish a body to—

(a) provide advice and assistance to the persons appointed under—

(i) section 36(1) of the Terrorism Act 2006;

(ii) section 31(1) of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing &c. Act 2010; and

(iii) section 20(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011.

in the discharge of their statutory functions.

(b) review the operation, effectiveness and implications of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, [this Act] and any other law or prerogative power to the extent that it relates to counter-terrorism;

(c) consider whether such legislation contains appropriate safeguards, is proportionate and remains necessary;

(d) review intelligence-sharing guidance and practice to the extent that it relates to counter-terrorism and the functions of the Board;

(e) make recommendations to any public authority about the exercise of its statutory functions relating to the prevention of terrorism;

(f) undertake inquiries relating to counter-terrorism when invited to do so by the Home Secretary, the Treasury or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, or on the initiative of the Board;

(g) encourage good practice in the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of terrorism;

(h) provide advice and assistance to Government on the development and implementation of policy relating to the prevention of terrorism.”.

This expands the remit of the body to match that which is described in the Government’s Terms of Reference for this body.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 2,  page 22, line 22, leave out

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“Privacy and Civil Liberties Board”

and insert “Counter Terrorism Oversight Panel”.

This would rename the body created by clause 36.

Amendment 4,  page 22, line 25, at end insert

“in accordance with the Code of Public Appointments”.

Amendment 5,  page 22, line 32, at end insert—

“(i) the information-gathering powers of the board;

(j) reporting requirements, and the formulation of and consultation on an annual work plan; and

(k) the access to such relevant classified material as may be required in order for the board to undertake its functions under subsection (1);”.

This increases the points that have to be included in regulations brought forward by the Secretary of State to include information gathering powers, formulation of an annual work plan and relevant to classified material.

Diana Johnson: These amendments relate to part 7, which confers powers on the Secretary of State to establish a body to be known as the privacy and civil liberties board. While most of the Bill introduces new powers, part 7 introduces checks on those powers. It is worth mentioning at this stage that no level of general oversight will ever negate the need for proper judicial oversight of the specific use of these powers, which until yesterday the Government unfortunately were fiercely resisting.

Labour has always said that strong powers need strong checks, which is why we support the principle of a new oversight body. It is also why we tabled amendments to the Justice and Security Bill when it went through Parliament to increase the powers of the Intelligence and Security Committee and why we have consistently called for a bigger role to be given to the intelligence and surveillance commissioners.

Although the creation of a new body is good in principle, what is actually set out in the Bill does not match the name “privacy and civil liberties board” or what the Government set out in their terms of reference, and it does not introduce what we think is needed. That is why we have tabled amendments 2 to 5. The problem is that the Bill determines nothing other than the name of the body. The name evokes the idea of a body with a wide remit to work on privacy and civil liberties issues in the UK, a body to safeguard human rights, a body similar to the Joint Committee on Human Rights created by the Labour Government, but that is not actually what is provided for in the Bill.

The terms of reference published by the Government suggest a body that will support the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation in providing oversight of counter-terrorism legislation in the UK and investigating its operations. Broadly, we think that what is contained in the terms of reference is very sensible and that it would provide both capacity and openness to the oversight of counter-terrorism policy. It would also address some of the issues relating to the capacity of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation that the current incumbent, David Anderson QC, identified earlier this year—I went through some of that in detail in Committee.

However, what we see in the terms of reference does not match what we see in the Bill. The third version of the board is the one provided for by clause 36, a body that the Home Secretary may create in future if she wishes. In future she may decide on the body’s procedures,

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membership, work plan and the publishing of its reports. If the body is created, it will have very limited statutory remit and powers. We do not think that is good enough, so amendments 2 to 5 address what we see as the Bill’s shortcomings as currently drafted.

Amendment 3 would ensure that the panel or board will have a remit that includes all the key counter-terrorism issues. Specifically, it includes the terrorism statutes, which the independent reviewer is currently precluded from investigating. Unlike the independent reviewer, we do not envisage a remit that is overly prescriptive or requires annual reviews of certain pieces of legislation. Amendment 3 would also give the board a role in undertaking specific inquiries in certain circumstances, to make recommendations to public authorities, to review intelligence-sharing guidance and to encourage good practice in the prevention and investigation of terrorism.

3.45 pm

Amendment 4 would ensure that appointments to the panel were made in line with the code of public appointments and not used as political patronage. We know that the role of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has been so successful because the calibre of the individuals appointed has been outstanding, but this has been possible only because candidates were appointed for their competence rather than their politics, and the same principle should apply to members of the board.

Of course, a board can be effective only if it has a work plan that is agreed with the relevant parties, information-gathering powers and access to the relevant information which, for a board of this type, will often include classified information. All this would be provided for by amendment 5.

Bob Stewart: On classified information, all the information will be very sensitive, so presumably whoever is considered for appointment to such a board will be vetted and security cleared to receive such information. Is that assumption correct?

Diana Johnson: No doubt the Minister will be able to confirm that. My understanding is that the level of information and intelligence given to the board will mean that its members will have to undergo appropriate vetting to make sure that they are suitable. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.

The amendments would give the board a proper remit, with members appointed on merit, procedures for agreeing a work plan and access to the relevant information. Finally, amendment 2 would give the board a name that matches the role that we envisage for it—the counter terrorism oversight panel.

Mr David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The hon. Lady is making good points about the role of the panel, but does she not think that the name she suggests increases confusion? She and I want judicial oversight of the operation of the Bill and other counter-terrorism Acts. To call the board an “oversight panel” invites confusion because that is not precisely its role.

Diana Johnson: We have argued throughout our discussions that we want proper judicial safeguards

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where appropriate, especially in relation to the provisions of the early parts of the Bill. I am not sure I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the proposed name of the panel causing confusion. The current name, the privacy and civil liberties board, does not describe its role. The name is problematic. We have suggested an alternative. If it can be improved, I am happy to consider that, but we think the name proposed in the amendment best serves us at present.

Mr Heath: I am not particularly enamoured of the Government’s suggested name, either, as it does not describe the role properly. But I believe the word “oversight” invites confusion.

Diana Johnson: Perhaps the matter can be discussed further in another place. “Counter terrorism oversight panel”, the name that we have suggested, best describes the role that we envisage for the body.

As I have stressed, these amendments do not seek to do anything radical. They aim to ensure that the legislation matches what the Government have previously committed to do, and they ensure that what is in the Bill goes some way to addressing the concerns raised by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. The amendments are not overly prescriptive; they leave plenty room for the detail to be spelled out in secondary legislation, but they would ensure that that secondary legislation was meaningful as it related to the provisions of the Bill. I hope the Minister will seriously consider accepting the amendments.

Karen Bradley: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for tabling the amendments.

Our debate has built on the one held in Committee where there was broad support for the principle of creating the privacy and civil liberties oversight board. The Bill introduces a comprehensive package of measures to disrupt people’s ability to travel abroad to fight, reduce the risks they pose on their return, and combat the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made clear, these powers are essential to keep up with the very serious and rapidly changing threats we face. Of course, as that threat evolves, we need to consider and update our legislation accordingly. However, it is also right that at this time, in the light of the increased threat level, and as the legislative landscape changes, we consider the oversight arrangements that we have in place for UK counter-terrorism laws to ensure that we are getting the balance right between responding to these threats and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

The United Kingdom already has a very effective and transparent system of independent oversight and scrutiny. Few, if any, other countries in the world manage as well as the UK the balance between the need for powers that must necessarily be exercised in secret and the need to provide reassurance to the public about what is being done in their name. However, we should not rest on our laurels. During the passage of the Bill that became the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which received Royal Assent in July, the Government committed to establishing a board that would provide additional assurance to the public.

Clause 36 provides the Secretary of State with a power to create a privacy and civil liberties board,

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which will support the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, currently David Anderson. The increased demand for a review of particular aspects of counter-terrorism legislation means that this is a substantial task for one individual to undertake. David Anderson himself has been clear that there is a need for reform of the independent reviewer role. The board will be chaired by the independent reviewer. It will assist, advise and undertake particular duties in support of the independent reviewer’s statutory functions, and expand the capacity and breadth of experience available in our oversight arrangements.

Diana Johnson: What is the reason for the name of the board, because it does not seem to fit with the role that the Minister has described? “Privacy and civil liberties board” goes much wider than that.

Karen Bradley: I assure the hon. Lady that I will come to that point.

Clause 36 provides for the making of regulations that would set out the detail of the board, including provisions about composition, functions and appointment. These regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure. We can debate, as we are, the precise details of the board’s composition and functions, but, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Security and Immigration noted when the Bill was in Committee, no one took issue with the principle that establishing such a board would build on the already strong oversight arrangements that exist in this country. I am pleased to say that since that debate took place, the Government have published a consultation paper on the composition, functions and remit of the board. It can be found on the website, and copies have been placed in the libraries of both Houses.

I encourage all right hon. and hon. Members, as well as those from outside Parliament with an interest in these matters, to participate in the consultation exercise. We hope that it will elicit a large number of replies covering a wide range of views. The results of the consultation exercise will certainly influence the terms of the regulations. Those regulations will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and will cover all the key questions about the board’s composition, remit, powers and functions. Those responding to the consultation will be free to express an opinion on all relevant questions relating to the board. That is why I do not believe that amendment 5 is necessary.

Amendment 3 deals with the board’s functions. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Security and Immigration explained in Committee, the board will fully support the independent reviewer. In doing so, it will provide much needed capacity to allow the reviewer to consider a wider range of areas than it is perhaps currently possible for one individual to undertake. It is therefore right that we ensure that the board’s statutory functions and objectives are in line with those of the role it is designed to support. Should the statutory role of the independent reviewer change in future, we would need to ensure that the board’s role fully reflected that change.

On amendment 4, one of the issues that the consultation covers is the appointment of board members, including those to whom that task should fall and whether there are any prior qualifications that board members should have. It might emerge, for example, that there is strong support for the notion that each board member should

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represent a particular interest group or category and that that interest group should have a say in the appointment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) asked whether members will be vetted. It will clearly be important that any individuals appointed to the board are provided with an appropriate level of security clearance. The independent reviewer is cleared to see classified information, and if necessary the same will apply to the board members.

Diana Johnson: Has the Minister given any thought to whether it would be appropriate for Members of Parliament or Members of the House of Lords to serve on this body?

Karen Bradley: I will return to that point in a moment.

I am sure that we will want to ensure that all appointments are made in accordance with best practice, but it seems to me that it would be premature unduly to prescribe the process until we have decided exactly how appointments are made. I think that that applies in this case.

Amendment 2 would change the board’s name. We have been clear that the primary objective of the board is to offer further assurance to the public that careful, independent scrutiny is being given to the UK’s counter-terrorism powers to ensure that, in the face of the threat to the UK, we are getting the balance right and that our legislation and policies have due regard for civil liberty and privacy concerns. The board’s name properly reflects that purpose, and I see no reason to change it.

I am pleased to say that there is no great disagreement within the House on what we are seeking to do. Given the threats that the UK faces, it is a sad necessity that we need a suite of counter-terrorism powers. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in Committee:

“I have always taken the view that without our security we cannot enjoy our civil liberties”.—[Official Report, 15 December 2014; Vol. 589, c. 1229.]

To return to the point about Members of Parliament, we have no firm views on that question. We are currently consulting on the board’s composition, and we will take all views expressed into consideration.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD) rose

Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): rose

Karen Bradley: I will give way to my right hon. Friend.

Mr Burns: Presumably the members of the board will be paid, so would that position be considered an office of profit under the Crown? Members of Parliament are disbarred from such offices if they are to remain Members.

Karen Bradley: My right hon. Friend has clearly given considerable thought to that matter. We will of course consider all points of view when we look at the responses to the consultation, and the point will be considered at that stage. Does the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) wish to intervene? [Interruption.] He was going to make the same point.

Given the exceptional nature of counter-terrorism powers, it is right that they should be subject to proper oversight and scrutiny. This country has been very well

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served by the very distinguished individuals who have been independent reviewers, not least the present incumbent, but it is right for us to keep our oversight arrangements under review and be prepared to change them when required. It is worthwhile creating a new board to support the work of the independent reviewer, providing greater capacity in this area and giving the public greater assurance that in framing our legislation we are striking the right balance between privacy and civil liberties.

As I have said, the Government have published a full public consultation inviting comments on the proposals. We will seek to act on the points made in response to the consultation, which covers the composition and functions of the board. I believe that will address most of the issues covered by the amendments. Accordingly, I invite the hon. Lady to withdraw amendment 3.

Diana Johnson: There is a question about the board’s name, and I hope that that will be considered in the other place. I am interested to hear about the consultation on its membership. On the basis of what the Minister has said about this group of amendments, I will not press them, but we will want to return to them in the other place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment 3.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 38

Power to make consequential provision

Karen Bradley: I beg to move amendment 12, page 23, line 24, at end insert—

“( ) Before making regulations under this section the Secretary of State must—

(a) if the regulations contain provision that would fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if included in an Act of that Parliament, consult the Scottish Ministers;

(b) if the regulations contain provision that would fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales if included in an Act of that Assembly, consult the Welsh Ministers;

(c) if the regulations contain provision that would fall within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly if included in an Act of that Assembly, consult the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the relevant devolved administration before making consequential provision by regulations under clause 38 if any of that provision would fall within devolved competence.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 1, page 23, line 31, at end insert—

“(4A) The Secretary of State must consult with Welsh Ministers before making provisions under subsection (1) so far as relating to any Measure or Act of the National Assembly of Wales.

(4B) The Secretary of State must consult with Scottish Ministers before making provisions under subsection (1) so far as relating any Act or instrument of the Scottish Parliament.

(4C) The Secretary of State must consult with the Northern Ireland Executive before making provisions under subsection (1) so far as relating to any Act or instrument of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

This would ensure that the Secretary of State could not amend legislation from the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly without first consulting with the Scottish or Welsh Governments or the Northern Ireland Executive.