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Karen Bradley: Amendment 12 involves an important point of principle. It concerns the power to make a consequential amendment to existing legislation, including legislation made by the devolved legislatures. Such consequential amendments would themselves be reserved, as the Bill clearly legislates on the reserved matter of counter-terrorism. It is possible that a consequential amendment made under this provision might alter a piece of legislation enacted by a devolved legislature. In cases where that is done for a reserved purpose, proceeding without consultation is clearly permissible under, and properly respectful of, the devolution settlement, although in practice the Government would of course raise the issue as a courtesy with the relevant devolved Administration.

The issue would be different were any consequential amendments made under the Bill to fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly. Amendment 12 would require the Secretary of State to consult the relevant devolved Administration before making consequential provision by regulations under clause 38 if any part of that provision fell within the competence of the legislature in question.

I should reiterate that we do not expect there to be any requirement to make such consequential provisions, and in practice, the Government would always consult the devolved Administrations should such a circumstance arise. I trust that amendment 12 will provide reassurance to right hon. and hon. Members, and to the devolved Administrations themselves, that the proper consultation will take place if required. On that basis, I ask the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) not to press amendment 1, and I ask the House to agree to amendment 12.

4 pm

Diana Johnson: It is very nice that the Government have tabled amendment 12, as it is effectively the same amendment that the Opposition tabled in Committee to ensure that there is proper consultation with the devolved Administrations if the Home Secretary introduces changes. We are pleased that the Government have seen the sense of what Labour suggested, and that we can claim a victory on ensuring that there is full consultation. I am happy not to press amendment 1, because Government amendment 12 is exactly what we were trying to achieve.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): As we discuss counter-terrorism for a fifth day, our thoughts are very much on the appalling murders in Paris today. It was not only an appalling attack on journalists and a newspaper office but an attack on free speech, and today all of us can say, “Je suis Charlie”. Given those sickening events, it is pretty hard to discuss counter-terror measures today, but we live in a democracy and we will discuss them. We will not let any terrorist attack deter us from our influence on the matter or how we approach our business.

We are eternally grateful for amendment 12, because it is the beginning of a recognition of Scotland’s distinct responsibilities for measures under the Bill. The Bill asks that we be consulted on competencies for which we are actually responsible. It is not consultation that the

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Minister requires, it is our consent. We are responsible for delivering those competencies in the Scottish Parliament. We are responsible for education and health, we have a distinct legal system, and we are responsible for the judiciary. The Scottish police force, Police Scotland, is accountable to the Scottish Parliament. We have our own institutions and our own set of responsibilities and competencies. Yes, we are grateful that the UK Government are going to pick up the phone and consult our Ministers, but it is our consent that they require when passing measures under the Bill.

We will agree with the Government on most measures, and I am sure we will get on perfectly well, but we take a different and distinct approach on a number of issues. Of course we do—we have a different culture in Scotland. We do not have the same size of ethnic communities as there are south of the border, and we have a different and distinct approach to community relations. We see and deliver some things very differently from the UK Government.

The vast platform of the Prevent strategy will be administered in Scotland by Scottish public bodies, responsible to the Scottish Parliament and under the guidance of Scottish Ministers. Consultation—great. Thank you ever so much, Home Secretary, for being prepared to consult Scottish Ministers, discuss things with them and maybe even ask their views, but what we need is to give consent. If we are to be realistic about the devolution settlement and the range of responsibilities we have, and if we are talking about the respect agenda, that consent is required. Consultation is certainly not good enough.

Our approach to Prevent is different, of course. We see it more through the lens of safeguarding, with an emphasis on keeping people safe, community cohesion, participative democracy and ensuring that action is consistent with the needs of, and risks to, all our communities.

Bob Stewart: I cannot see any difference between that and what is proposed in the Bill. Those are exactly the same measures that everyone in this country wants to see instituted.

Pete Wishart: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but there are differences. They may just be nuances to him, but we take them particularly seriously in Scotland. For example, we work with key sectors in Scotland, such as the NHS, further education, the Prison Service and local authorities. Prevent also benefits from input from Police Scotland’s model of community engagement and from the strength of the relationship between various arms of the community and all the public services in Scotland. The key point is that we perhaps look at the cultural context differently.

What we are keen to do in Scotland—and we have had a great deal of success—is ensure that a sense of Scottish citizenship is given as quickly as possible to new immigrants, particularly from south Asian communities. That has been incredibly successful. We talk about the “bhangra and bagpipe” culture in some of our larger communities, especially in Glasgow, and we are particularly proud of that. Believe it or not, most Scottish Asians supported Scottish independence because they saw from their historical experience, and from being a colonial power or being part of the empire, that

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independence was not a scary issue. They were able to join us to ensure that such transformative change—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I have given the hon. Gentleman quite a bit of leeway, but now we have got on to independence. This debate is about consultation, but I think it has stretched a little further than that. As we know, Third Reading is coming up, but at the moment we are dealing just with the amendment.

Pete Wishart: I am grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker. We need consent, rather than consultation, because things are so different in Scotland, and we have responsibility for those bodies. Such issues must surely be up to the Scottish Parliament, and not just through consultation. Consultation is great and there is nothing wrong with it, but this is about ensuring that we have consent. We will not oppose the measure today—it is great that we will get that consultation. We enjoy debating with the Home Secretary. She is always welcome in Scotland, and we enjoy making sure that her views are known. Consent is fine, but we need to ensure that such matters are the responsibility of the Scottish Government and that we make those decision: not consultation, consent.

Karen Bradley: I will not detain the House for long, but I thank the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for her comments and for agreeing not to press her amendment. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was not in the Chamber earlier when we had a relatively lengthy discussion about the devolved Administrations, and the consultation and work to ensure that the Prevent programme works appropriately in Scotland. I like to think that we have more in common than we have differences.

Issues relating to policing and counter-terrorism are clearly reserved matters. Consultation, not consent, is the appropriate requirement in relation to these issues, and that is respectful at all times of the agreed devolution settlement. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman will be supporting the Government amendment, and I am glad he agrees that we must ensure that the Bill becomes an Act.

Amendment 12 agreed to.

Third Reading

Queen’s consent signified.

4.7 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Earlier today we heard about an appalling attack on the office of a magazine in Paris. Twelve people are reported to have been killed, and a number injured. We do not yet have full details of the attack, but I reiterate the Prime Minister’s comments in the House earlier today, and we stand with the French people at this time for freedom of speech and democracy, and against terror. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.

Last month we also saw deadly and callous attacks in Sydney and in Peshawar, Pakistan, where it beggars belief that terrorist gunmen should carry out the horrific

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and targeted murder of children at a school. In 2013 we saw the first terrorist attacks on the streets of Britain since 2005, when Fusilier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by Islamist extremists, and Mohammed Saleem was stabbed to death by a far right extremist. There can be no doubt that the terrorist threat we face is grave and relentless. It is a threat that takes many forms and causes suffering in many countries.

I have always been clear that we need to keep our terrorism laws and capabilities under review, and ensure that the police and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to do their job. That is why the Bill is so important. As I told the House on Second Reading, Parliament must have sufficient opportunity to consider the Government’s proposals, and I believe that the House has had that opportunity. We have had full and frank debates on the measures in the Bill, and the timetable has allowed us to consider all the amendments that were tabled. The Bill, and the powers within it, have benefited from robust scrutiny by the House.

We are agreed on the need for these powers. I am grateful to the shadow Home Secretary and her colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), for their constructive approach throughout. I pay tribute to the right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to the debates in Committee and on Report, and, in particular, to a number of members of the Intelligence and Security Committee: the right hon. Members for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) and for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) and my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). Each has brought considerable knowledge and expertise to the proceedings, but all contributions have ensured that our debates have been enlightening and valuable. I thank the members of the Panel of Chairs who presided over the Committee of the whole House, and the officials, Officers and staff of the House, and those in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, who have enabled the House’s expedited consideration of the Bill.

In the past two days, we have again had a full and detailed discussion of the Bill on Report, with many excellent contributions from all parts of the House. The Bill will strengthen our existing powers, so that we can disrupt the ability of people to travel abroad to fight, and to control their ability to return here. It will enhance our ability to monitor and control the actions of those in the UK who pose a threat, and it will help us to confront the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism.

During the Bill’s passage through the House, we have considered the powers in part 1 of the Bill relating to temporary restrictions on the travel of those seeking to engage in terrorism-related activity overseas, and on those suspected of involvement in terrorist activity abroad who wish to return to the UK. We have considered the safeguards that should circumscribe the use of the powers.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the amendment I moved yesterday regarding the question of jihadists of British origin who

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decide that they wish to return to the United Kingdom, even though they have repudiated allegiance to it and sworn allegiance to another state or entity. Will my right hon. Friend at least be good enough to say that she would be prepared to consider the amendment when the Bill goes to the House of Lords?

Mrs May: I recognise that there will be those who wish to return to the United Kingdom. The measures we are taking on the temporary exclusion orders are about ensuring that those who wish to return and have been involved in terrorism-related activity may return on our terms. They will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

On other matters, in particular safeguards, as the Minister for Security and Immigration, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) made clear to the House yesterday, in the light of the views of David Anderson QC, as well as of many right hon. and hon. Members, the Government have committed to look very carefully at judicial oversight of the temporary exclusion order power. We will return to this issue in the House of Lords.

The House has also debated the duty on a range of authorities, as at part 5, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. If we are to counter poisonous extremist ideology and prevent vulnerable people from becoming radicalised in the first place, we must ensure that we have the necessary provisions. I appreciate the considerable interest that has been shown in how the duty will work in practice, and trust that the draft guidance, on which we are currently consulting, has helped to address the concerns raised by a number of right hon. and hon. Members.

We discussed the nature of the privacy and civil liberties board, which will support the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. I reiterate the point made by the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), who has responsibility for modern slavery and serious and organised crime, that we are consulting on this proposal at present and it is right that this consultation should conclude before the final detail of the board is agreed.

The House is aware that the need for this legislation is significant and pressing. Our security and intelligence agencies tell us that the threat we face from terrorism is now more dangerous than at any time before or since 9/11. The appalling conflicts in Syria and Iraq continue, with ISIL solidifying its hold on much of the region. More than 550 people from the UK who are of interest to the security services are thought to have travelled to the region since the start of the conflict, and we estimate that about half of those have returned. Some have become disillusioned and simply wish to reintegrate into British society, but others pose a significant threat and in recent months the police have arrested and prosecuted a number of these people. The Bill will help us to counter that threat.

The powers in the Bill should be used only when it is necessary and proportionate, and their use will be subject to the appropriate level of safeguards and oversight. The Bill represents a considered and targeted approach that strikes the right balance between civil liberties and security, but we must not delay. The threat from terrorism is ever present and evolving. We are in the midst of a generational struggle, and we must ensure that the

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police and the intelligence agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe. The Bill will help them to do that, and I commend it to the House.

4.15 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): I join the Home Secretary in supporting the Third Reading of the Bill and in condemning the disgusting attack in Paris today. The details will continue to emerge over the next hours and days, but we know that 12 people have been killed and others injured, and I am sure the whole House will agree with the words of the French President, Francois Hollande, who said it was

“an exceptional act of barbarism committed against a newspaper”.

He said that France would be firm and strong in facing down these threats and punishing the attackers.

The whole House, the Government and every party stand in solidarity with the people of Paris and France, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost their lives, their families, their friends, their colleagues and those across the city and the country who will feel this terrible loss. We have experienced terrorist attacks here, and we have stood firm with other countries that have endured such attacks—the Home Secretary rightly referred to the heartbreaking attacks in Pakistan, as well as those in Australia and Canada—and we will stand with other countries again against the hatred of the killers. We will stand up for our democratic values and never let terrorists win.

We have seen, too, the strength of the response from the French people: the “Je suis Charlie” response; the determination not to be cowed or afraid; the determination to stand together. We will stand with them. Those who died or were injured include journalists, writers, cartoonists and police officers, and the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo has said:

“I don't understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.”

As we know, the free press we defend here in Britain, and which is defended across Europe, is vital to the freedom of speech that democracy depends on.

Our thoughts and tributes should also be with the police and security services in France and here in Britain who run towards danger when terrorist attacks take place and who put their own lives at risk as they do so. As we discuss the Bill, we should also pay tribute to our security services and police, who will be working even now with the French authorities to provide any international intelligence that could help France catch these vile killers and bring them to justice. While we know not yet the details of those responsible, we know that the killers do not represent Islam or reflect the faith of millions of French and British Muslims. Muslim leaders in Paris and Muslim community groups and organisations in Britain have been among the first to condemn this appalling attack.

We debate the Bill in the knowledge of the threats that can affect any country and at a time when the terror threat has grown. We have said for some time that more action is needed against terrorism to ensure that the police, security agencies and other organisations have up-to-date powers to act and that we have up-to-date safeguards to protect the liberty and security that terrorists and extremists seek to undermine. That is why we have supported the Bill and called for stronger action to

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deal with terrorism, alongside stronger safeguards so that we defend those democratic values too. That requires both strong and proportionate powers to act, and oversight—the checks and balances—to defend the very freedom of speech that terrorists have attacked today, as well as the liberty and democracy that extremists want to undermine.

The Home Secretary has talked about the additional challenge from the Syrian conflict. More than 500 people are suspected of having travelled to Syria, and half of them have returned to the UK, which changes the challenges we face here in Britain. Over the past few days and weeks, many of the measures in the Bill have been subject to detailed debate in the context of the Syrian conflict.

As the House reaches the conclusion of its consideration, I thank again my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) for their efforts, as well as all those who have been involved in scrutinising the Bill. More needs to be done to prevent young people from being radicalised or drawn into extremism in the first place. We hope that putting Prevent on a statutory footing will help to strengthen it. We will continue to probe in the other place how that will work in practice, including through a role for Parliament in debating future strategy.

On TPIMs, the Home Secretary knows that we have called for some time for the Government to bring back the relocation powers that were abolished a few years ago. We are glad that she has finally done so. It is clear that the police and the agencies had concluded that TPIMs were no longer useful in their previous form. I hope that this Bill will change that and make them useful again in the extreme cases where prosecution has proved too difficult but the threat remains.

The police also need to be able to take swift action to stop someone believed to be trying to leave the country to join ISIS. If troubled parents ring the police because they are worried that a son or daughter has gone, they do not have time to invoke the royal prerogative to remove someone’s passport. However, we still believe that more checks and balances are needed to ensure that these important powers cannot be abused. We hope that that will be debated further in the other place. We agree, too, that action is needed to enable the police and security agencies to manage the return of those who may have been drawn into the conflict and ensure that they do not pose a risk to the British public if they return. Where possible, people should be arrested and prosecuted for crimes committed. TPIMs may be required in extreme cases where no prosecution is possible, and everyone returning should be expected to engage with the Channel de-radicalisation programme.

The Home Secretary has changed the policy very substantially from the original pledge by the Prime Minister to exclude people from Britain—we believe she has been put in a difficult position by those announcements. However, we remain concerned that the policy has been designed to fit an announcement, rather than to fit the needs of security, and that it is still unclear how it will work. We believe it will benefit from serious further scrutiny in the other place to ensure that it does not become too complex and bureaucratic, and instead can achieve the aims that she has set for it. We also argued from the start that more judicial oversight

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and safeguards were needed. I welcome the acceptance by the Home Secretary after the debate on our amendments yesterday that judicial oversight is needed for temporary exclusion orders. We look forward to seeing the Government’s proposals, as well as the debates on them in the other place, to ensure that the appropriate method of judicial oversight is used and that it is tried and tested.

Finally, we have supported, though sought to clarify, the important power to retain IP addresses—which had the support of the Joint Committee that considered the previous draft Communications Data Bill—and in particular the contribution that that can make to tackling online child abuse, as well as international terrorism.

Today’s vile attack just across the water brings home to us the threats that we have to address, the need for vigilance and the need for us in Parliament to ensure that we defend and protect our democratic values. That means that we need to scrutinise any counter-terrorism legislation in great detail. We need to take seriously our responsibilities in this House to protect both the liberty and the security of which Britain has always been proud from extremists of any kind. On that basis, we support this Bill and its Third Reading and look forward to the further debates that will take place in the other place.

4.23 pm

Mr Heath: Like the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary, I think it is quite impossible to contribute to this debate without starting with the grim events in Paris and the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is beyond any acceptable behaviour—of course we know that—but as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said earlier, it goes beyond terrorism, in that it would appear to be an attack precisely on free speech. I hope and trust that at the end of the day it will be proved that the pen is mightier than the sword—that people’s ideas cannot be defeated with bombs and guns—because that is what the counter-terrorism fight is all about. As the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and the hon. Gentleman said, I hope that every Member of this House will be able to repeat: “Today, je suis Charlie aussi.”

It is normal on these occasions to welcome a Bill, but I do not think that I can welcome a Bill that deals with such a continuing problem. I can say only that it is a grim necessity. We should not welcome the fact of ever reducing our traditional rights and liberties other than to protect the rights and liberties of others. That is what we are, sadly, about today.

One occasionally meets people who will say that the threat is imaginary and is something somehow dreamt up by politicians in order to build their empires. I do not believe that that is the case for one moment. As someone who was on Capitol hill on 9/11 and at Aldgate station on 7/7, I do not need to be told that there is a real threat from terrorism in this and other countries—so frequently that is the case.

The test is not whether there is a necessity to deal effectively with terrorism, but whether the instruments that this House puts in the hands of the Executive are proportionate, effective and actually increase our capacity

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to fight terrorism rather than make the situation worse. I am, I am afraid, a veteran of far too many debates on counter-terrorism legislation over the years; other right hon. and hon. Members around the Chamber today are in the same position. I have supported some such Bills; some I have opposed; of some I have been deeply critical. I have always opposed the Home Office—I am talking about the Home Office rather than the Home Secretary—when it appears to have been more involved in legislative incontinence than getting to grips with what works and what is effective.

However, where the necessity is there, where the checks and balances are sufficient and where we ensure that every single action taken by the Executive can be reviewed and checked to see whether it is reasonable and appropriate and based on good evidence, this House has a responsibility to act on behalf of people in this country. When this Bill eventually returns from the other place, the issue of judicial oversight over the earlier parts of the Bill will be a key point for me. I hear the arguments about judicial review—that it is a retrospective and partial review—but I do not believe that that is sufficient to the task of ensuring that any Executive do not act on occasions in an excessive or peremptory way. That is why the courts have to be involved. I had this argument many times with the then Government during the last Parliament. Sometimes they accepted the arguments; sometimes, sadly, they did not.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Fortunately, our democracy continues—despite the horror in Paris and what has happened here. I hope my intervention will not be misunderstood, as it is part of democracy. Why did the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues not support judicial oversight yesterday? Why wait for the provisions to go to another unelected place?

Mr Heath: I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say and I am confident that the Home Secretary has clearly got the message that the Government need to table amendments in the other place, which will return to us and will then, I hope, be approved by this House. I believe that to be a perfectly appropriate mechanism. I would have preferred to have had Government amendments yesterday, but there were not any on this issue. I was saddened that we had not yet reached the point at which the Government accepted the arguments, but I believe that they now do accept them. If they do not, I suspect there will be a majority in the other place that will impose a judicial oversight amendment in any case. We would then have to debate not a Government proposal, but one concocted by colleagues in the other place. Provided that such a proposal is not grossly inappropriate, I will support it when it returns to us. I am sure I am not alone in that, and I know that the Home Secretary is looking at this very carefully. I am genuinely grateful to her and her colleagues for the fact that they have engaged with that argument.

There are still issues to be resolved. We had what was almost a semantic debate, but one that I think was important in the context of the Bill, about the difference between temporary exclusion and managed return. I feel that we are on a journey in that respect. Some people would say that the language amounts to the same thing, but I think that “managed return” better expresses where we need to be.

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I have a concern that was not expressed on Report. The Bill requires the Home Secretary to issue a permit to return “within a reasonable period”. I hope that that “reasonable period” will be constrained enough to prevent people from being in limbo for a long time. They will need to know what they must do to ensure that their return is managed appropriately, and that must be arranged promptly and timeously if it is to be effective.

In a sense, however, those issues are peripheral to the main thrust of the Bill. As I have said, I cannot welcome a Bill many parts of which I would not wish to see in place, but I do not live in a perfect world. I live in a world in which the events that happened in Paris today happen not only here, but throughout the globe. We have to recognise that, and we have to deal with it. I hope that we shall reach a point at which we will no longer have to legislate in this way because people will no longer behave in the way that has become so common in recent years, but, sadly, we have not reached that point yet.

4.31 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath), who is standing down at the next election. We shall miss his wise words and the eloquent way in which he put the case for engagement and against terrorism. I join him, and both the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary, in condemning the events in Paris. We know that the community in Paris and in France as a whole—along with the community here—utterly condemn what has happened. We hope that people of good will in that country and in the rest of Europe will come forward and ensure that we recognise the great strengths of diversity and the importance of understanding different cultures and religions, while isolating those who wish to undermine the values of our society.

I commend those on both Front Benches for the way in which they have dealt with this difficult Bill and for the progress that has been made. I, for one, thought that it would not be possible for the Bill to complete all its House of Commons stages by now, but it has done so. I think that the Opposition’s constructive approach—matched, I hope, by the Government’s approach in the form of a pledge to table amendments in the other place—will enable us to be a House united in our condemnation of terrorism and a House united in the method by which that is achieved.

As I have said before, however, I do not think that legislation is enough. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome was right to say that we do not welcome Bills of this kind. We would rather not have them, because we would rather not have terrorism. We need legislation because it enables us to provide a framework for the incredible people who work in the police and the security services and who do things that we could not possibly even imagine doing. They are on the front line, dealing with such problems, every day. But what we must do, both in government and in opposition—what every Member has a responsibility to do—is ensure that communities are fully engaged in the fight against terrorism.

I am not saying that the communities are not engaged. They condemn those who wish to undermine our values. When we frame legislation, however, we use words such as “prevent” as though communities were able on their

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own to prevent what is happening. I think language is extremely important, and that is why I prefer the language of engagement. It should be “engagement, engagement, engagement”. We should be constantly working with communities. We cannot tell them to inform the authorities that someone is behaving in a way that causes them concern. Mothers will be fearful of reporting on their children, because when one woman did so, her son was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Following that case, women will believe that if they try to prevent their children from going abroad, those children be sent to prison for years and years with no prospect of rehabilitation.

These are complex and difficult areas therefore, and although we want these issues reported, we need a counter-narrative to make sure that, whenever the terrorists go on to the internet and prosecute their case for violence, we have an alternative. The people who run our internet services therefore need to do much more. The Prime Minister spoke about the dark net, and I contacted Google as I was very keen to get into the dark net, to try and see exactly what was going on in there, and Google told me, “It’s called the dark net because we can’t get into it.” That is the problem. There are areas on the internet that even the most sophisticated and clever people in our security services are not able to penetrate. That is how the terrorists and those who support their cause have been able to prosecute their case.

We need to get the internet providers to do much more. They need to take down more sites. They need to be more vigilant. They should not wait for complaints; they should act with speed and efficiency. That is clear. It has been clear to the Home Affairs Committee, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) for all the work he has done; he is particularly eloquent on these issues when we look at counter-terrorism and conduct inquiries into these matters.

The problem has moved from the madrassahs and the schools and, I have to say to the Home Secretary, from the universities to the prisons and on to the net. So the old days when we could find the imam who was preaching the cause of terrorism have gone. There is now one-to-one radicalisation. Those who go into prison may become radicalised while there, and, unfortunately, they are not monitored sufficiently when they come out. That is what the Select Committee found in our last report. They then radicalise other people. With the best will in the world and the best resources put forward by the Government, it is very difficult to isolate people who are in prison if they are mixing with others who have different views and if they want to blame somebody else for their plight.

That is why, rather like the Jesuits, we need to deal with this at a much earlier stage. The counter-narrative needs to start much earlier. If we fail to do that, we will, in a sense, allow a whole generation to believe some of the stories that are recurring in certain parts of the country. That is why we commended the work of Google and its work with Abdullah-X, who informed us in his broadcasts that peer group pressure leads to people deciding to give up their way of life in this country and suddenly choosing to go and fight in Syria or in another country. They give up everything—the love of their parents, the support of their families and all their

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friends—because they believe they are fighting for a better cause. We cannot sit by and wait for that to happen.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) keeps telling us, the counter-narrative must begin now. We must be as aggressive as we can be now. We cannot wait for any more people to go. Ten years ago, Members could stand in the House and the Home Secretary could come to the Dispatch Box and not fear the fact that 500 British citizens had left this country to go and fight abroad. The figure was much less then.

The figure now is much higher in France and the rest of Europe than it is here. Thankfully, our numbers are lagging behind those of the rest of Europe. Taken as a whole, however, this is a real problem and it is getting worse. That is why the Select Committee has said on numerous occasions that what we need is a firm international platform to deal with counter-terrorism. This is done bilaterally at the moment, and we suggested the expansion of Interpol, with all the good work international organisations such as Interpol and Europol do, and that there should be an international platform involving countries of good will. We cannot allow every country into this, because we cannot be sure about every country, but those who are on the right side—if I can put it like that, in a diplomatic way—should work together on an international platform to identify those responsible.

We talked about the need to support countries such as Turkey. Turkey is an international hub: it is where people go before travelling on to Syria to carry on with their fighting. It is essential that we use all our resources to deal with these issues, but unless we work with families and communities as equals, we simply will not win this battle. We cannot prevent someone who is the subject of an order from going into a mosque, putting on a burqa and disappearing. We have to tell communities—no, “tell” is the wrong word; we have to work with communities and try to persuade them to come forward.

In France, there are ways of reporting these things, just as there are here. There, they have the “green line”. Here, we have the anti-terrorist hotline. When parents in this country are having a discussion at breakfast about the possibility of their child going off to fight in Syria, they do not sit around saying, “I think we should ring the anti-terrorist hotline.” Of course they do not want to report their children for terrorism. We need to look again at the language of effective reporting, so that we can encourage people to report their suspicions without fearing that their family unit could be destroyed. Every member of the Muslim community I have spoken to condemns what is happening out there in Syria. They condemn the people who are going out there to fight. I remember listening to a father being interviewed on BBC television. When he was told that his son had died abroad, he did not even know that he had gone to fight. Families sometimes do not know these things.

We need to ensure that there is effective monitoring, not only of those who come out of prison but of those involved in these activities. The Government and the Opposition work closely together to bring forward orders

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under prevention of terrorism legislation. Whenever Ministers come to the Dispatch Box to say that they want to ban this or that organisation, there is unanimity in the House that that should happen. It is quite right that the Government should be supported in that way, because they have information that we do not have. However, the ability of organisations to change their names and the ways in which they engage in terrorism is a cause for concern, and we need to be careful about that.

On exclusion orders, I understand why the Government are seeking to exclude people. I understand the logic and the reasoning behind the proposals; the Home Secretary appeared before the Select Committee in December and told us why she thought they were important. However, the practicalities will provide problems, which is why it is important that we assess what the Government are doing in the near future. There will not be time to do that before the general election, but it will be worth assessing how the provisions are working.

I recently met a delegation from Pakistan, which has its own severe troubles. The delegates were interested to hear about the Home Secretary’s exclusion orders. They asked me and my colleagues what we thought would happen if Pakistan decided to exclude any of its citizens who had been involved in these activities and prevent them from returning to Pakistan. Once those people were in Europe—and in the United Kingdom, in particular—we would be lumbered with them. If other countries decide to do what we are doing, there could be real problems. We would have to keep here certain people we would prefer to send away. International co-operation and bilateral conversations are therefore absolutely critical.

I support the Bill. Many of the recommendations that we have made in the past seven years are in it, at least in part. Like the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome, I wish that this could be the last counter-terrorism Bill that the House had to consider. I will be fighting the next election, and I hope that I will be returned to the House by the electors of Leicester East. If they want me back here and I am returned, I anticipate seeing more counter-terrorism legislation being introduced. I would be very much against having more, but if we have to have it, we have to have it. I hope, however, that we will look at the practicalities involved, so that when we put this kind of legislation through the House, we carry communities with us and ensure that the proposals are as practical as possible.

4.44 pm

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): Gérard Biard, the editor- in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine which has been attacked, has said:

“A newspaper is not a weapon of war.”

The fact that it has been attacked is an example of how some people object to what others say and do. When I stopped being a Minister in Northern Ireland, I became associated with New Consensus and then New Dialogue, which after each IRA outrage would say, “This is not being done in our name.” That was a way of not going back to the 1970s. When there were terrorist bombs and outrages, people would start to hate the Irish, but by the 1990s most of the Irish were saying, “This is not being done in our name.” We probably need to find a way of

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letting people—not moderate Muslims but those who are just not violent—express the same thing. We have to say to the French, as others have, “We are with you.” The word “solidarité” is one we can take into English; we can stand in solidarity and suffer in solidarity, just as many people did with us on 7 July 2005.

I did not want to add to the debate on Third Reading, because I have not taken part in the Bill’s earlier stages, but I wish to say that we need to be careful about taking action that drives more people into believing that extremism works. We have to support those who have the responsibility for gathering information and trying to take action. It is worth putting on the record that the anti-terrorism hotline, which can be found by any internet search, is 0800 789 321. People may say to themselves, “I don’t know if this matters”, but when specialists get the information, or talk to someone, they can take things in and make the judgment. If anyone finds something suspicious or odd, it is far better to ring that number and provide the information to the authorities.

4.46 pm

Mr Winnick: In expressing our horror about what has occurred in Paris, some understandably ask how it is possible that it could take place. They ask how it is possible that journalists could be gunned down in the way they have been because of what has been written or because of cartoons. The answer is simple: we are dealing with murderous psychopaths. If hon. Members are puzzled or mystified by how such an outrage could occur, I simply ask them to remember what the Nazis did and remember the millions of people murdered for one reason only—not their politics and so on, but simply their racial origin. We are dealing here with people with a Nazi mindset, who consider it an obligation, as the Nazis did, to take lives. I am glad that the House has had an opportunity today, both in Prime Minister’s questions and now, to express our deepest sympathy with the loved ones and relatives of those who have been murdered.

During our consideration of this Bill I have expressed reservations on a number of occasions, and those remain. I am pleased about what has happened on judicial oversight or intervention—it does not matter which way one wants to put it, but we are talking about court involvement—in respect of temporary exclusion orders. For one reason or another, the Government have come rather late to accept that, but if they have accepted it and this will go through the Lords, that is all to the good. It is unfortunate that it could not have been decided in the elected House of Commons, but if a Home Secretary decides otherwise, there is little we can do about it.

I praise the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who has set out clearly many of the problems we face in Britain in dealing with this terrorist danger. I simply say that what has happened in Paris has demonstrated, yet again, that we are not alone. Britain is not the only democracy to face an acute terrorist danger. Far from it: other democracies, and counties that are not democracies, also face it.

One has only to look at the horrors that have been happening in Nigeria or in Kenya, for example. Reference has been made to 7/7, when 52 people were murdered in

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London and many were seriously injured. I was in the United States on a private visit when 9/11 occurred and that evening took part in a rally. I was staying with people in Philadelphia and notices were put up during the day on churches, on other places of worship and in community places, and we decided that we would go and show our support for the United States and our solidarity against the terrorists. We were pleased to do so and I spoke as a private British citizen—not as a Member of Parliament, which I had no authority to do—and expressed the solidarity of this country with the United States in combating terrorism.

We must recognise that the terrorist danger will not go away in the near future. It will outlive me, although that is not saying a great deal. The danger of terrorism will remain; I wish I could come to another conclusion, and I very much doubt that the security authorities think differently. It will be a problem and a danger for years to come and it is no use our trying to deny that or to minimise the amount of time involved in trying to deal with the issue.

I am concerned about how far we will be able in this House and in the future to maintain our democratic rights and privileges—all that we consider so important and that have been built up over centuries—while at the same time taking every possible measure to safeguard our citizens. Every Home Secretary who comes to the Dispatch Box with a new Bill says the same thing. We say the same thing in the Labour party, whether we are in opposition or government. We try to reach the right balance. The fact that I am a critic of many of the measures that have been introduced does not alter the fact that I obviously accept that a balance must be reached. I recognise that there is an acute terrorist danger, as shown by all that I have been speaking about, so it would be foolish to say otherwise.

What concerns me is covered to some extent by what was said by the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley). The danger is that we will take measures that might well be necessary or essential but that could antagonise the very community we want to ensure remains on board and our ally, made up of our fellow citizens. What gives me satisfaction, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East was absolutely right on this point, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims not only in Britain but in France and in other countries loathe and despise the terrorism that is supposedly carried out in their names in the same way as we do. That is a great asset. It is understandable and we would not expect otherwise, but we must be very careful about the measures we take to safeguard our citizens so that they do not undermine that support and give the terrorists the sort of ammunition they would like. All the indications are that terrorism will have very limited support in this country, as shown in what occurred after 7/7, when all the Muslims I spoke to in my constituency—my right hon. Friend referred to those in his constituency—condemned it in the strongest possible terms, as I would have expected. In the same way, we have done that in the House of Commons.

The challenge in the coming years, as I have said, is to protect our democracy and protect the rule of law as we understand it while at the same time trying to ensure the safety and security of our citizens so that the crimes and atrocities that occurred on 7/7 and in Paris today are not repeated.

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4.54 pm

Pete Wishart: It seems a bit odd to be having the last word on this Bill after we have spent five days debating and discussing it. May I congratulate the Front Bench and shadow Front Bench teams on the consensual way in which they have approached these issues? We have significantly improved this Bill from its early conception, but it was perhaps a tad over-optimistic to have five full days of debate on it. On some days, the Chamber has been a bit like the Mary Celeste on a foggy day—perhaps Members are counter-terrored out. We have had a number of these Bills over the past few years, and no doubt, as the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has said, we will see many more in the future. We will come back to this issue time and again, and we will have to deal with it year on year. I can already see that we will have another such Bill early in the new Parliament when we reconvene in May.

I do not want to add anything more to what I have already said about the events in Paris this afternoon other than that I hope we have learned something from those appalling events and that we approach and respond to them proportionately. In the past, the temptation has always been to have a knee-jerk response. Indeed this idea that something must be done is a characteristic of so many of the Bills that we have debated over the course of the year: we must be seen to be doing something, to be strong and to be acting. I hope that there is not that kind of response to the events in Paris. We have seen it so many times in previous counter-terror Bills. We have seen the response of a Labour Government—ID cards, the possibility of 90-day detentions and control orders. Let us try to be more imaginative this time around, and respond to the attack in a proportionate way.

At the heart of all such Bills—we have seen it with this particular Bill—is attention. We need to ensure that our citizens are safe and secure and that we pay attention to civil liberties and the freedoms that we enjoy in a democracy. I see many veterans of previous counter-terror Bills in the Chamber. They know what it is to wrestle with the problems. There is this clear balance that we have to strike between our civil liberties and the measures that are needed to keep our citizens safe. Does this Bill achieve that? I do not think so. Again, we have mucked about at the edge of our liberties. We have sacrificed some of the freedoms that we have the right to enjoy in a democracy. As we go forward, we must ensure that we get absolutely right that balance between what we expect as citizens of a democracy and the measures that Governments must take to keep us safe.

This Bill came alive when we discussed the Prevent measures and the radicalisation in our communities. Some of the things that this Government are doing are right, especially the way that they have tried to engage communities. They want to ensure that communities have the resources, ability and capacity to try to tackle the problem themselves. That is the right thing to do.

We have failed in some of our measures and debates to recognise why people get involved in these terrible activities. Nobody is born predisposed to be a jihadist or a terrorist and to do appalling things. Something happens along the way that makes people respond in a particular way. It might be ultimate frustration or a feeling that no other means can be used to exact political change. Something happens, and we have failed to

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understand some of the features that determine the development in some people’s minds. I hope that in the future we can look at this matter a bit more carefully and clearly. We must also take our share of responsibility for shaping the environment. It would be good if we could acknowledge some of the terrible decisions that we have taken in this House. I am talking about those things that may have provoked some of the responses that we have seen internationally. The war in Iraq, for example, was illegal. If we are looking at any sort of starting point or trajectory for things to escalate in the way that they have, we have to come back to this clear issue. We set that framework up and must start to accept our responsibility for shaping that environment.

I am disappointed that exclusion orders, which are a key feature of the Bill, have been left to be determined by the unelected House of Lords. I think that we, as Members of Parliament who are elected by our constituents, have a duty to consider these things ourselves. We had the opportunity to put that right yesterday. The public expect us to deal with these issues and make the decisions ourselves, not to leave it to the other place, whose Members are not elected, to sort it out behind the scenes, particularly on something as important as counter-terrorism and security. I hope that when the Bill comes back to the House we will have an opportunity to debate exclusion orders properly. We will look at what the Government are offering on temporary exclusion orders and will be able to make some sort of progress.

There are many things in the Bill that I do not like, such as the balance it strikes with our civil liberties, which I think is wrong, as it is in most of these Bills. However, we will not oppose it. When we return here in May, hopefully with about 30 or 40 Scottish National party Members, I am sure that we will revisit the matter. Let us make sure that in future we do not rush such legislation through at breakneck speed. We must take our time on these weighty and important matters, which deserve proper scrutiny. Let us deal with them properly. One thing that we will certainly be doing is coming back here to discuss this once again.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Proceeds of Crime, Northern Ireland

That the draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 25 November 2014, be approved.—(Mr Wallace.)

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Organic Food Production

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 7956/14, a draft Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products, amending Regulation (EU) No. XXX/XXX [Official Controls Regulation] and repealing Council Regulation

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(EC) No. 834/2007, and No. 8194/14, a Commission Communication: Action Plan for the future of organic production in the European Union; and supports the Government’s approach to amend the proposal to promote continued development of the organic sector and ensure it has an overall positive impact on growth and trade, minimises unnecessary administrative burdens, promotes effective trade across the EU and with third countries, delivers organic products at a fair price and reduces the impact on the environment.—

(Mr Wallace.)

Business of the House (Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill)


That, in respect of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.—(Mr Wallace.)

Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Motion)


That the Motion in the name of Mr William Hague relating to the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority shall be treated as if it related to an instrument subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 118 (Delegated Legislation Committees) in respect of which notice has been given that the instrument be approved.—(Mr Wallace.)

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Wallace.)

5.2 pm

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I am very pleased to have secured this debate and to have the opportunity to explain why we need to extend the current system of state registration of hairdressers, which is voluntary, to make it compulsory. Nowadays, people living in our sophisticated and complex modern-day society assume that the goods and services they buy, particularly on the high street, are in fact regulated. Most of us make the assumption when we go to the hairdressers that we are being treated by people who are suitably qualified, and much of the time we are.

I was quite shocked, therefore, to find out that in the UK a person does not need any qualifications at all to practise as a hairdresser. In other words, the industry is unregulated. Of course, the majority of hairdressers have appropriate qualifications, work to a high standard and take great care of their customers. However, currently there is nothing to protect the consumer from the unscrupulous or the incompetent, and that is what worries me.

I believe that as a society we have a duty to protect people from the unscrupulous as far as we can, so I want to ensure that a service as commonplace as hairdressing is properly regulated so that we and our families, our young people and our children are properly protected. That becomes even more relevant when we consider the wide range of different types of treatment now available. Hairdressing can involve using sharp implements and styling instruments, as well as a range of powerful chemicals that can inflict third-degree burns. That is frightening and it is not acceptable that we do not require any statutory registration of the people using those substances and implements on our heads, our hair, our skin and close to our eyes, our ears, our face and our brains.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. Before we use certain colouring on our hair, we should have a skin test and wait a couple of days to see if there is any allergic reaction, but we are impatient and tend to want everything instantly. Scrupulously careful hairdressers tell me that they sometimes lose customers because they insist on a skin test, but the customer is too impatient to wait for the result and goes to a salon which does not require the test. When things go wrong, it can be very distressing for the person concerned and ultimately, if medical treatment is needed, it is likely to be the NHS—that is, the taxpayer—who picks up the bill.

I pay tribute to the Hair Council, formerly the Hairdressing Council, for the work that it has done to highlight the issue of compulsory state registration of hairdressers and barbers. I know, for example, that just in this place there is much greater awareness of the issue among MPs than there was just a few years ago. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris), who introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on the subject. I thank the training, hairdressing and barbering industries for taking a lead and demonstrating how seriously they take the professionalism of their industry. I have had valuable conversations with the hairdressers in my constituency, who tell me that they

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are concerned to maintain high standards and to ensure that new recruits to the industry also perform to high standards.

Hairdressing and barbering are industries that we in the UK are very proud of. They are sectors of key importance to the economy, contributing some £2.6 billion to the UK economy and employing nearly 250,000 people across 55,000 businesses. Even in the current tough economic climate, we can walk down any high street or through any town centre and find several hairdressing salons or barbershops.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): I, too, have written to all the hairdressers in my constituency, seeking their views about regulation. My hon. Friend is right. They want to be seen as responsible and do not want to cause anybody damage when they visit the salon. Does my hon. Friend agree that partly because of the recession and partly because of the increase in the number of people who are self-employed, an increasing number of people are providing hairdressing services in people’s homes, over which there are no checks whatever? That causes me concern.

Nia Griffith: Indeed. My hon. Friend is right. For a hairdresser working as a sole operator in a home where there is nobody to point out to them that they have done something wrongly, it is even more important that they are properly qualified and that the person employing them has some validation of that. We would check whether a plumber was properly registered; that is far more important in respect of our own body.

Alison Seabeck: The protection of hairdressers is also important, to ensure that they are protected if anything goes wrong.

Nia Griffith: Indeed. Insurance companies will have a vital role to play. If there is compulsory state registration, insurance companies will expect professionals to comply with the law and to mention any changes in circumstance. It will be in hairdressers’ best interest to be registered and to be properly insured.

In our town centres, it is often the hairdressing shops that pull people in, which can be welcome. With competition from internet shopping and out-of-town shopping, anything that increases footfall in town centres can be useful to the neighbouring shops, not just the hairdressers and barbers.

Habia, the Government-approved standards-setting body for the industry, estimates that hairdressing and barbering account for nearly 1% of the entire UK economy. They also make up a huge percentage of new start-ups. Habia estimates that 41% of hairdressers are self-employed, and 93.5% work in a workplace employing between one and 10 employees.

I must emphasise that the vast majority of these businesses are respected. The hairdressers are highly competent and have worked long and hard to train to a proficient and qualified standard. However, as always, some do not fall into this category and damage this good reputation. To prevent this, the Government of the day introduced the Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964, which created the Hairdressing Council and provided

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its current constitution. Under the Act, a person can apply to be state registered in the same way as doctors, nurses and dentists. The only difference is that it is completely voluntary to belong to the UK register of qualified hairdressers—a status that can be achieved either through qualification or six years practising as a hairdresser. Ideally, every hairdresser and barber should be state registered, which would eliminate those who practise with no qualifications or experience whatsoever. The problem with the Act is that it does not have any power to safeguard the consumer with a framework of minimum qualification standards and compulsory state regulation of the industry—it is entirely voluntary. The campaign by the Hair Council, which I fully support, would allow for compulsory registration of all hairdressers and barbers.

Let us be honest: we have moved on a long way since 1964. If we want to be reminded of what teenage boys looked like in 1964, we just have to go on to the internet and look for the sleeve of the Beatles’ LP, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and that will give us a good impression. Most of us will remember that hairdressers were about the short back and sides for boys, with schools complaining if hair touched the collar. We knew that our mothers or grandmothers went for a perm now and again. Of course, nowadays there is a whole range of treatments and people have such a variety of different opportunities for things to do with their hair. Dangerous chemicals are used routinely. Without proper training and qualifications, there is no guarantee for customers that they might not be burnt, injured or permanently physically disfigured by the inappropriate use of these chemicals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) said, many people are turning to mobile hairdressers, and it is even more important that they should be properly state registered and therefore regulated.

We need to ensure quality and safety standards within the hairdressing and barbering industry. Many hairdressers who are not state registered practise great hairdressing and run successful salons, but registration is about guaranteeing a minimum level of competence for the consumer and deterring those who are not fit to practise from setting up. As politicians, we have a duty of care to members of the public. When things do go wrong and there are accidents resulting from the misuse of chemicals or dyes, it can be very distressing for the persons concerned. Ultimately, if medical treatment is needed, it is likely that the NHS—namely, the taxpayer—will pick up the bill.

Similar questions and concerns were raised in the wake of the Poly Implant Prothèse implants problem. Professor Sir Bruce Keogh headed up a review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions—in particular, non-surgical procedures such as dermal fillers, beauty treatments, collagen and Botox injections, chemical peels, and laser hair removal. In his report published in April 2013, he notes:

“Dermal fillers are a particular cause for concern as anyone can set themselves up as a practitioner, with no requirement for knowledge, training or previous experience.”

The Government have supported the recommendations of the report, one of which states:

“All non-surgical procedures must be performed under the responsibility of a clinical professional who has gained the accredited qualification”.

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Most notably, it recommends that all practitioners should be registered, and states:

“Entry to the register should be subject to…achievement of accredited qualification”.

Some of these procedures could easily be undertaken in a spa or a salon, so let us make sure that we get regulation all round.

The introduction of compulsory registration for hairdressers and barbers would bring hairdressing and barbering into line with other industries in the UK. It would be similar, for example, to the regulation of taxi drivers or food hygiene: one would not expect to go into a restaurant that had not been properly regulated.

Registration of hairdressers and barbers is required elsewhere. In the USA, for example, practitioners are required to have a licence to practise and to provide evidence of training and certification in each business area they intend to provide at their salon. There are on-site inspections and trade tests, and a consumer complaints and procedures route. If they move state, they have to satisfy the regulations of the state to which they move. Australia has a similar set-up, with practitioners required to be registered. The UK remains one of the few countries in Europe that does not require the state registration of hairdressers or their equivalents.

The Hair Council has already made significant progress not only in raising the issue within the industry and with decision makers, but in consulting and drawing up details of how the system might work in practice. The questions that many people will rightly ask are about its cost, how it will be policed and how it will work in practice. There will clearly have to be proper consultation within the industry and a transition phase, but I will return to that later.

Once the system is up and running, it should be relatively easy to police. There will be a list of registered hairdressers. Just as now, people will be able to find their nearest state-registered hairdresser on the Hair Council website. The public and trading standards officers alike will be able to consult the list. Consumers will be able to check whether their hairdresser is state registered, just as they can for their plumber. Trading standards offices will be able to use it as a tool for checking what is happening in the local neighbourhood. When officers make inspections of local salons, they can also check the credentials of the people who are working there.

Ultimately, insurance companies are likely to provide the greatest motivation for hairdressers and salon owners to comply, and to make sure that all their staff are state-registered hairdressers. We all know that we have to comply with the terms and conditions of insurance policies for them to be valid, and that we have to report any change in circumstances. No hairdresser or salon owner will want to pay for insurance only to find that it is invalid. The requirement by insurance companies for hairdressers to comply with the law—they will provide cover for hairdressers serving the public only if they are state registered—will therefore provide a strong motivation for them to register and to employ only those who are state registered.

The Hair Council has estimated that the system can be run at no extra cost above the current fee of £40 per annum per individual hairdresser. In fact, it sees that figure as a maximum. No-one likes to pay any fee, but in the great scheme of things, it is not an unreasonable

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amount and could be recouped from customers relatively quickly. The cost per customer over a year would be negligible, and customers would find it a very small price to pay for knowing that the hairdressers and barbers that they and their family use are registered and therefore regulated.

On implementation, the structures and the mechanisms are already in place, and the Hair Council has done a lot of preparatory work. We already have the legislation. A registration scheme is in place—its framework has existed since 1964—and it is administered by the Hair Council. The Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964 created the then Hairdressing Council and provided its constitution. Under the Act, a person can apply to be state registered in the same way as doctors, nurses and dentists. We are now seeking to make state registration compulsory.

The Hair Council has done a lot of work and has come up with proposals. It suggests that, as the keeper of the register of hairdressers and barbers, its remit would be extended from the maintenance of a voluntary register to keeping a statutory register, with the ability to set and enforce penalties where necessary. The Hair Council is committed to consultation within the industry, and to be both consumer and industry-focused in its communications. It proposes that those already practising as a hairdresser or barber in the UK would be required to join the register by a certain date—perhaps up to two years after the change in the legislation. That would be followed by a period of strict scrutiny, using a team of inspectors recruited for the sole objective of visiting salons. Practising hairdressers or barbers—whether mobile operatives, salon-based or self-employed individuals—would need to register to be able to function correctly and legally.

Trainers would be expected to inform learners that once they had obtained a level 2 national vocational qualification, they would be required to register before they could practise lawfully. That would educate individuals intending to work in a self-employed capacity about the need to register. Compliance could be monitored by qualification-awarding organisations.

When I have consulted local salons, they have stressed the need for high-quality training, so I was pleased to see in December that my local further education college, coleg Sir Gâr, has signed up to registering all its lecturers, assessors and qualified learners with the Hair Council. It clearly makes sense that all those who are training and assessing the next generation of hairdressers should themselves be state-registered.

Qualified professional hairdressers and barbers are drivers of growth on our high streets. They support local employment, train apprentices, serve their communities and contribute significantly to the UK economy, and it is time for the industry to be put on a much firmer regulatory footing to reflect that. We have regulatory and consumer laws because they reflect good practice. The majority of responsible practitioners already come up to or surpass the necessary standards, but we need legislation to provide protection from the unscrupulous or incompetent. A change in the law would not only ensure consumer protection but enhance standards and provide professional recognition for the industry. I therefore ask the Minister to take the initiative and to take the necessary steps to ensure that we are all properly protected, by introducing the compulsory registration of hairdressers.

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5.21 pm

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), and I thank her for providing me with the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I join her in placing on record admiration for barbers and hairdressers—one needs only to look around the House to see what a challenge it can be. You, of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, are at the top of the list. It is undoubtedly a challenge to get every individual’s hair correct. May I place on record my particular thanks to Sugaz barbers of Lime street, Bedford, for their tremendous dedication to making the Member of Parliament for Bedford look presentable in public these past four or five years?

Hairdressing is a tough profession, as every individual has their own needs and tastes. As the hon. Lady said, the skill sets in the industry and the services and products it provides have progressed dramatically over the past 20 or 30 years. I would also point out the size of the industry. As she said, it is not a small sector of our economy but a considerable one. It employs a large number of people, and there are a large number of businesses in it. It affects all of us—we all use the services of a hairdresser or barber on a regular basis, perhaps until we become follically challenged.

The hon. Lady did not mention another important aspect of the sector, which is that setting up a salon or becoming a barber or hairdresser is one of the most accessible ways for people to start out in their own profession or start up their own business. For a lot of people, formal education is not their direct interest, but making people feel better and bringing happiness to their lives is how hundreds of thousands of people contribute to our society. Hairdressing has historically been a relatively easy way for people to get involved in setting up a business. That is why I disagree with the hon. Lady’s approach to regulation, if I may say so, even though she outlined a solid case. Frankly, I do not want the state cutting my hair. More deeply than that, I believe that sufficient protections for the consumer are already in place. If I may, I will go through a number of them in turn.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman has graciously thanked his hairdresser, but may I say that on the whole, his hairdresser’s task is rather simple? The point is the greater complication, and the use of chemicals and other products, when a woman’s hair is styled. That is often a more technical and difficult task, and that is where regulation is required.

Richard Fuller: I hear what the hon. Lady says, and I will state why I think regulation is not the approach to take. If that does not satisfy her, especially on the issue of chemical use, perhaps she will make a further intervention or contribution.

My first point applies to almost all barbers and hairdressers, because they almost all go through formal training. Bedford college has an active range of courses for people who want to become hairdressers and barbers. They go through the training, learn about the use of chemicals, different styles, techniques and human interactions, and achieve a good qualification.

Nia Griffith: If, as the hon. Gentleman says, the vast majority of hairdressers go through the process of getting a proper qualification, should we not give them

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credit for that, and ensure that someone who has not done so is not able to give the whole industry a bad name by doing something inappropriate or stupid? As he says, many hairdressers have done a lot of work and trained, and if they were asked to register because it was compulsory, I am sure the vast majority would be proud to do so.

Richard Fuller: There are a number of points in that. First, people who work for a qualification get that qualification and credit at the end of their training course, which is a sense of celebration and merit for them. Secondly, if they believe it is valuable to get that additional accreditation from the council, that is perfectly open to them. There is nothing barring someone from taking on that accreditation, but the hon. Lady proposes not to treat accreditation in that way but to make it a compulsory requirement, and that is where I differ from her approach. Qualifications provide people with that credit, and the sector currently works adequately at that level.

Another factor is word of mouth. If there is one part of our lives where word of mouth has a big influence on where we go, it must surely be in who cuts our hair. We listen to what people say, perhaps when we are younger, and then we stick with someone and they cut our hair for many years into the future. We get to know who we want from what other people say, and we tend to stick with what we know. In that type of structure, and given how demand in a market works, regulation seems to be more of an impediment and intrusion into people’s normal practice of finding the right barber or hairdresser than a help.

Supply and demand works. If someone is operating a salon and provides poor or risky service, they will go out of business because in most communities people know which barbers and hairdressers do not work effectively. As I said, there is already quite a lot of conversational management about the quality of service in that sector, and that has been supplemented by online sources. Nowadays people seeking a hairdresser can look at ratings and recommendations online, just as they can for other services. Finally, in the rare occurrences when a problem does occur, one can obviously seek redress directly from the salon for any impediment caused, and if a very severe issue has caused an injury, there is the opportunity for litigation. Plenty of measures are already in place that make regulation an unnecessary, perhaps even distracting, step.

The hon. Member for Llanelli said that regulation helps to stop the unscrupulous, but we had plenty of regulation in banking and that did not stop unscrupulous behaviour. She specifically mentioned taxi drivers. We have regulation in that sector, but in a number of activities there is still unscrupulous behaviour by taxi drivers. I do not see regulation, perhaps as the hon. Lady does, as providing a guarantee that something will be right. In fact, I believe that our understanding of how markets and people work, what we hear from our friends and others, and the service we directly receive, is a much better guide and form of consumer protection than blanket regulation.

I understand that the proposed measure is in the interests of the British Hair Council. I understand that it has about 6,000 registered members from the 250,000 people who could be registered, which is a relatively low proportion. Rather than compelling people to join,

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perhaps the council should ask itself some tough questions about why it has achieved such a low level of penetration. Why is its offer not attractive enough for people to join? It is not the job of government to give the council a leg up so that it can increase its membership—it should be doing that itself. I think the hon. Lady confirmed that the membership fee is £42, so the council, with its current 6,000 members, has an income of £250,000 a year. Were we to make membership compulsory, that income would go up to £10 million a year. I can therefore see a clear and direct financial interest for the council to be pushing this measure, through both the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) and today’s debate. I can see why the council is pushing very hard, but I am not hearing any compelling argument, related to either consumer satisfaction or industry improvement, about why we should take that step.

Nia Griffith: The hon. Gentleman needs to take into consideration why one would register if it is not compulsory. There are lots of professional organisations to which people do not necessarily belong if they are not compulsory. When I was a modern languages teacher, I could have belonged to about three or four organisations, in addition to the trade union to which I belonged. If there is to be no regulation, how would the hon. Gentleman guarantee that somebody could not practise if they were not competent to do so? He talks about word of mouth; that might be all right for the established person, but it does not help the newly qualified person in setting up, which is one of the arguments he made. Why is it that he rejects any form of protection? Does he have another idea how that offer of a proper guarantee could be put in place, so that people could see a sticker in a window and know that the salon—or the individual, if it is someone visiting a house—is properly qualified? Is there another way to guarantee that?

Richard Fuller: First, as a politician I do not think I should be guaranteeing the quality of service that someone receives in a hair salon. Secondly, I do not think that regulation is the same as a guarantee, and I have tried to make that point. Regulation is, as the hon. Lady rightly says, a sticker in the window, but there are plenty of examples of regulation not providing protection. It can sometimes be misguiding to say that people are protected when they are not. If we want protection, we might have to put in place compensation schemes and ask the taxpayer to fund situations where there have been negative consequences. The hon. Lady and I have a substantially differing approach to whether it is appropriate for politicians to guarantee, and to whether a guarantee means protection. As I tried to set out earlier, there are a number of layers of informal protection that guide our decision to get a haircut in salon A or salon B.

The hon. Lady mentioned the Hair Council’s proposal to have inspectors going around regulating. That would be really tough. The Care Quality Commission has to regulate, I think, 21,000 care homes, and we know that that does not necessarily provide a guarantee of service. There are even more hair salons, so unless there is a very cursory inspection—just popping in and popping out—that would be a substantial undertaking. I have some scepticism about whether the council is currently in a position to provide the level of insight the hon. Lady thinks it can in an industry that is so widely distributed and so small

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scale individually. The sector also has quite a high turnover—a number of salons will set up and then fail—so there will perhaps be even more than the headline number of salons that need to be regulated.

The hon. Lady set out a good case, but I disagree with her approach. She talked about the regulation of new industries—for example botox and so on. There is a question—perhaps the Minister will address it—of whether there should be a difference of approach when we look at new industries, such as those providing botox and cosmetic surgery, that do not have a track record of customer service and what people understand, as there is in industries, such as hairdressing, that have been established for generations. What about nail salons? If the Minister is minded to agree with the hon. Lady, does he think we should also regulate nail salons? If so, how many nail salons would we have to cover? If not, why would we cover one, but not the other?

The hon. Lady did not mention Europe, but given the title of the debate, I want to talk about pending European regulations relating to the hairdressing industry in the UK. When many of us on the Government Benches hear about European regulation—this is a poor joke—we are minded to pull our hair out. [Interruption.] I said it was a poor joke. [Hon. Members: “It was a very poor joke”.] It is late in the day, so I can get away with it.

There is, however, a much more important non-joke issue that was drawn to my attention by the National Hairdressers’ Federation, which is based in my constituency: the framework agreement proposed by the EU on occupational health and safety protection. As I understand it, the Commission is seeking to make the framework voluntary agreement into something that is legally binding in all member states and for all businesses in the industry. This raises several issues. First, I am not sure we want additional European regulation in a sector in the UK. Secondly, it would not apply to those who are self-employed; it would apply only to businesses and so create a two-tier level of occupational health and safety protection? Thirdly, the European trade federation has said it would have severely negative consequences for the sector.

I think that most people who run salons would say it is a tough, low-margin business where every cost matters. Do we really want to add an additional burden from the EU? I understand that 10 member states have already expressed their opposition to making the regulation legally binding. Will the Minister give us his views and tell us whether the UK has or will oppose making it legally binding rather than a matter of voluntary compliance? In most sectors, voluntary compliance works effectively.

The hon. Lady has made a strong case for an alternative point of view, but it is a case I disagree with, and I hope that the Minister will also disagree. However, I am grateful to both of them for the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

5.37 pm

The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): I will not be as bold as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller), but will steer clear of commenting on the quality of Members’ hairstyling; I think I will stay on safe ground.

I am sure the House will commend the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) for bringing this issue to its attention. She is right that it concerns a significant

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industry that affects almost all the population who use hairdressers or barbers. I am familiar with the Hair Council’s campaign—my predecessor met Sally Styles, the chief executive officer, to discuss the issues—and I am aware of the recent debate on the subject in the Welsh Assembly. I am sure that the hon. Lady, in her constituency and shadow ministerial roles, will be familiar with that.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford and the hon. Member for Llanelli said, the hairdressing and beauty industry is important to the UK economy. It contributes about £5 billion a year and employs about 250,000 people, and it is dominated by small and micro-businesses, with about 36,000 salons and 3,000 barbers. The majority of the work force is female and a high proportion of people are self-employed. My hon. Friend made the point about the low barriers to entry and its being a very competitive industry. That is an important tool in ensuring that an industry is well regulated, because anyone who delivers poor customer service will not be in business for long in a business that is competitive and where people share knowledge about the quality of service they receive.

Of course, nobody wants to see incompetent people in the profession, unsatisfactory conditions of hygiene or unsafe use of chemicals, all of which could impact on business owners, employees and members of the public. However, I listened carefully to what the hon. Lady said and the thing that was missing from her speech—I will perhaps not be as generous as my hon. Friend, because I do not think she made a strong case—was what is the problem that we are trying to solve. Despite the size of the industry, how many people work in it and how many customers it has, I did not hear any analysis in her speech of what the problem was. She did not set out a compelling argument that large numbers of people are damaged by incompetent hairdressers, nor did she lay out a real problem that we are trying to solve. She laid out some theoretical risks, but they are not risks in practice. The Government’s position on health and safety regulation is that we should take a proportionate approach to risk and have regulation to deal with the amount of risk that exists, not overburden industry with unnecessary red tape.

Nia Griffith: Does the Minister not accept, though, that rather than waiting for disasters and scandals to happen, it is better to see what we can do in advance? This is a widespread industry; lots of teenagers go and get their hair done and all the rest of it; and just as we have seen with tanning salons and tattoo parlours and so forth, people sometimes end up doing things that perhaps are inappropriate. Would it not be better to put in place a system that we can properly use, rather than just leaving things to drift?

Mr Harper: This comes back to one of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford. The hon. Lady’s argument might have some force if we were talking about a radical new industry, but we are talking about something that has been around for a long time and that has a clear track record showing that the problem that she suggests might occur is just not there. There is a genuine issue about how health and safety regulation can ensure that people can go to work and

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return home safely, not be killed, injured or damaged, and that members of the public can have the same protection. However, the Government’s general approach to regulation, particularly in the health and safety space, is to ensure that it focuses on where the risks are, not where they are not. As I have said, I did not hear in her speech a compelling case for the problem that she is trying to solve, and I do not think there is one, which is why I am not attracted to her solution.

Mrs Moon: My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) made the point that the industry has moved on. We have moved on from the days of the short back and sides for men. Men now have more products used on their hair, as do women. Women are having hair extensions, which can result in hair being pulled out, and are having different chemicals used on their hair all the time. Hairdressing is a more technically-minded industry, rather than just a creative, simplistic industry, where people went for a perm or a set, or a short back and sides. It is that change in the nature of the industry that has led to calls for greater regulation.

Mr Harper: I will come to the point about regulating the use of chemicals in a minute, but as I have said, I do not think a compelling case for the problem has been set out.

We welcome what the Hair Council does in operating its voluntary registration scheme and we support initiatives to improve professional competence and standards. However, it is interesting that about 10% of hairdressers—that is my understanding; I do not necessarily agree with the exact statistic used by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford—are registered in the voluntary registration scheme that was implemented under the 1964 Act. Although the hon. Member for Llanelli said that the industry would support compulsory registration, the fact that only 10% of those in the industry are registered with the Hair Council suggests to me that they do not think there is a compelling argument that membership of that organisation is necessary to show their customers that they have the appropriate competence and skill. I think my hon. Friend is right: when people get a hairdresser they are confident in, they tend to stick with them for quite a long time. In my experience, good hairdressers have a good reputation and attract business in that way, and poor ones go out of business very quickly. I do not think the evidence suggests that the industry wants compulsory registration.

My hon. Friend is also right that the idea that a state registration scheme is a guarantee that everything will be fine is simply not right and is not shown by a range of other industries that have elements of regulation where that does not guarantee high quality. The thing that guarantees high quality is a competitive industry, low barriers to entry and a competitive marketplace. People who deliver poor customer service will not be around for very long. The evidence suggests that hairdressing is a generally well run sector of the economy and that the individuals and businesses supported by the trade bodies take sensible and proportionate measures effectively to manage the health and safety risks to their employees and customers.

The hon. Member for Llanelli said that there were not any measures or regulations to protect people in the industry at the moment. That is simply not true. Businesses operating in the hairdressing sector are covered by

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health and safety at work legislation and public health legislation, which are enforced by local authorities. They are covered by the provisions within the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which set out requirements about identifying hazards, the control of risks, the provision of training and information for staff and the need for advice. If chemicals are used, there are other regulations about controlling substances hazardous to health, the use of work equipment, manual handling, welfare and personal protective equipment. There are already quite a lot of regulations, with which a hairdresser or hairdressing salon has to comply to ensure that they do not present a risk to their customers or their members of staff.

Nia Griffith: What research has the Minister done on the level of understanding of that legislation by hairdressers who go house to house to work?

Mr Harper: I have not done any specific work on that, but I do not think there is any evidence that there is a problem to be solved. Everyone who runs a business has to comply with health and safety legislation, but it is proportionate to the risk that they run. As I said, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford; I do not think the evidence suggests a risk in this industry to justify imposing a state registration scheme. That is the first point, and the second is that I do not think there is any evidence that if we did so, it would have any impact on making the industry better. It is generally a well run industry, with some high-quality individuals and businesses operating, which delivers good customer service.

As well as providing a legislative framework, the Health and Safety Executive produces guidance for small businesses. It has an example risk assessment for hairdressing salons, which is accessed between 200 and 400 times each month. It goes through the common hazards that might be present in a hairdressing salon, the harm that can be caused to staff and customers and it suggests the sorts of actions that salons and hairdressers can take to control the risks. The HSE works closely with the National Hairdressers Federation and the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority, which is the Government-appointed sector skills body that controls the standards that form the basis of all qualifications, to raise awareness of health issues.

The hon. Lady mentioned the training aspects. In my constituency, the Forest of Dean campus of Gloucester college trains people in the hair and beauty industry. I have been along myself and I recall for a short period sitting in the chair as a model while various people practised on me. That demonstrated the high level of skill and training in the industry. The college works closely with local employers and the standards are very high.

A good example of joint working was the “Bad Hand Day” campaign, which the HSE ran in partnership with the industry to raise awareness of how to prevent hairdressers suffering dermatitis. The HSE has run a recent health and safety campaign, which targeted small businesses across a number of industries, including the beauty industry. The HSE produced “Health & Safety ABC: An easy guide to health and safety”, which was supported by both the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority and the National Hairdressers Federation,

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while 92% of those surveyed in the beauty industry said that the health and safety of their customers was either a major or moderate concern. Most people in the industry recognise that there is something they need to be concerned about and take appropriate steps to deal with it.

There are some other regulations under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, and a new suite of health protection regulations came into effect in April 2010. This updated an “all hazards” approach, dealing with infections and contaminations. Public authorities are thus able to respond to modern-day health hazards. As well as local authorities, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Health Protection Scotland have an interest in protecting the public from harm in the wider beauty industry.

Hairdressing products, which the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) mentioned, are also regulated—I am sorry to say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford—under the EU cosmetics directive, which offers a further layer of protection for customers in that any product used must be authorised, properly labelled and packaged.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford and the hon. Member for Llanelli compared these proposals with measures taken to control other professions in the beauty industry, and the hon. Lady specifically mentioned other cosmetic treatments. There is a distinction between the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and wider public health legislation that regulates more invasive cosmetic treatments, such as the one that she mentioned. It is necessary to apply regulation that is proportionate to risk. The report to which she referred was clearly a response to some of the risks involved—I think I am right in saying that it was triggered partly by some of the fall-out from the issue of breast implants—and I do not think that it is relevant to the hairdressing industry.

Local authorities have powers, under various local Acts, to exercise a proper degree of control over standards of health and hygiene, which includes the cleanliness of premises, instruments and equipment, and they have powers to inspect. They take enforcement action, such as prosecuting poorly performing hairdressing salons, under the existing regulatory framework. Notwithstanding what was said by the hon. Lady, there is already a fairly comprehensive regulatory framework, which is designed to protect both staff and customers in hairdressing salons. If people comply with that legislation, the risks—which are relatively low—will be properly controlled, and I therefore see no case for extending it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford referred to moves on the European front, specifically the European framework agreement on the protection of occupational health and safety in the hairdressing sector. The Government do not want that agreement to become a compulsory directive, and we have been working with like-minded states to prevent its implementation as such. We have no objection to a voluntary scheme, but, having analysed the agreement, we think that it duplicates a great deal of existing legislation. Moreover, an initial assessment suggests that it would impose an extra cost of £75 million on hairdressing businesses in the United Kingdom alone, without improving existing standards.

My hon. Friend mentioned nail salons. They are effectively covered by the same regulatory framework as hairdressers, so they must comply with the same health and safety regulations and public health legislation.

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The hon. Member for Llanelli asked whether insurers could require hairdressers to be state-registered. Hairdressing businesses, like all other businesses, are already required to have employers’ liability insurance, and responsible businesses will have public liability insurance as well. Again, a regulatory framework already ensures that businesses providing these services are properly insured and therefore have the appropriate financial resources if they cause damage to their customers.

I do not think that the hon. Lady has set out a problem that needs to be solved. Hairdressing is an important industry that employs a great many people, is generally well run and delivers a good customer service, but it is already subject to a comprehensive range of regulatory laws contained in primary and secondary legislation that ensures that the risks must be dealt with properly.

Alison Seabeck: Throughout the Minister’s speech—it has been an interesting speech, in which he has expressed a different view from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith)—he has referred to a lack of evidence. Given that 70% of hairdressers suffer from conditions such as dermatitis at some point in their lives, there is no doubt that customers will also be subject to problems caused by chemicals, latex gloves and other equipment. Customers may enter salons without fully understanding some of the risks, particularly if the staff are not particularly experienced. That is a significant issue. The Minister says that he is opposed to regulation, but would it not be worthwhile to carry out research among customers as well as hairdressers about the nature of the problems that people experience in salons, given that we clearly do not know enough about it?

Mr Harper: The alternative way of looking at that is that if there was a real problem, we would know about it. As constituency MPs, lots of issues come to our attention, and I am digging through my memory and in my nine years as a Member of Parliament I do not think I have ever had a single letter complaining about appalling treatment by a hairdressing salon in my constituency. In fact the opposite is the case; I have been fortunate enough to go to salons in my constituency to present awards to high performing and well-trained

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members of staff. If there was a real problem that affected significant numbers of people, I think we would know about it.

Alison Seabeck: We have some fantastic salons in Plymouth, all of which are performing incredibly well, but if we go on Google and type in “hairdressing” and “accidents”, enormous numbers of messages from solicitors’ firms pop up on our screen saying, “Let us help you with your claim against your hairdressers”, so something is clearly going on out there.

Mr Harper: I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me for saying that just because there are lots of ambulance-chasing lawyers around trying to dream up and invent legal actions in a particular sector does not necessarily give a good indication of whether there is a problem to solve. We all know about such lawyers trying to dream up and invent legal actions; we have seen what happens with people trying to sue others for car accidents and inventing claims and driving up motor insurance premiums. In the hairdressing sector, therefore, given that we already have a range of health and safety legislation, I do not think further legislation would deliver much gain to employees or customers.

The issue the hon. Member for Llanelli was raising was professional standards and competence among hairdressers. The Government believe such matters are often best dealt with by businesses and their representative bodies. They know how to improve standards. That is very effective in a competitive business with low barriers to entry and no reason why people cannot switch very easily, so the Government are not in favour of mandatory state registration for hairdressers, and as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, we oppose the European social partner agreement becoming a compulsory directive.

The Health and Safety Executive will continue to work with all the various bodies representing the hairdressing industry, to maintain good standards of employee and customer health and safety. That is an appropriate way for what is a generally very well run and excellent industry to continue to be regulated.

Question put and agreed to.

5.57 pm

House adjourned.