8 Dec 2008 : Column 145

8 Dec 2008 : Column 145

House of Lords

Monday, 8 December 2008.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.

Members of the House: Police Access


2.36 pm

Asked By Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, consent to search a Member’s office is a matter for the House authorities, but I would anticipate that any request by the police to search your Lordships’ House with consent would be made in the first instance to Black Rod. A warrant authorised by the Secretary of State would be required to intercept telephone or e-mail communications. The Wilson doctrine applies to Members of the Lords.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I hope the Minister will ensure that the police have clear guidance. Although the noble Lord has laid out a few of the parameters, is he aware of how many grey areas there are? The Wilson doctrine covers communication in transit, but once those e-mails are stored on a computer I do not believe that they are covered. Will the Minister, and perhaps the Leader of the House, ensure that all these grey areas are dealt with in the forthcoming review, including the matter of noble Lords’ homes?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am very willing to say that I will look at this in much more detail. As the noble Baroness rightly points out, there are some real complexities with the electronic surveillance by security and intelligence agencies, and whether the surveillance is being done for intrusive or directed purposes. I am happy to undertake to look at this and see whether we can discover areas that need to be clarified a little more.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act draws a clear distinction between access to a Member’s office and access to his papers? Does he agree that, for access to the papers, it would always be necessary for the police to obtain a warrant? Does he also agree that, if the papers are confidential and are therefore excluded material under the Act, the warrant would have to be granted by either a High Court or a circuit judge?

8 Dec 2008 : Column 146

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I understand it, once a constable goes into an office with authority to do so, he may seize documents for a number of reasons; for example, if he believes that they may be pertinent to the precise details of the case that he is investigating. There are other reasons, such as material being relevant. It does not include items subject to legal privilege. There is a list of things, so it is not true to say that he cannot seize some of them. Therefore, I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord on that point.

Lord Morris of Aberavon: My Lords, my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General is by custom and tradition available and obliged to advise the authorities in Parliament when requested. Will the Minister confirm that this duty specifically includes the Lord Speaker?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I mentioned last week when I repeated the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, as I understand it, Black Rod would speak to the Lord Speaker, the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Leader of the House. The Lord Speaker has access to the Attorney-General, and the Attorney-General would normally speak to her.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, would Black Rod be correct in delegating his authority to anybody else?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not know the precise answer to the noble Baroness’s question. I imagine that if Black Rod were indisposed for some reason, there must be a basis on which he can delegate his authorities, but I am not sure of the answer if he were actually within the precincts of the House. If I may, I shall get back to her in writing.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister have any plans to review the Counter-Terrorism Act, bearing in mind that we have the examples of Walter Wolfgang being evicted from the Labour Party conference and of an MP’s office being raided by Special Branch officers with counterterrorist officers, which seem to me to bring the law into disrepute?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I mentioned last week when I repeated the Statement made by my right honourable friend, this was not done on the basis of the Counter-Terrorism Act; the Police and Criminal Evidence Act was the basis of the Metropolitan Police’s actions. We have no intention at the moment of reviewing the Counter-Terrorism Act. However, there may have been cases where local councils have used the counterterrorism legislation incorrectly and very clear guidance has gone out to ensure that this does not happen.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the Minister referred to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Section 8(3)(c) of the Act states that a warrant to search premises will always be required if,

Will Black Rod and the authorities of this House be armed with that refusal?

8 Dec 2008 : Column 147

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. They would come here if they felt that they were going to get consent without a warrant. So, for example, as I understand happened in the other place, I imagine that they would talk to Black Rod, who would take advice, and he might say, “No, I am not going to let you in”, in which case they would have to get a warrant. That is what I imagine would happen. But if, of course, he was advised that he should let them in, I think that he would let them in on that advice. But I imagine that he would demand a warrant.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, if it is for the Attorney-General in certain circumstances to advise the Speaker in the Lords, as was suggested to my noble and learned friend Lord Morris, does that mean that exactly the same position exists with regard to the House of Commons; that the Attorney-General would be in a position to advise the Speaker of the House of Commons similarly?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I understand it, the Attorney-General is available to advise the other place, but I do not want to go into detail about whether or not it would require that in the circumstances that have just passed.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, if Black Rod granted permission for the police to enter the premises, that surely would not allow them to enter an individual office of an individual Peer without permission from that Peer or without having a warrant to enter that office?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I understand it, if it is a criminal investigation for a criminal act, they would have access.



2.44 pm

Asked By Baroness Northover

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, on World AIDS Day the UK Government launched a monitoring and evaluation document to help us to evaluate the impact of the AIDS strategy launched in June, which included commitments of £6 billion to strengthen health systems and services and £200 million for social protection programmes, in addition to the £1 billion previously committed for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. We also announced a package of £15 million to help to revitalise and reinvigorate South Africa’s AIDS response under the leadership of the new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan.

8 Dec 2008 : Column 148

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply and for DfID’s work in this area. There are now almost 12 million children orphaned by AIDS, which is double the number of only about seven years ago. How can we ensure that, despite economic recession, the needs of such children are not forgotten? Does he recognise not only the moral case here but also that the very stability of some of these countries and their communities may be undermined unless there is extremely strong international support at this time?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the UK remains firmly committed to meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. We will work to ensure that national plans of action are systematically integrated into national health education and social protection plans. Over the next three years, the UK will expand its social protection programmes to over £200 million, which will be channelled through both government and non-government organisations. On the second two points, the answer is basically that we agree. We recognise the importance of maintaining the momentum in this and other DfID areas. As my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown said in the debate on Thursday, the Prime Minister repeated his commitment a month ago to overseas development assistance reaching 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2013. This has been echoed by the International Development Secretary and continues to be supported on all sides of the House.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, what is the Government’s view of the use of generic drugs in the poorest countries, which has reduced the price of the antiviral treatment to about $700 a year?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, we totally support it. We support the international efforts and the publication of information about such generics to help countries to understand their opportunities. We work with other countries to make sure that both generic drugs and developing drugs become affordable in the countries where they are needed.

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, it is recognised that faith leaders can have a great impact on the practice of communities. I have personal experience of South Africa, Mozambique and Angola and I have listened to a South African Anglican bishop powerfully preaching to a congregation about HIV/AIDS. Yet less than 5 per cent of the global fund for HIV/AIDS has been directed to faith-based groups. What are the Government and DfID doing to support faith groups in delivering programmes in partnership with government and to analyse the effectiveness of current AIDS spending to engage more effectively with the problem?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I do not have specific information on the extent to which we help faith-based groups. Most of our money in DfID is spent through country programmes, which are focused where they can be most effective. Certainly, where a faith-based group helps in such a programme, we would co-operate with it.

8 Dec 2008 : Column 149

Lord Avebury: My Lords, considering that children with HIV/AIDS are 40 times more likely to contract pneumococcal disease, a family of diseases that kills 1.6 million a year, will the Government consider integrating pneumococcal disease into their strategy and giving it the same prominence as they do malaria and TB, in consultation with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and its initiative PneumoADIP, which promotes this strategy?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the simple answer is yes. We entirely take the point that pneumococcal disease should be considered alongside the three other killers. We are supporting the organisations that the noble Lord mentioned.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, it costs less than £1 to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. What particular steps are the Government taking to ensure that these vital drugs reach pregnant women? In 98 per cent of cases that treatment can mean that they do not pass on the virus to their children, yet only about 10 per cent of pregnant women get these antiviral drugs.

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, we share the view that transmission from mother to child is crucial and we are featuring that in all our country programmes. The whole programme is built around prevention, treatment, care and support. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission is crucial and has our full support in country programmes.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister mentioned prevention. This country has been doing research into various barrier creams and preventives, which would be of great benefit to the whole world. What progress is being made? Are we continuing that research and are we anywhere near an answer?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the area into which we are putting particular efforts is microbicides, which we think will have a key effect. We are involved with and support trials. Microbicides are particularly effective for women, because HIV/AIDS is becoming a feminine disease, particularly among heterosexual communities. We have funded this to the extent of £50 million and we will carry on funding it. Unfortunately, we fear that it may be as much as three years before we start to see some positive results from those trials.

Baroness Billingham: My Lords, may I ask the Minister a practical question, which follows on from the earlier question about delivery and about children in particular? Everyone is aware that dealing with this area is one of Save the Children’s most fundamental tasks; its people in this field in deprived areas are perhaps those who are working in the most positive way. In what ways are the Government working alongside such agencies, which already have much expertise, rather than having to create our own?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, we universally try not to reinvent programmes that are serving these countries well. Our money will mostly go into programmes that

8 Dec 2008 : Column 150

are already there. In general, we do not invent programmes centrally; we support country commitment, civil society and Governments in those countries that are being effective.

Government Departments: London Living Wage


2.52 pm

Asked By Lord Harries of Pentregarth

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners):My Lords, decisions on public sector pay are for individual departments and agencies. Pay awards must reflect recruitment and retention, be affordable, represent value for money and be consistent with achievement of the 2 per cent inflation target. There is no set level for any individual work force. A number of recent pay awards—for example, at the NHS, DWP, DCSF and the coastguards—have specifically targeted pay towards those on the lowest incomes. Additionally, London weighting is paid to many public sector workers in London.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he is aware that the previous Mayor of London and the present one, Boris Johnson, strongly support the London living wage, as do a growing number of companies in London? Is it not the role of government to support good practice wherever it may be found, in particular, the good practice shown in this instance by the Department for Children, Schools and Families?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord for his observation. The Government at all times seek to be a responsible employer and set high standards in respect of their arrangements with their employees for childcare, flexible working and so on. We also have an overriding obligation to deliver value for money. Accordingly, we set remuneration levels to meet our requirements in that respect. I appreciate the work done by London Citizens, which I met in my previous capacity as chairman of the Low Pay Commission; but the London living wage is not equivalent to the national minimum wage that is produced by the independent Low Pay Commission, which publishes reports and evidence supporting its recommendations. The London living wage is the recommendation of a group which is not transparent in its processes and, of course, does not take into account other forms of benefit and support available to those on low incomes.

8 Dec 2008 : Column 151

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, is not the Minister aware that the research has been based on close studies commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree trust with the Centre for Research in Social Policy at the University of Loughborough and the Family Budget Unit at the University of York? Will he not look at this again very closely, particularly in view of the Cabinet Office’s self-proclaimed responsibility for ensuring equality of treatment of all civil servants?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I assure noble Lords that the Government are very aware of those obligations. By way of further explanation, I do not believe that the agreement that the Department for Children, Schools and Families has reached will mean that its total employment costs will be significantly different from those of any other government department.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, from the Minister’s response to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, it was not clear to me whether he thought that the Department for Children, Schools and Families had been right to pay the recommended rates of the London living wage. Does he agree that it was right to pay those levels and, if it was, would it be right for equivalent salary levels to be paid to those doing equivalent work elsewhere across the public sector?

Lord Myners: My Lords, it is absolutely right that the department has the flexibility to make that determination, and I believe that my Answer to the Question shows that there is no misalignment between compensation for employees of the Department for Children, Schools and Families and other major government departments.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page