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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, if I heard my noble friend correctly, his supplementary answer seemed to confirm that some of the leaks touched on national security, which is a point that has been in doubt. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay,

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quoted Mr Davis. The quote seemed to imply that Mr Davis was aware of a history of leaking which compromised national security. Will my noble friend comment on that?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the self-denying ordinance of commenting on issues which people make statements about on this inquiry without total knowledge is one I am going to try to stay with. However, there is no doubt that Mr Davis is an informed source because he declared himself to be the person who was in receipt of this information in his capacity before he was replaced some months ago. In essence, all the comments will add nothing to the inquiry until we get the results. The inquiry is being conducted in accordance with the law by the Metropolitan Police Service. We have no role to play in that aspect until we have received that report and the Crown Prosecution Service has decided where it should go.

Parliament: Police Access


11.35 am

Asked By The Earl of Northesk

Lord Brett: My Lords, if an officer is lawfully on any premises, including Parliament, with a consent or under a warrant or for the purpose of making an arrest, he can require information stored in any electronic form and accessible from the premises that can be used in evidence. It is to be provided in a form that the officer can take away or from which it can readily be produced.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is it not the case that the suspension and/or closure of an e-mail account constitutes an interception of communications under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act? On the particular case of Mr Green, can the noble Lord explain how his account was suspended other than by means of access through the main parliamentary server?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I should like to repeat the health warning that preceded my supplementary answers to the previous Question. There is a limit to what the Government can say. More particularly, many of the supplementary questions to the last Question were for the Metropolitan Police and, in this case, are for the House authorities. It is of course open to noble Lords to table Questions for the House authorities through the Lord Chairman. This Question is one of those best put to the House authorities and not to the Government.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords—

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Lord Hoyle: My Lords, does my noble friend not agree with me that no one is above the law? I remind him of another case, that of Ruth Turner, the director of government relations at No. 10 during the inquiry into cash for honours. She was visited early in the morning by six detectives. At the time I did not hear any Member of the Opposition say anything at all about it; indeed, the silence was deafening. I am sure that the whole House would agree—

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Hoyle: I asked a question at the beginning of my remarks: whether my noble friend agreed with me. I am sure that the whole House will agree with my noble friend that it would be far better to let these investigations run their course. At that stage, we can draw our conclusions.

Lord Brett: My Lords, I will restrict my response simply to saying that I am sure that all Members of this House agree that no Member of Parliament is above the law.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the statement made in answer to my question during a debate on 27 February 2008 that all permissions applied for by the police for warrants to intercept must be made to the Secretary of State? They are scrutinised by officials in the warrant units of their respective departments, but the Secretary of State personally weighs the issues. Did the Secretary of State personally weigh the issues in this case?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I am in danger of repeating my answers. This is an inquiry which the Secretary of State did not instigate, does not control and does not seek to interfere with. It is an investigation being undertaken by the Metropolitan Police, who rightfully will gather evidence and report.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, perhaps I may press the point a little further. It is quite clear that under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act a warrant for any interception, which must include any in this place, has to be sought from the Secretary of State. The question which has been asked was whether the Secretary of State was asked for that warrant. The answer to that question does not jeopardise national security or breach any protocols in this House.

Lord Brett: My Lords, the noble Baroness may well be correct, but my response is to ask: to whom should the question be posed? It is not the Home Office; it should be put to the House authorities because we are talking about what happens in this House.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords—

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the Minister is answering for the Home Secretary.

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The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, it is the turn of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, my question is closely related to that put by my noble friend. I received a surprising note from the House computer service asking why I have not synched my PDA recently, which showed me that there is a great deal of surveillance. I do not say that that is unhealthy, indeed I am grateful to the service for taking out spam e-mails and so on, but it leads to my question. If the police came here and asked questions about any particular Member, would all the surveillance available in our computer system automatically be made available to officers?

Lord Brett: My Lords, to answer the noble Baroness’s question directly, “interception” is defined by Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. It includes only a communication in the course of its transmission by means of a public postal service, a public telecommunications service or by virtue of a private telecommunications service.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I return to the question that my noble friend on the Front Bench asked and on which the Minister said that the correct addressee was the House authorities. The question related to the conduct of a Cabinet Minister in granting a warrant, which has nothing to do with the House authorities and everything to do with the Government.

Lord Brett: My Lords, no warrant was issued; no warrant was required. The investigation in the other place was by consent. PACE regulations applied and were abided by by the Metropolitan Police.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, this is extremely important.

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there is nothing in the rules that disallows a Peer from asking a second question.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act requires that the Secretary of State—that is, the Home Secretary—should be involved in the issuing of a warrant wherever interception of communication is required for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime. Perhaps the Minister could get us an answer.

Lord Brett: My Lords, the Home Secretary indicated in a Statement in the other place on 4 December that the Metropolitan Police were advised that a warrant to enter was not sought and that there were no grounds to consider that consent would not be given. The question, therefore, is what applies when the police are on the premises, and they performed their duties according to PACE.

Baroness Hanham: No, my Lords.

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Lord Brett: My Lords, I am sorry, we will have to disagree. If I am wrong, I shall write to the noble Baroness. I shall do that in any event because this matter requires clarification and is clearly an issue in which other Members are interested.

Cohabitation Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.43 am

A Bill to provide certain protections for persons who live together as a couple or have lived together as a couple; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Joint Committee on Consolidation etc. Bills

Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

Hybrid Instruments Committee

Information Committee

Science and Technology Committee

Membership Motions

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

Motion agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.

Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

11 Dec 2008 : Column 493

Motions agreed.

Queen’s Speech

Debate (6th Day)

11.43 am

Moved on Wednesday 3 December by Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My Lords, we are here to debate the health, welfare and children Bills announced in the gracious Speech. I hope to inform that discussion by outlining the key proposals in those Bills.

I will begin with the subject that is the closest to my heart. This year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the NHS. Just over 10 years ago the NHS was in disarray and chronically underfunded. In 1997, people questioned whether it could survive at all. Now, in 2008, the NHS has not only survived but also flourished. That is testimony to the hard work and dedication of many of my NHS colleagues. Their efforts have been supported by three phases of reform. The first began with the NHS plan in 2000. This marked the biggest investment in the history of the NHS, with more doctors, more nurses and better facilities for staff and patients. Such capacity building was a necessary means to an end, giving the NHS the resources it needed to provide better care.

Alongside that great investment we set some tough targets for tackling immediate problems, such as unacceptably long waiting times. We also needed to set minimum standards for key services, such as cancer and coronary heart disease. National targets, such as that of a maximum 18-week wait from referral to treatment, were not popular but have done their job by providing clarity to the NHS on key priorities.

The second phase was to reform the processes and systems, moving away from central direction by creating incentives to improve and introducing greater transparency and accountability. We needed to give patients real choices about their care through greater diversity of provision, strengthened healthcare commissioning and

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new incentives for better performance. So we introduced patient choice, payment by results and foundation trusts. Those reforms have coincided with the greatly improved management of NHS resources and further dramatic falls in waiting times.

I had the privilege to lead the third phase of reform, a new and fundamental focus on quality. It is what motivates me and my clinical colleagues. Now that we in the NHS have the resources and processes in place, we can be free to focus on the quality of care we provide.

In High Quality Care for All, the review that I published this summer, I explained that quality needed to become the organising principle of the NHS. If that happens, the NHS will have the necessary foundation for another 60 years. Quality cannot be centrally determined. It cannot be achieved by diktats from Whitehall. It can, and will, occur if front-line staff are instead freed to innovate and make changes that work for people locally. That is why High Quality Care for All is a national enabling document, supporting the local NHS to embed quality.

For patients, the document means that they will be supported in taking responsibility for staying healthy, they will have fair access to the best treatments, they will be kept as safe as possible in clean environments and they will have the right information to exercise real and informed choice. Much of High Quality Care for All can be achieved without legislation, but some of its proposals must be enshrined in law through a health Bill. Previous Bills have marked the stages of reform. Just as the Bill in 2003 that introduced foundation trusts identified the second stage, so the forthcoming health Bill will enable the “quality” phase. It will do so by improving the availability of information about quality for patients, clinicians and managers with the new quality accounts. In keeping with the spirit of my review, the way these are constituted will not be imposed by the Department of Health but will be determined by jointly designing them with those who provide the services.

The Bill will place a duty on all providers of NHS services to produce quality accounts, starting from April 2010. The accounts will contain new quality metrics, providing information on safety, patient experience and outcomes in relation to clinical services. Through the accounts, that information will be available to all, helping people decide where to be treated, giving clinicians feedback on the care they offer and supporting managers in identifying local priorities. This represents a new modus operandi for the NHS and the Government. Its aspirations far exceed what has gone before. We are saying to the NHS, “You have discretion but you are also fully accountable”, with quality accounts a key measure of local responsibility.

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