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25 Feb 2009 : Column 202

Lord Myners: My Lords, I have said in the past that a small number of banks globally have acted in a reckless, witless and feckless manner. Whether there has been a breach of criminal or company legislation will be a matter for prosecuting authorities and for subsequent directors of those organisations. I am sure that, given the extent to which there have been significant changes in boards of directors, they will be looking at past matters to determine whether any action is required.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, to return to Sir David Walker’s inquiry into corporate governance, will the Minister suggest to Sir David that one thing that he might look at is the current rule that ensures that anybody who has sufficient years of experience to have seen an economic cycle round is far too old to be a member of a board?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I think that there is a particular rule that defines independence as ceasing to exist after the ninth year of service on a board. I have always thought that that was poppycock. With experience comes knowledge and a capacity to challenge in a constructive and informed way. I am sure that David Walker will look at that, along with many other factors. What we have clearly seen in the boards of some of our major banks is inadequate challenge and inadequate persistency, as has come out of some of the evidence that was given to the Treasury Select Committee.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, does the Minister still read the Guardian as carefully as he used to when he was chairman? In particular, did he see in its excellent series on tax avoidance the report about Barclays Bank, whose head of tax avoidance, Roger Jenkins, received a bonus of £40 million last year for highly aggressive and I would say abusive tax avoidance? What is the Treasury going to do about it? Does the Treasury regard tax avoidance of that type as unethical behaviour?

Lord Myners: My Lords, the dividing line between tax avoidance and tax evasion is always a difficult one. The excellent articles in the Guardian, which were up to the highest standards of journalism that I have come to associate with that paper over many years, have stimulated greater debate and knowledge.

Energy: Self-sufficiency


3.24 pm

Asked By Lord Ezra

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I am sure that the House will wish to join me in congratulating the noble Lord on his very recent 90th birthday.

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We expect the UK to continue to be import-dependent as indigenous gas supplies decline. However, the Government are putting in place policies that will help to ease the UK away from fossil fuels as part of initiatives to reduce both CO2 emissions and our dependence on imports.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks about my reaching this awesome age. I join a select band in your Lordships’ House, which may grow in the future, of course.

President Obama said, in introducing the new US energy policy:

“It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence”.

Does the noble Lord agree that that choice applies with equal force to the UK? In the past, we have been served by plentiful supplies of coal and of oil and gas from the North Sea. In the future, will not our energy independence rely on our developing new technologies with even greater effort than is the case at present in order to reduce our dependence on uncertain imports of energy from distant sources? I declare an interest as patron of the Micropower Council.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we certainly have to ensure that we have security of supply. That is best done by having a diversity of energy supply, to which the Government are committed, and by ensuring that we increase our gas storage facilities, that we encourage Europe to adopt greater market liberalisation and that we encourage renewables, as we are certainly committed to doing. I doubt whether we will ever achieve self-sufficiency; I do not think that that is necessary. However, I certainly agree with the general tenor of the noble Lord’s remarks.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the breakthrough in recycling disposable nappies? I understand that the pilot scheme will be in Birmingham, a place that I think he knows quite well. Does he not think that this is one of the really big new sources of renewable energy?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baroness’s knowledge never ceases to amaze me. I fear that I was unaware of this wonderful initiative in the great city of Birmingham, but I shall do everything that I can to find out about it. We did not have disposables; we had them collected and returned to us—rather cleaner than when they left, I may say.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, is not the energy security of the United Kingdom very much bound up with the energy security of Europe as a whole? Given the quite pathetic response of the European Union to the Ukranian/Russian issue over the Christmas and new year period, should not the Government be pushing Europe even more strongly to solve this issue when it comes round for a third time, as it inevitably will, by ensuring that the Nabucco pipeline does not just remain a theory but becomes a practice so that we can no longer be blackmailed by Putin’s Government?

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not sure that I would go so far as to say that the EU has had a pathetic response, but I think—and the Government have said clearly—that what happened in relation to Ukraine and Russia was a very serious wake-up call for the European Union. This Government have pressed the European Union to look at these matters very seriously and we will continue to do so.

Lord Broers: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister realises that to gain independence we need to build some nuclear power plants. Does he think that we could possibly shorten the 10 years that the Government predict it will take us to build our first power station?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that, with its takeover of British Energy, EDF proposes to build four nuclear power stations with the first one coming on line in 2017-18. Of course, that is very encouraging. There are also proposals from E.ON, in conjunction with other companies, to build new nuclear. Looking behind the noble Lord’s question, although one can expect 18 to 19 gigawatts of electricity generation to close over the next decade, we know that 10 gigawatts of new electricity generation are already under construction, with 10.5 gigawatts having received planning consent and grid-connecting agreements. Of course, we are not complacent; we are ever mindful of the point that the noble Lord raises.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, has the noble Lord seen reports about the conversion of a number of leading environmentalists, who have hitherto been passionately anti-nuclear, and does he applaud their conversion to pro-nuclear, as I certainly do? Would he care to have a guess at when the Liberal Democrats might join that crowd?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I prefer not to speculate, although it would be fair to say that, in our debate last night on the economics of renewable energy, the Liberal Democrat Benches were somewhat lukewarm towards new nuclear. The noble Lord is absolutely right; this is an absolute endorsement of this Government’s nuclear policy and our recent White Paper.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, do the Government intend to encourage increasing use of coal and, if so, would that make either economic or environmental sense?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am not sure, my Lords, whether it is the Government’s role to promote a particular technology or raw material. This country certainly has a considerable supply of its own coal, and the Government have indeed taken a leading role internationally in encouraging the development of carbon clean storage, which would enable coal to be used in a way that would not damage the environment. We will continue to do that, and we are working hard to encourage our European colleagues to develop more CCS pilots.

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Postal Services Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.31 pm

A Bill to make provision for the restructuring of the Royal Mail group and about the Royal Mail pension plan; to make new provision about the regulation of postal services; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Mandelson, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
Supplementary Amendments
3rd Report from DP Committee

Committee (1st Day)

3.32 pm

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Hanham

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Establishment of UK Border Police Force

(1) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the UK Border Police Force.

(2) The UK Border Police Force shall have the functions of—

(a) detecting and removing illegal overstayers;

(b) protecting UK borders;

(c) investigating employers of illegal immigrants;

(d) preventing and detecting human trafficking; and

(e) such other functions as the Secretary of State may by order determine.

(3) Before making an order under subsection (2)(e) the Secretary of State shall—

(a) publish proposals;

(b) consult members of the public and stakeholders; and

(c) lay a draft before each House of Parliament.

(4) Bodies to be consulted under subsection (3)(b) shall include—

(a) the Metropolitan Police Commissioner;

(b) representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers;

(c) the Director General of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate;

(d) representatives of the Serious Organised Crime Agency;

(e) representatives of the Association of Police Authorities; and

(f) such other people as the Secretary of State shall determine.”

Baroness Hanham: This first part of the Bill is one of its most important aspects and my amendments make it clear that we intend to probe the Government’s proposals carefully. I am bound to say that this is one of the most opaque bits of legislation that I have read for some time. Before we come to the purposes of Part 1 and of the Government’s legislation, our Amendment 1 proposes to amplify further what procedures we believe there should be for protecting our borders.

At Second Reading, I told the House that I intended to,

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This is not a new line for my party to take. For several years now, we have proposed and recommended that the force at the border should be unified, and I make no apology for returning to that attack. Part 1 of the Bill proposes—I am sure that the Minister will say more about this—to bring together immigration and Customs and Revenue. The gaping hole left is that the police, and thereby the security forces, are not involved in this force or in protecting our borders. It seems to us inconceivable that that should happen and that the Government should go to all the trouble of producing this rather miserable little Bill to try to do something that does not complete the whole circle.

In 2007, my noble friend Lady Anelay introduced a similar clause. To save me having to think about it, I shall just quote what she said, which lays out quite clearly what we are trying to do. She said:

“My amendments will create a UK border police force which we believe could more effectively police and safeguard our borders than has been the case in recent years. There are currently six agencies dealing with our borders; it is clear that the system is unsatisfactory. We seek to bring those disparate groups of people together so that they can be managed more coherently and the powers can be shared”.—[Official Report, 2/7/07; col. GC 32.]

It is not only members of my party who believe that the police are a major absence from such a force; that position is supported by others. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, conducted an inquiry for my party some time ago—its findings have been published—in which he supported the involvement of the police.

What is the Government’s objection? Why are we going to spend this afternoon going through 36 convoluted clauses to come out at the end with a force that combines Customs, immigration and Revenue but leaves those officers having to contact or bring in the police at any stage of their inquiries, rather than having the police as an integral part of what they do? The Government have made great play of the fact that our borders need to be secure; we support that. It is essential that we have borders that are not porous to crime, drug trafficking and trafficking of people or illegal immigrants and that there are proper regimes to deal with that. Given that those measures are not there as a whole, we will waste three days or so putting together something that is inadequate.

It is essential that we discuss this clearly and cogently today and find out from the Government why they are not prepared to commit themselves to a dedicated border police. It is beyond peradventure that this will have to be revisited and that yet another piece of borders and immigration legislation will be required, which would be the ninth or 10th that we have had since 1997. A border police force would be able to combine the powers of the police, Customs and immigration in a single dedicated force.

We have also included with our amendments stand part debates on the other clauses in Part 1. That is to give Members of the Committee the opportunity today also to discuss the proposals for what the Government are pleased to call their integrated force. I beg to move.

25 Feb 2009 : Column 207

Amendment 2 (to Amendment 1)

Moved by Lord Avebury

2: Leave out lines 4 to 10 and insert—

“(2) The UK Border Police Force shall have the functions of—

(a) protecting UK borders;

(b) strengthening frontier protection against threats to the security, social and economic integrity and environment of the United Kingdom;

(c) preventing and detecting human trafficking;

(d) maintaining and improving a safe, ordered and secure environment in ports; and

(e) such other functions as the Secretary of State may by order determine.”

Lord Avebury: We share the ultimate objective proposed by the noble Baroness of a unified border force, but our attitude to the Bill is somewhat different. We look at the crossing between UKBA and HMRC as an important step towards the ultimate goal that we share with the noble Baroness, so we welcome the intention behind Part 1 of allowing immigration officers and officials of the Secretary of State to exercise revenue and customs functions. As she implied, the lines of this debate are bound to follow those of the one that we had on similar amendments to the UK Borders Bill in 2007 at both Committee and Report stages. I do not intend to repeat the arguments that were used on both those occasions; I just want to highlight the differences between our ideas and those of the Tories, which have not changed substantially since that occasion.

The Liberal Democrats’ policy is that an integrated borders force would cover the border functions of the police as well as the functions of the UKBA and HMRC, whereas the functions of what the Conservatives describe as a UK border police force would extend to a range of other matters, including the detection and removal of illegal overstayers and the investigation of employers of illegal immigrants. The suggestion that the border force be given these functions, which are essentially part of the normal duties of the police—although they may require close liaison with UKBA and possibly others on the same lines as a result of the order-making power proposed in the Conservative amendments—indicates some confusion in Tory thinking about where the boundaries of the United Kingdom are located.

We maintain that the arguments in the Home Affairs Select Committee report HC 163, which was published in January 2001, for including the police in a force whose activities are confined to the borders are still valid. The report highlighted the ways in which the division of responsibilities at the ports foster inefficiencies, because the UKBA, HMRC and the police operate in slightly different ways, depending on the skills of their staff, their objectives and priorities, their equipment, their facilities and their legal basis. The report says, for example, that although larger ports such as Dover have Customs, immigration and police on duty, at the smaller ports there may only be a single police officer whose powers as an examining officer are confined to those in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Those powers may be extended to an immigration or customs

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officer. The police do not have reciprocal powers, however, under the relevant immigration and customs legislation.

Nevertheless, we are realistic about the prospects for dealing with this in the current Bill for two reasons. First, there would need to be full consultation with the Scottish Parliament, which has authority over policing in Scotland and thus at the UK’s borders in Scotland. Secondly, although the noble Baroness has cited the report of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, we have not consulted ACPO or the Association of Police Authorities, which would need to be given details of how the police at the borders would fully exchange roles with the UKBA and HMRC so that they could make useful suggestions in that regard. In 2007, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, told your Lordships that ACPO was uncertain about the benefits of the single agency. However, we know that it has given the matter further thought since then. Could the Minister bring us up to date on ACPO’s thinking and on any discussions that the Government have had with ACPO on Part 1 in particular? Can he at least tell us how the police at the borders can work more closely with HMRC and UKBA under existing legislation and whether the Government have any further thoughts on how to overcome the problems that were identified by the Home Affairs Select Committee before we get to the ultimate ideal of a unified border force?

3.45 pm

Lord Dear: In supporting the amendment, I refer to my service in the police for over 30 years until about 12 or 13 years ago. I have seen enough of multidisciplinary groups trying to work together to recognise that they frequently meet with some success. However, based on the experience that I have alluded to, I have no doubt that in any grouping you are much better off if you have a number of things in place. That is pertinent to what we are about to discuss. You need one clear chain of command; you need one clear line of responsibility, both up and down within the organisation; you need one very clear line of accountability to one identifiable person, which in this instance is presumably the Home Secretary; and it is clear that you need one set of powers that can be discharged throughout the organisation—in this discussion we are considering powers that would include, among other things, those of search, arrest and detention.

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