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Lord Myners: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, identifies a number of contributory factors to the problems that the global economy currently faces. We can take some encouragement from the fact that our debt as a percentage of GDP is the second lowest

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in the G7 countries, which means that we are in a strong position to be able to support the fiscal stimulus that we are now applying to support British business, British pensioners and British families in coping with a global problem.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, we are sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is not in his place today. Does the Minister agree with his noble friend that the warnings of the IMF that the UK economy was the least well prepared are now ringing true and that the Prime Minister’s reputation for sound economics was destroyed even before the recession?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I note that my noble friend Lord Desai is publishing a novel. No doubt he was reaching out for any opportunity for publicity and he could not possibly let slip the chance to write an article for the Evening Standard. I read that article with interest. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, clearly has considerable art and skill in the act of fiction.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, does the Minister accept that one of the less masterful elements of managing the economy has been the astronomical growth in personal borrowing? Have the Government learnt any lessons from this, and is there anything that they would have done differently, with the advantage of hindsight?

Lord Myners: My Lords, the report by the noble Lord, Lord Turner, referred to the increase in leverage in this economy and elsewhere. That has been picked up by the G20 meeting and by the work of the Financial Stability Forum, which referred to macroprudential requirements to reduce the growth in debt and leverage in economies going forward. That action is now receiving a great deal of attention, and perhaps it should have received more attention in the past than it did.

Lord Lang of Monkton: My Lords, as the last Chancellor of the Exchequer got his borrowing forecasts wrong by ever widening margins in almost every year that he held that office, and as his successor got his wrong by even wider margins in the Pre-Budget Report and his first Budget, why should we believe a word that either of them say tomorrow about future forecasts?

Lord Myners: My Lords, on the extent to which the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer got his borrowing forecasts wrong, it was because the economy was so buoyant that he was able to borrow more. His borrowings as a percentage of GDP were very close to forecast, and I am sure that the skills of the Treasury will continue to be available to his successor, my right honourable friend the Chancellor. We will see his forecasts tomorrow, and receive them with the support and encouragement needed to provide the confidence that is essential to take us out of this global recession toward a prosperous future.

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Police: Protests


3 pm

Asked By Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, we welcome the commissioner’s decision to invite Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to review the police tactics involved in policing G20. That is consistent with the police service’s commitment to reviewing and examining tactics and operations continually. We shall ensure that the conclusions of the HMIC review are disseminated nationwide to ensure that the lessons are picked up by all police forces.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s reply, particularly the undertaking that the inquiry will look at whether the tactics were appropriate. Clearly, some were not and some were disgraceful. Does the Minister agree that there is a great need to endorse the public’s right to peaceful protest, and that some of the culture that has grown up in police forces—filming people at protests as if they were suspects and, in the case of the Nottinghamshire police, raiding a planning meeting for a protest before anything had happened—are examples of protest having become, among some elements of the police, somewhat equated to criminal activity?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I absolutely agree that we have a right to protest; it is one of this country’s great freedoms. Before I say anything more, we should not lose sight of the fact that, the week before the G20, the “Put People First” demonstration had 30,000 people marching through London, and that went off peacefully. We should also not lose sight of this: during the course of the G20, thousands of officers acted absolutely professionally and proportionately, and thousands of people were able to demonstrate peacefully on our streets, while criminal activity in the rest of the metropolis was kept to an absolute minimum. The police maintained high levels of security; we should be extremely proud of them. That is not to excuse criminal acts, and investigations are now taking place on those particulars. However, in general we are very well served by our police. I am proud of them, and my general approach is that they are on our side. They are our people, and that is the way to do it.

Lord Dear: My Lords, is the Minister aware that most of the world’s developed countries, when dealing with serious public disorder, do not rely solely on uniformed police in close or face-to-face contact with the demonstrators? In those countries, as we know, unrest or disorder, as it escalates, is met with other

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responses—CS gas, baton rounds or water cannon, and so on. In the light of that, can the Minister reassure your Lordships’ House that all of those options will be explored in the forthcoming review? For the record, I do not personally applaud those methods, but the Minister may agree that a through review of the pros and cons of those options will equip us better to comment on our present approach, with all its advantages and disadvantages.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, Sir Paul Stephenson has asked Denis O’Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary at HMIC, to look at a number of issues, including the effectiveness and impact of current public order tactics. He will look particularly at containment and kettling, an area where there has been some debate; at liaison with the media, where the issue of dealing with journalists has not always gone quite right; and at communication with the public and protestors, where there is clearly a need for more dialogue. He will cover all of those issues.

I do not like the thought of water cannon, baton rounds or shooting people, all of which seem to occur in some other countries; I am jolly glad that I live in this one. However, all of those things will, quite rightly, be looked at. On the timing of the report, we hope that will be in early or mid-July.

Lord Naseby: My Lords—

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, let us hear from the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, first and then from my noble friend Lord Howarth.

Lord Naseby: My Lords, given what happened outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday, what possible incentive is there for the police to control a situation where a proscribed organisation of terrorists is allowed to stage a sit-in that continues for seven hours? Is that what we call honest, genuine demonstration in this country?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the Metropolitan Police Service will of course be looking at any action that breaks the law, so if there is an issue about proscription, that will be covered. Again, the police handled that demonstration extremely well. That shows that the rules about demonstrating around Parliament need to be changed; we intend to do just that.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, following on from the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, does my noble friend accept that there is no principle in our liberal democracy that says that people, in exercising the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech, should be allowed to block access to Parliament? However much sympathy some of us may have for the plight of the Tamils, should not the police

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yesterday have ensured that access to Parliament was unimpeded, not just for parliamentarians and staff but, just as important, for other citizens?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the detail of the operation is for the Metropolitan Police. I am sure that the Metropolitan Police will take action against those who have broken the law.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords—

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we have not yet heard from the Liberal Democrats.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, under what circumstances are police officers allowed or even advised to cover their personal number identification?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises a very important point, on which we touched yesterday. It is absolutely wrong that that should happen. I know that Sir Paul Stephenson will be intent on getting to the root of that, finding out exactly what happened. The police are not above the law. They are servants of the people. We police by consent. What happened is wrong and will be tracked down and resolved.

Communications Committee

Membership Motion

3.07 pm

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

Motion agreed.

Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [HL]


3.08 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to the Bill, and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. With the agreement of the Committee, I will now put the Question that I report the Bill to the House without amendment.

Bill reported without amendment.

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Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Copy of Bill
Explanatory Notes
1st Report Delegated Powers Committee
1st Report Constitution Committee
11th Report Joint Committee Human Rights

Committee (11th Day)

3.09 pm

Clause 287 : General provision about the coastal access duty

Amendment A282ZA

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

A282ZA: Clause 287, page 175, line 3, at end insert—

“( ) They must have regard to the desirability of commissioning any relevant local authorities to exercise any functions under this Part including, in particular—

(a) the delineation of the coastal route;

(b) the delineation of any alternative route;

(c) the demarcation of the coastal margin; and

(d) the provision of suitable facilities.”

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am reluctant to delay proceedings as I know it is the wish of the usual channels that we conclude the Bill’s Committee stage today. The Minister, I and others who are active in the Bill’s passage will therefore wish to see business speedily transacted.

In many ways, Amendment A282ZA relates to the most important element of this part of the Bill—namely, how we bring it all together and actually create the coastal path. I am aware of the dialogue that we have already established. It has been very useful to have the briefings on this aspect of the Bill. The Government have sought to address the locality issue directly in their briefing note headed, “Role of local authorities and extent of their consultation”. I understand it to accept much of my argument. Indeed, I think the Government have it in mind that local authorities should play a key part. The Minister said as much when we were last in Committee, in response to an amendment from my noble friend Lady Byford.

My amendment seeks to enshrine that role by placing this involvement on the face of the Bill. Noble Lords following the debates on this Bill will know how important I consider the role of local authorities in ensuring the delivery of a coastal path that provides the general public with access to the coast for them to enjoy and use safely. At the same time, the line of the route must be such as to minimise the pressure on those in occupation and ownership of the route. Local knowledge must be the key, and ensuring where possible that there is agreement at local level will encourage both the speedy setting up of the designated path and buy-in from all those involved.

For many reasons, I believe the experience of local authorities will be vital to this process. Most important of all is the local knowledge and experience that those currently responsible for the footpath network can bring to the task. It is certain that they would have an easier dialogue with landowners and local interest groups than a Whitehall-based government agency. I think that Natural England itself recognises this; it is about delivering what the Bill seeks as efficiently and painlessly as possible. Using local authorities in the

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way this amendment suggests will expedite the creation of the path and, as I hope to show, invest it with a greater utility and bring the community centre-stage on the project.

The Committee needs to remember that this Bill deals with the awkward remainder. While much of the coast already has coastal paths—many created by custom—other stretches have been created by Highways Act powers under which compensation has been given to occupiers and landowners. However, this is a different matter. The good will of landowners, farmers and other occupiers of the land is vital to bring the remainder into existence. I believe that local authorities will have better access to that good will.

We should not forget that this Bill builds paths in what are often the most difficult cases. It is not for nothing that this is so, as by definition, what we are catering for are those places where access up to now has not been possible. We have to reconcile all those complex aspects of the Bill which our debates up to now have brought to the Committee’s notice.

I am certain that access to the coastal path itself from existing inland roads and pathways is a key to its success in achieving its purpose as a recreational resource for the public to enjoy. It can be of no use to have a path stuck out of reach from the locality. That is why locally organised bus services and car parks are an equal part of the strategy. The most enjoyable walks are circuits, and few will walk long distances of more than 10 miles along the length of the route. Therefore, access to the coastal path itself is important, and integration is vital. Indeed, in our previous debate on this subject, the Minister mentioned how important this was for the success of the south-west coastal path. Given that the Minister has said that his belief is that such connections are not part of the coastal path and would have to be provided by local authorities at their expense, what encouragement will they be given to provide connections? Is this not, of its own, yet another reason why local authorities should be in the key role of drawing up the line of the path?

I am not sure where in the Bill this matter is best addressed but I am sure that the best agent for delivering a coastal path that is readily accessible for casual walkers is the local authority. By all means let Natural England badge the route. It can ensure consistency—or, to use an analogy, exercise editorial control—but it is not the best author of the detail. It will be Natural England that presents the final report but meanwhile it should be prepared to commission and fund local authorities to designate the line. County councils or the appropriate right-of-way authority will link in with local services for which they are responsible, such as bus routes. Likewise, they can liaise with district councils over the provision of car parks and the development of facilities.

This is to increase the recreational asset value of the coastal path for the benefit of all users. There are likely to be situations which, without proper precautions, may put users of the path in danger. Local knowledge will minimise this. Paths will be subject to seasonal pressures, which may be linked to wildlife, and in some cases tidal pressures, and alternative routes will need to be considered and managed. Furthermore, if use is

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to be broadened to include other classes of users, such as horse riders, this will need to be determined through the situation on the ground, being permitted only if local conditions allow.

Whatever, the utility and durability of the path will be highly dependent on it being placed in the optimum balance, taking account of proximity to the coast, accessibility and ease of use for the public in general. Local knowledge is the way to facilitate that, and it can be best brought to bear by local authorities. We know from the Countryside and Rights of Way Act that much time was expended on appeals, and noble Lords will not want a repeat of that. Agreement between a local authority and landowners and occupiers will be much easier to obtain and will avoid unnecessary dispute. This is surely what local buy-in means to this great project. It need not be seen as a threat; if constructed in a sensitive manner, it can be a facility from which local communities can only gain. That is why, if we want this path to be a success, we should write the role of local authorities into the Bill. I beg to move.

3.15 pm

Lord Greaves: We have the second amendment in this group, Amendment A324. The underlying ethos behind it is, I think, the same as that of the Conservative amendment, although the wording is slightly different. Our amendment would insert the words:

“Before preparing a report, Natural England may enter into an arrangement with one or more relevant access authorities in which the authority or authorities, or persons employed by them, carry out some or all of the preparatory work on its behalf”.

Whatever the wording and wherever it should be placed in the Bill, it is our view that, for many of the reasons set out by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and others, it is important that the role of local access authorities in preparing these reports and maintaining the route is acknowledged in the Bill.

The noble Lord mentioned that the Government have already said that local authorities will be closely involved, and that is true. Indeed, Natural England has set out the same thing in a very helpful document. Taking the scheme as a whole, I think that the draft coastal access scheme, published by Natural England in January, instils a lot of confidence in the words in the Bill. These people have looked at the Bill and thought that it is a bit thin—that it is an outline Bill rather than a framework Bill which includes all the detail it should. Reading what Natural England proposes puts a great deal of confidence behind what is being proposed here. Nevertheless, our view is that some of what is in this scheme should be in the Bill.

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