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House of Lords

Wednesday, 29 April 2009.

3 pm

Prayers—read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.

Data Collection: Travel Plans

Question

3 pm

Asked By Lord Geddes

Lord Brett: My Lords, the e-Borders system is designed to ensure that immigration to the UK can be managed and to target terrorist suspects, known criminals and illegal immigrants. To do this we need to monitor all cross-border travel by collecting and analysing passenger and crew data against watch lists. Carriers, not passengers, must provide information contained in machine-readable zones of passports from 24 hours before travel up to check-in and, for certain routes, provide further information held within their systems.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Did I hear him correctly to say that it was up to carriers, not passengers? What happens if I am going on a small boat across the Channel? I am my own carrier in that respect. Is the report correct that said that travellers would be expected to use the internet? In the instance I have just given, what happens if I have no facilities to get on to the internet?

Lord Brett: My Lords, all forms of international travel will have to be monitored in this way, including small boat travel, but only on international trips. It would be possible to provide that information in advance, either by electronic measures—the internet—or by communicating directly with the UKBA. In some circumstances, despite the fact that one has started on a journey, weather or other conditions may mean that the journey concludes in a different port from the one you set off for, in which case it is a requirement, at the earliest safe opportunity, for the person who has supplied the information to provide information of where they have arrived after travel has been disrupted by weather. The principle remains that all forms of travel require information to be provided, and there are several ways in which owners of small boats can provide it. It is only for international travel, not domestic.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I wish to ask my noble friend about short-notice travel. If I decide one morning that I wish to spend the rest of the day in Paris, which has been possible hitherto by Eurostar, will that still be possible, or will the travel authorities require longer notice to fill out a questionnaire about my plans and movements before I am allowed to leave the country? This is becoming very draconian.



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Lord Brett: My Lords, far be it from me to prevent anyone from having delightful weekends in Paris or anywhere else. I reassure my noble friend that it will be possible, as it has been in the past, to travel at short notice. The position is that information has to be, and can be, provided up to the moment at which the airline closes the gate or the ferry company closes access to the boat.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I am concerned about people who swim the Channel. If they set out for France from this country but a storm deflects them to the Isle of Wight, are they going to be penalised?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I think we would have to design special carriers for them to hold their passports in their mouths, but that is probably going too far. The reality is that anyone intending to swim the Channel, which will not include me in the near future, would be foolish indeed not to inform authorities, including the coastguard, in case they got into difficulties. I hope that the flexibility of our system will not preclude anyone swimming the Channel, and I promise not personally to attempt it at all.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, perhaps I should declare an interest in this discussion as the owner of a small boat. Given that even the former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has joined these Benches in saying that biometric passports are the answer to security and not ID cards, why is the Home Office now no longer able to give the unit cost of a passport, which has risen some 300 per cent since 1999? Is it because it is actually cross-subsidising the ID card scheme with passports?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I never cease to be amazed at the ability of noble Lords to take a Question from the Order Paper to a place where they want to ask a question about. I could point out that the Question is about the supply of information and nothing to do with the cost of passports, but as noble Lords know from the debates we have had in the past, we are introducing ID cards, and along with them, there will be the facility to pay some £30 for an ID card which will be used as a travel document in all the 20-plus countries in the EU. That, I think, will be taken up by many people.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, am I not right in thinking that the details to be supplied about a prospective journey include credit card details?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I am delighted to reassure the noble Lady that that is not the case except on particular routes, where the carrier will supply the information. The carrier will not be required to provide the information on normal, non-security risk routes. Normally, what would be required would be the name, the date of birth, the nationality, the gender, the travel document type, the state of issue number and the expiry date. On certain routes, other information, including information about destination and credit cards, can be required.



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Earl Ferrers: My what is the purpose of all this, and is it not the most appalling infringement of liberty?

Lord Brett: My Lords, there is a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is “no”.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, does the Minister consider the Crown dependencies to be foreign?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the Crown dependencies are not foreign; they have been consulted very closely on the introduction of the new regime, and, in respect of the Isle of Man and Guernsey, memoranda of understanding have already been agreed. Of course, the dependencies do operate similar systems of immigration control, and the Government have been in close contact with them. In the States of Jersey, there has been some concern about whether this in some way undermines the constitutional nature of the relationship of the States of Jersey to the United Kingdom. The Government’s view is that it does not in any way. The consultation continues.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the effectiveness of any e-Borders system for the United Kingdom will inevitably be compromised until we have a properly constituted and unified border police force? We on this side of the House have been consistently pressing for this, particularly since the publication of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, which concludes that only a unified force can protect our borders.

Lord Brett: My Lords, the danger is a rerun of a debate that, quite recently, has been extensively explored within the consideration of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. The Government’s view is that we will have a unified border agency; it will co-operate closely with the police forces with which it operates; and it is not at this time an efficient and effective way of integrating two major departments to try to integrate a third; namely, the police service. Of course, the Stevens report, which was an advisory document to the opposition parties, is no doubt something that has been studied by all concerned. But there is a division between police authorities and the Stevens concept.

Low-carbon Economy

Question

3.08 pm

Asked By The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, on 23 April we published Investing in a Low Carbon Britain which set out our low-carbon investment plans. The additional £1.4 billion of targeted support for low-carbon sectors announced in the Budget, together with the announcements made since last autumn, will enable an additional £10.4 billion of low-carbon and energy investment over the next three years.



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The Lord Bishop of Liverpool:My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and recognise the significance of the Budget proposals. He will be aware that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, and other experts have asked the Government to increase the low-carbon element to at least 20 per cent of the economic stimulus package. What assurance can he give us that the Government will seek to meet this target?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I believe that the announcement made in the Budget, on top of the additional money that is being put into the low-carbon sector, will make an appreciable difference. Certainly we believe that a low-carbon economy is one of the ways in which to drive economic growth in this country. It is very important to take advantage of this in terms of skills, jobs and investment. Of course, we continue to listen carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Stern has said, but the announcements made recently very much follow the pattern that he has suggested.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, it is understandable that my noble friend should give a pleasant reply to a Bishop, especially one from Liverpool. Will he confirm that the central task of the fiscal stimulus is to reduce the length and depth of the recession? Will he assure us that that remains the central objective?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Of course, my Lords, but the Budget contains within it proposals to stimulate low-carbon economic development in this country, which is one of the ways that will help us to get through the troubles that global economies are in at the moment. It is entirely consistent with the negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen at the end of the year to seek international agreement, which we must all hope will lead to the development of a global low-carbon economy.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, how do the Government reconcile their scrappage scheme with a low-carbon economy? When the details are published will they ensure that any new cars that are purchased are environmentally friendly? I declare an interest in that my own car is 10 years old this year.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, if the noble Lord takes advantage of the scrappage scheme when the details are made available, no doubt he will buy a very efficient car in its place. The scrappage scheme is designed to stimulate the economy, along with other initiatives. For instance, in January we announced a scheme to enable motorists to receive help worth in the region of £2,000 to £5,000 to buy electric and plug-in hybrid cars, which will be available between 2011 and 2014. The scrappage scheme cannot be seen in isolation.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, made a very good point. In so far as a fiscal stimulus can create jobs, which is somewhat arguable, this is about the most expensive way in which it could possibly be done. Is it not the case that the economics of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, have been comprehensively rubbished by all the most competent economists on both sides of the Atlantic? Is it not also the case that the Climate Change Act under the

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Government’s own figures will cost the British economy something like £400 billion, which we can ill afford at present?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord’s analysis on that or his analysis on climate change. The report of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, has been widely applauded. It has certainly been subject to rigorous scrutiny, but it has been extremely valuable in advising many countries about what is needed to invest in a low-carbon economy. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has essentially said that while there will be a cost today in moving to a low-carbon economy, the longer we delay the more expensive it will become. That is why we have announced the stimulus.

Lord Judd: My Lords, will my noble friend assure the House that in all the programmes and research undertaken by the Department for International Development, low-carbon economy development and, indeed, sustainability are central to the Government’s priorities?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords. My department works closely with the Department for International Development. We are clear that climate change and sustainability are important pillars of DfID’s work. If we are to reach a successful conclusion in Copenhagen, one of the most important facets will be the involvement of developing countries and the financial mechanisms required to help them move towards low-carbon economies.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I believe that for the past 10 years global warming has not taken place. There has been no increase in global average temperatures, so for how long does that non-increase have to go on before the concept of global warning is questioned?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the question of the science of global warming has been subject to extraordinary scrutiny over the past few years. You cannot simply take one or two indicators of climate; you have to look at the underlying trends. The fact is that the temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees centigrade since 1900. The scientific consensus is very strong indeed and we would be foolish not to take action now. If we delay action, the consequences for our children and their children will be catastrophic.

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has asked a serious and important Question. I know from Questions he has asked before that he takes this very seriously. Will the Minister at this stage adopt even more Conservative policies than the Government have adopted so far, which will contribute to the development of a low-carbon UK economy without spending any more public money? I suggest having a £6,500 energy efficiency entitlement for every home in Britain, funding at least three carbon capture and storage projects, bringing forward the introduction of feed-in tariffs and creating a national recharging network for the electric vehicles which my friend on the Liberal Democrat Benches so desperately needs.



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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Baroness has raised that question since it would appear the Conservative Party’s financial policies are about cutting, cutting and cutting. The Government have taken strong decisions to invest in a low-carbon economy. The announcement last week of up to four demonstration projects on carbon capture and storage is an indicator of the fact that we are taking these strong decisions. I am convinced that these decisions and the money that the Budget has released will considerably enhance our ability to move towards a low-carbon economy, which will bring great benefits to this country.

Social Care

Question

3.16 pm

Asked By Lord Ashley of Stoke

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, to protect the interests of people in social care we have introduced an independent system of regulation and inspection of social care providers in England. The Care Quality Commission inspects and regulates all registered providers against statutory regulations and national standards to ensure the quality and safety of care. In addition, we are currently reviewing the No Secrets guidance, which covers community safeguarding arrangements, and a new vetting and barring scheme will be in place from October this year.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Nevertheless, would she not agree that there is ample evidence of neglect in all walks of life and of discrimination against disabled and old people, especially by some care companies? A recent “Panorama” programme revealed that there were thousands of complaints of neglect, including people being left naked in their beds at night, people being left in their own excrement both at night and during the day and people being deprived of vital drugs. Given this scandalous situation, will the Government stand back and leave it to the Care Quality Commission or will they work with the commission and become actively involved? Without the involvement of the Government, the commission, which has been set up only this week, will have limited power. Will my noble friend tell us how long the Government have known about this situation and exactly what she intends to do about it?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, my noble friend points to a serious issue. We regard the abuse and neglect of vulnerable and elderly people as totally unacceptable. In response to the “Panorama” programme “Britain’s Homecare Scandal”, which was screened recently, the head of the Care Quality Commission said:

“We will not hesitate to use our statutory powers to take action against any companies that fail to provide acceptable levels of care ... Any evidence shown in the Panorama programme that we were not aware of will be followed up as a matter of urgency. Where necessary, we will use our statutory powers to take action

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to protect the welfare of people who use those services. Ultimately we can, and will, close down any care providers that fail to make improvements required of them”.


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