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During 29 years service as a police officer, like many colleagues, I have been on the receiving end of a fair amount of alcohol-related violence and therefore I am realistic about the need for some coercive powers. On balance, I believe that the proposals in Clause 28 may well be of some benefit in targeting irresponsible retailers who continue to sell to those under the age of 18, although I recognise that progress has already been made, with failure rates in test purchase operations reducing from 50 per cent in 2004 to 15 per cent in 2007. The amendments proposed in Clause 29 may also have some practical utility as an immediate operational response.
However, the powers in Clause 31 will need to be exercised in a particularly discerning and proportionate way if they are not to produce undesirable consequences. While it is just about possible to imagine circumstances in which it would be appropriate to direct a child as young as 10 to leave a locality, officers will need to think very carefully whether the matter would not more appropriately be addressed under child protection legislation and whether the consequence of such a direction might be to move the child to an area where he or she will be less safe.
Similarly, in Clause 30 it will be important, if children are inappropriately gaining access to alcohol, to distinguish between the child as a potential offender and a child with welfare needs. Putting them all into the criminal justice system will certainly not assist in reaching the intended objective, and repeated confiscations are unlikely to address the root cause of the problem or lead to enduring behavioural change.
There is a growing consensus that alcohol misuse by young people will be addressed only by a coherent, sustained and strategic approach delivered through strong local partnerships where communities are mobilised and stakeholders work together. Young people need to be supported and encouraged to make the right decisions about alcohol and they need accurate information about its effects. Alcohol education in schools is crucial, well before patterns of regular drinking become established, encouraging young people to delay the age at which they start drinking and to drink at lower levels of risk when they do. Parents too have an important part to play in raising sensible drinkers and they, too, need clearer advice.
I very much hope therefore that the Government will continue to emphasise the preventive measures outlined in the youth alcohol action plan and that the debate does not become disproportionately located in a criminal justice context.
The challenge for us all is to prevent dangerous drinking patterns becoming embedded in youth culture but to avoid adding to what the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child described as the United Kingdoms prevailing climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents. A well co-ordinated, evidence-based approach offers the best chance of achieving this.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, the juggernaut of Home Office legislation trundles its way relentlessly along, despite the Ministers very spirited introduction. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has already indicated that more than 60 Bills on criminal justice since 1997 have added a further 3,600 criminal offences to the statute book. It is astonishing. We are liable to imagine that every problem, irritation or fault in our society can be solved, soothed or improved by legislation, but it is not so.
The difficulty is that every Bill before us, like this compendium of assorted and unrelated issues, contains many good intentions and some good proposals. We can and should prevent the worst consequences of bad behaviour affecting others adversely and diminishing the peace and security of our society, but we seem to
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Let us take, for example, Clause 29. Good intentions lie behind it, as we have heard. We want to discourage children from drinking alcohol. Good. We want to discourage them from drinking alcohol in public places, with all the consequences for disruption and uncontrolled behaviour that may follow. Good. That is what caused this House to approve the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997. It enabled the police to confiscate alcohol from young people in public places if they were consuming it or if the police could show that they intended to consume it in that public place. Now we are proposing to abolish the doctrine of intention. I am rather keen on doctrines. Possession is enough. The 15 year-old boy, given a celebratory bottle after passing some examinations, and which he could legally drink at home, might have the bottle taken off him for possessing it in the street.
The doctrine of intention is important in relation to crime, but possession is easier to determine. We are in the Bill lowering the barrier of criminality. We seem to be saying that if we catch the unwary, that is the price we will have to pay. The danger is that young people may be criminalised much more easily than we imagine for something that they cannot comprehend should put them on the wrong side of the law at all. We therefore increase their anger and impatience with the law and authority. We may even reduce the stigma of criminality itself and make the high-spirited young seem more wayward as a result. What will we have achieved?
Let us take Clause 27. The maximum fine for consuming alcohol in a designated public place will rise from £500 to £2,500. Why? Will it matter whether it is £2,500, £25,000 or £125,000? Why would it matter to some offenders whose whole income is spent on drink and drugs? Is not one of the problems with these great portmanteau justice Bills that we have not always decided what we want the law to do in each caseand in each clause? Are we seeking to deter? Are we seeking to extract retribution? Are we encouraging reformation of manners and behaviour? I doubt whether what is proposed in Clause 29, for example, will deter or extract retribution and I am absolutely certain that it will not amend behaviour. So what is it for?
We also seem to move into punishment mode too swiftly when dealing with children and young people who misbehave. Disordered juvenile lives are best dealt with by welfare provision, not criminalisation. Sometimes,
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The Governments continued determination to criminalise young people engaged in prostitution is a case in point. It is argued that we need the criminal law to enable such young people to access support, but that runs directly contrary to the views of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is the outworking of a culture that resorts to the criminal law far too quickly for our own or our children's good.
The good intentions behind the Bill are again evident in the proposals regarding prostitution. The declared strategy that the Government have followed since 2006 has included preventionstopping people from getting involved in prostitutiontackling demand, developing routes out of prostitution, bringing to justice those who exploit the vulnerable, and tackling off-street prostitution, especially where young and trafficked people are involved. That is a commendable strategy, which the Church of England supports. The difficulty, which is well illustrated here, is how to translate it adequately into legislation. Should we criminalise payment for sexual services to a prostitute who is subject to force, deception and threats? It seems entirely right to shift the blame from the victimas the prostitute often isto the purchaser of the services. Apart from the question of strict liability, will the provision make it easier or harder to discover who is being exploited?
I am a patron of the Magdalene Group in Norwich, a charity that works to help those involved in prostitution. Its staff tell me that even they sometimes find it difficult to know for sure how far some prostitutes with whom they have built a relationship are truly being controlled or coerced. While some prostitutes may have originally been subject to force or deception, they get into a prostitution lifestyle. They may then cease to be subject to force or threats, but simply do not have the emotional, physical or spiritual energy to get out of it. Are we talking about contemporary force, threats and deception? How historic might it be? If what we really want to do is to make it illegal to pay for sexual services, should we not simply do so? I am very sympathetic to the Government's intentions here, but am concerned that even those working for the welfare of prostitutes are uncertain how the proposals would benefit those for whom they care.
I have a final few words about the provisions relating to gang culture and violence. When the extension of the use of control orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was debated in this House a couple of months ago, I said there was a danger that the Secretary of State would be tempted to extend more widely that sort of arbitrary power. My concern about the use of injunctions here is the sheer breadth of control they permit. How do we ensure that the provisions are not used arbitrarily or restrictively to control behaviour?
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Many of the problems addressed in the Bill arose and arise because too many people in our society believe themselves to be unloved and unlovable. That is the cause. Society does not become more loving by making more laws; it becomes more fearful. Perhaps in this House we might consider more fully how more loving support and welfare structures can be created for young people in trouble, sex workers or gang members. That might just bear more fruit than our legislative programme.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who always manages to hit the nail on the head about what is and is not good legislation. This is the 20th Bill involving policing on which I have had the pleasure of speaking in your Lordships House in the 10 years that I have been here. It seems that every time we have a new Queens speech, we have a number of new Bills on policing to add to the pot of the many that have gone before. I sometimes wonder whether we could more usefully spend our time consolidating these Bills rather than adding to their number. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, touched on that at the beginning of her speech. It would, in many ways, be far more constructive. However, here we are again.
At the beginning, I should once more declare my interest. It is some time ago now, but I was for 20 years a member of my countys police authority and for about eight years was its chair, as well as being on a number of other policing bodiesthe Police Negotiating Board and the National Crime Squad Service Authorityand a deputy chair of the Association of Police Authorities, of which I am currently a vice-president.
I will be speaking almost entirely on Part 1, which deals with police reform, although I will also speak briefly about gang-related violence and injunctions and touch on the retention and destruction of samples. I apologise for my voice; I have a bit of an infection.
One of my first impressions on reading the Bill was that it contains a large number of wide-ranging regulation and order-making powers for the Secretary of State. We have been here many times. I had fondly hoped that this Bill would be about reducing bureaucracy, not adding to it. Why does the Secretary of State need all these powers? Many of them seem so wide that it is not clear what they are trying to achieve.
Clause 3 in Part 1, which pertains to regulations about senior officers, is a good example of what I have just been saying. This clause is not precise and could be interpreted in many ways. What are the limitations on these powers? How might they be used in future? Could they be used in ways that are not intended? How many of these powers are truly necessary and, if they are so important, why are they not placed in primary legislation?
It is the police authoritys role to appoint senior officers of forces and I am very concerned that the wide-ranging powers proposed for the Secretary of State could be used to water down this role and/or to increase the influence of the centre, which would fatally unbalance the tripartite structure. Significant powers for the Secretary of State already exist in Section 50 of the Police Act 1996 to make regulations about,
so why are new powers so necessary? Does not the Governments own Green Paper suggest that there ought to be greater devolution in policing? Then why bring in powers that seem to be designed to increase central control and micromanagement? They appear throughout the Bill and I will address them in more detail in Committee.
Clause 5 is on police collaboration. The Association of Police Authorities believes strongly that an incentive-driven approach to collaboration is likely to be more effective than the direction-driven approach set out in this clause. Specifically, I note the Secretary of States order-making powersyet againto be consulted on collaboration agreements involving more than six parties. What on earth is the point of that? Surely it is not beyond the wit of police authorities and their forces to enter into joint agreements. They have been doing this for a very long time. There is clearly a fundamental misunderstanding about how these work. Most collaboration, as the APA reminds us, will involve both operational and support services; trying to separate them out into two different parts would be virtually unworkable.
The powers to direct, prevent, alter or terminate collaboration agreements are wide-ranging and open to abuse, with far-reaching consequences under future Secretaries of State or Governments. It is sensible, then, to limit these powers to guard against this. How much better it would be to define powers more tightly by reference to efficiency and effectiveness and then to make them capable of being exercised following advice from Her Majestys Inspectorate of Constabulary.
I shall now touch on the thorny matter of best value, another area about which I appear to have been speaking almost exclusively to myself over the years. I hope most sincerely that the Home Office will now look carefully at the possibility of producing an amendment at some stage during the passage of this Bill to achieve greater clarity in this field. Legislation surrounding best value has been amended, counter-amended and partially disapplied and then reapplied, and I wonder whether anyone understands at all where we are. This would be a wonderful opportunity to streamline the reasoning behind best value. The original aims were entirely laudable but, as I have suggested, they have somehow got lost along the way. I am sure that working with the APA and the Local Government Association would produce the clarity that we now need and I urge the Government to seek an early opportunity to be the instigator of really useful legislation.
A large number of organisations have a role in the policing landscape, which can lead to confusion about who is responsible for what. I will name some of these organisations, but I am sure that your Lordships will
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Using injunctions to control bad behaviour is a very bad idea. In the past, as we on these Benches have predicted, ASBOs have been used inappropriately, sometimes attempting to control the behaviour of people with mental illness or people whose lifestyle choices do not appeal to the majority of citizens. It is almost inevitable that injunctions will impact disproportionately on young black and minority ethnic communitiesa very bad idea.
Finally, I want to mention the retention and destruction of samples under Clauses 96 to 98. My noble friend Lady Miller and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, have raised this as a matter of grave concern. Again, I fought a rearguard action over a number of years to persuade the Government that the taking of these samples needed to be treated with diligence and, above all, seriousness. These matters should not be dealt with by secondary legislation, especially as the DNA profiles of people not convicted of any offence could be held for up to 12 years. It is imperative that Parliament scrutinises this scheme and ensures that, if amendments need to be made, they will be. That is impossible under this proposal, which should be removed from the Bill.
We have a chance to modernise policing for years to come. This Bill will in part enable some of that to happen, but it needs careful amending. I look forward to playing my part in proposing some of those amendments, which I hope will lead to the improvements that we seek.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, this is another of those Bills from the Home Office which turns its attention to a range of social problems and then tries to find a law-enforcement way of dealing with them. As such, it is rather to be regretted than welcomed, not because social problems do not need to be solved buthere I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwichbecause social problems are rarely solved by law enforcement measures and when they are it is for only the short term.
In particular, the Government have set their sights on prostitution, too much drinking by young people and membership of gangs, all of which fit neatly into the definition of social problems for which the solution is not more law, more law enforcement, more police powers and more criminalised people pushed into the
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I am grateful to the Minister for his thoughtful and full introduction to the Bill, but I am afraid that I was not convinced that there is any evidence that the measures proposed in these areas will be effective. Effectiveness is one line of argument. These measures are not likely to work. For example, criminalising parents who cannot get their children to go to school, so that single mothers end up in prison, did not deal with the problem of truanting children, as we have been able to see quite clearly in the eight years since that measure has been on the statute book. The measures I am concentrating on today will not only be ineffective, they are also unsatisfactory in legal and human rights terms, and will give law enforcers powers that it is not desirable for them to have.
It is clearly a sensible policy aim to shift away from the criminalisation of women involved in prostitution. Many would agree with that proposition. The Home Secretary is right when she says that, without a demand for prostitution, there would be less of it. The proposition is unarguable. It is also unarguable that we should be concerned about trafficking for sexual exploitation. But we need to consider whether these proposals will have these effects. Can the law reduce demand for prostitution or will these measures be counterproductive? I share the view of many who fear that they will be counterproductive.
Regarding the offence of paying for sex, even in the new circumstances defined by the amendment in the other place of force, threats or deception, there are widespread concerns. For example, there are concerns about the strict liability offence. The Joint Committee on Human Rights in its 10th report said that,
But there are other arguments, too, against this provision. Increasing the elements of criminality and possible law enforcement in the transaction between sex worker and client increases the danger for the sex workers, who are already, as the Minister said, a very vulnerable group.
When I was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights we visited Italy in connection with an inquiry into human trafficking to look at the arrangements there. The system there did not aim to reduce demandit was felt to have been an unfulfillable aimbut was concerned to protect women, to rescue them from coerced situations and to catch, prosecute and deal with traffickers. There was an anonymous phone line for anyone to ring who suspected that a sex worker was trafficked. Does the Minister think that many people would ring such a line or get in touch with the police if they felt they would then be charged with committing a criminal offence? Is it likely to protect trafficked women?
I turn to the orders requiring attendance at meetings with a named supervisor which can be used by courts for those convicted of loitering and soliciting. The aim is to help people to get out of prostitutionan extremely worthwhile aimbut the Minister will no doubt be aware that there is a great deal of opposition to these proposals also. Once again, it is the right thing being done in the wrong way. Routes out of prostitution are needed and many organisations do superb work and achieve a great deal. The Government seem to have the viewI assume that this is the casethat it is the threat of punishment that motivates people to do what is good for them. Could the Minister for a moment consider what the life has been like of the women for whom these provisions are intended? Does he not think that their lives have already had more than their quota of punishment? Why does he believe that threats and punishment are more likely to work than support, encouragement and practical, no-strings help, given with understanding and a commitment to persevere even when there are relapses and crises?
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