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When we go on to assess how many people will benefit from the scheme, we currently estimate that around 250,000 pensioner households will benefit from the rebate. The precise number will obviously depend on the quality that is achieved and the number in the target group already receiving a discounted tariff. Although that number is a relatively small proportion of the total of 11 million in the priority group-

Lord Jenkin of Roding: What is the proportion?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I stress that this is a pilot that is seeking, I suppose, to do two things: to reach and support people with a credit to their electricity bills, while testing what data-matching of this nature can do. There is the prospect of that progressing once we come on to the mandated or compulsory scheme in due course. There is that benefit to flow from it as well, and I suggest that we should focus strongly on that.

The noble Lords, Lord Oakeshott and Lord Freud, talked about take-up of pension credit. The Government have done much to make sure that there is full and improved take-up of pension credit. It is a challenge, but we know that take-up of the guarantee credit element of pension credit is higher. We think it is of the order of 72 to 81 per cent. It is the savings component of pension credit which tends to have less take-up.

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Lord Jones: I thank my noble friend for those details. I suggest that, since what he has proposed is more than helpful, the Government might consider promulgating a good policy.

Lord Freud: I thank the noble Lord. If the Minister is talking about 250,000 people who are expected to take it and the rebate is £80, we are looking at a budget of £20 million. So, when the Minister says that there is not much uptake, in practice there is a capped budget of £20 million and that is the amount the Government will put into this sector. Have I understood that correctly?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The £20 million figure is correct if 250,000 households are supported, but this will be paid for by the energy companies. It is not a government budget. It is part of the energy companies' commitment under the voluntary agreement.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: I thank the Minister for those figures. I apologise if I did not ask my question clearly enough, but what I was trying to ask about eligibility was: how many people aged over 70 do the Government estimate to be eligible for the guarantee element of pension credit? That is not the same as how many are getting it and are therefore eligible for this benefit. If the Minister does not have the figures specifically for people aged over 70 now, I would be delighted if he could write to me with the Government's best estimate.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I apologise to the noble Lord; I did not cover the point he raised. I do not have any data to hand about pensioners aged 70 or over who might be entitled to pension credit. If we have those details, I will certainly write to the noble Lord.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, following the point of the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, if the department knows who the people are over 70 who would be eligible for the pension credit, why on earth is it not making sure that they get it?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: With respect, that is a slightly different point. Everybody who is entitled to pension credit and has made a claim for it would get it. The gap is where people are theoretically entitled to pension credit but have not applied. Pension credit depends upon people's income and personal circumstances. The DWP or HMRC would not necessarily possess all those details to be able to make a judgment. There has to be a claim. A lot of work has been undertaken by the DWP in helping people to claim a combination of benefits, including council tax benefit and housing benefit, as well as pension credit. However, it does need to be claimed.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am most grateful. I will try to make this my last intervention. If people have not made the claim, and are therefore not getting the benefit of the guaranteed pension credit, there is no way that they will have their details disclosed to the energy supplier, is there? Therefore, they will not get the energy rebate.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton: The noble Lord is absolutely right. Under these arrangements for sharing with the energy suppliers the data of people who are in receipt of certain components, or a component, of pension credit and are aged 70 or more, that matching has to be done. If somebody is entitled to pension credit, has not made a claim, has not been assessed and is in receipt of pension credit, they could not possibly feature in this match. That is right. In a sense, that is just a consequence of the broader challenge of trying to make sure that there is improved take-up of pension credit. This data-matching route will not be a perfect solution. The purpose of the pilot is to see how effective it can be for the cohort that we have identified and are seeking to apply it to.

The noble Lord, Lord Freud, referred to data security and contractual arrangements. The department takes security of data very seriously and must deliver policies, procedures and controls to ensure that data are securely held, transferred and protected. Security is woven into everything that we do, driven in part by experience. We are deploying our existing IT service provider, HPES, to undertake the data-matching exercise, and it fully adheres to all departmental security protocols: creating contractual arrangements with the energy suppliers which specifically detail security arrangements and specify secure measures for handling, destroying and transferring data; encrypting all data in accordance with the DWP's encryption methodology prior to transfer to protect personal data; identifying named security officers from both the department and each energy supplier; and introducing a stringent monitoring and reporting system to ensure that security is at the forefront of the data-matching exercise. Creating these regulations-specifically regulations 7 and 8-will strengthen the legal safeguards even further by creating an offence of unlawful disclosure, which is supported by the noble Lord.

The noble Lord asked what the scheme will cost. If, ultimately, it involves 250,000 people at £80 each, he is absolutely right that that will amount to £20 million, which will be met by the energy suppliers. The costs of setting up and running the data-matching exercise and the customer service follow-up action will also be met by the energy suppliers, and the total cost of that is not expected to exceed £1 million.

The noble Lord, Lord Freud, talked about poverty targets and the need to do more. Our fuel poverty targets are challenging but the Government's policies in the UK fuel poverty strategy have centred on the three main drivers of fuel poverty: reducing the demand for energy through improving home energy efficiency; raising real incomes; and ensuring competitive energy prices through regulating the market and voluntary social pricing support schemes. Since 2000, we have spent £20 billion on benefits and programmes to tackle fuel poverty. This is a priority for the Government.

For example, this year we expect to spend around £2.7 billion on the winter fuel allowance, and we are currently committed to paying more than £250 million in cold weather payments. Warm Front has assisted more than 2 million households. The total funding for 2008-11 is £1.1 billion. Earlier this month, we launched the boiler scrappage scheme, which will provide a

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£400 incentive to help up to 125,000 households to upgrade their boilers. This scheme will cost something like £50 million. I suggest that these measures have a real impact. We estimate that without them the number of fuel-poor households in England would be around 400,000 to 800,000 higher.

The noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, asked about processing delays in pension credit and what that would mean. Unfortunately, someone whose claim is settled late will not qualify under this pilot. We recognise that some customers will obviously be disappointed, but, for reasons of simplicity and cost, we are not planning a further DWP scan to identify cases where a pension credit is subsequently awarded for the qualifying claim. Doing so would add enormously to the cost and the timeframe for delivery.

The noble Lord, Lord Freud, asked how long the electricity suppliers will retain the shared data. We are expecting suppliers to be in a position to delete files sent to them shortly after they have received them. However, the exact timing will depend on how the data will be loaded on to supplier systems and when the payment will be made, and this is still under discussion.

The noble Lord, Lord Freud, asked about success measures. We will be evaluating the scheme against a number of criteria, including how many pensioners are matched automatically, how many we reach through manual sweep-up through letters to those who do not match automatically and whether those who match get their credit with their next energy bill. Of course, we will learn lessons for the future as to the effectiveness of data-matching.

4.45 pm

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, asked how suppliers had found vulnerable households to date. It is a theme that he has spoken about previously. We believe that suppliers have been very successful in delivering against their CER targets, which is why we had the confidence to increase the level of the target by 20 per cent in 2009. For instance, by the end of the first 18 months of the three-year scheme, suppliers had achieved 63 per cent of their increased CER target. In the absence of any means of sharing government data with suppliers, they found it difficult to meet their priority group targets in the energy-efficient commitment that preceded CERT, which comprises households claiming particular benefits. In response, the Government took the opportunity to add all the over-70s to the group. So it is not all pensioners-it is those over 70, which increases the level of opportunities. Certainly, that helps suppliers make further progress on their priority group targets at the CERT halfway point, with less than one-third of savings left to be achieved.

The figures from April 2002 to September 2009 show that 3.4 million cavity wall insulations have been done, as well as 3.6 million professional loft insulations. Close to 2 million households have benefited from subsidised DIY loft insulation. In total, that means that around 7 million households have benefited from some form of insulation measures during this period. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that we

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are sorry to hear of his direct experience of the scheme. I shall share with DECC colleagues the lessons from that experience, to ensure that they are aware of it. As for monitoring the scheme, at the moment lead-times are monitored closely, although practically they tend to vary through the year. However, we recognise that in some cases the work is not done as quickly as the Government would like, let along the consumer.

The Energy Saving Trust recently commissioned a review of how its advice network refers into carbon emission reduction target schemes. The aim of the review is to improve the customer experience offered by the EST and the advice centres for customers wishing to install a CERT-funded measure. Most suppliers operate their own independent auditing procedures for insulation work and impose fines, suspensions and contract cancellations on installers who fail to meet standards of service and customer care. Suppliers work hard to ensure that customers do not have to wait longer than is reasonable and take action in cases in which that fails.

The noble Lord referred to the hassle factor and its impact on customer service and the success or potential success of the scheme. The primary aim is to deliver carbon reductions in households; the scheme has been very effective, and I have just outlined some of the achievements to date. This is about awarding the rebate, so people do not have to take action themselves. The noble Lord asked about the consultation on the mandated social price support scheme; we hope that that will take place in the summer of this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, talked, too, about the difficulty to date of suppliers finding vulnerable households. We believe that they have been successful in that; it has been helped in part by adding the over-70s to the group. One can understand the challenge-and I think that the noble Lord himself said that sometimes there was a process of focusing on particular areas. "Blitzing" is the term that might be applied to that. Part of the challenge is to reach these customers and to do it on a basis that has regard to costs. One can understand the challenges of that, which is why the data-matching-if we can make it work-provides a significant opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, asked what proportion of the priority group is represented by the 330,000 eligible people. It would be about 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. What we learn from the process is important. If we can make it work, the possibility of expanding it could be significant.

The noble Lord asked when payments would start. The Government will consider the success of the scheme and assess whether it provides a secure and effective means of targeting assistance to poorer pensioners. We expect payments to start from late spring, and evaluation will begin as soon as the first payments are made. The noble Lord asked about progress on the pilot schemes. I do not have much detail on that. Perhaps I might write to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Freud, tempted me to comment on Conservative Party proposals. I am sure that he will forgive me if I do not stray into that. He referred to the discounted tariff and asked whether the overlap is large. The purpose of a trial run to evaluate the

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overlap is to see whether the exercise is going to be meaningful. If we found that there was a 90 per cent overlap and that only 10 per cent of the potential customer base was going to be within a matching exercise, it would be doubtful whether such a small exercise could be justified on cost/benefit terms-hence the proposal that, if there is a large overlap, rowing back from the principle of excluding people if they get a discounted tariff would broaden the scope of people who would be within the exercise and make it potentially more meaningful. It is proposed, although I am not sure that it has been finally agreed yet, that for those who are in receipt of a discounted tariff the payment would not be £80 but £40, which would not be the full amount.

I fear that I have not covered all the points that noble Lords made. If anybody wishes to press me on a particular matter, I shall try again. If not, I shall look at the record and write to noble Lords further.

Fuel costs can have a big impact on household budgets. We want to be able to identify and target support effectively to those households which need most help. The regulations facilitate data-sharing between government and energy suppliers, and enable the Government to pilot their energy rebate scheme. The Government are proud of their record on reducing fuel poverty and our aim through this scheme is to provide pensioners over the age of 70 with a fuel rebate worth £80.

Most people should receive the rebate this spring, without needing to do anything, in time to impact on the last quarter's energy bills. We are working with energy suppliers to set up a communications strategy to ensure that people who might be affected are aware of the scheme and its benefits. The energy rebate scheme will last for one year only. However, the lessons that we learn should be invaluable when it comes to designing the mandated scheme from 2011. I commend the regulations to noble Lords.

Motion agreed.

Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Mandatory Life Sentence, Determination of Minimum Term) Order 2010

First Report Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Considered in Grand Committee

4.55 pm

Moved By Baroness Scotland of Asthal

The Attorney-General (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Committee will not, I hope, need reminding of the public concern about murders committed using knives. It is incumbent on us to respond to those concerns to maintain confidence in the criminal justice system, and it is crucial that sentencing should properly reflect the seriousness with which this type of murder

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is treated. I pay tribute to all those who have campaigned on this issue and I am sure that the Committee will join me in expressing my heartfelt sympathy to those bereaved relatives and friends who lost a loved one in such appalling circumstances.

Public concern has focused particularly on the disparity between the 30-year adult starting point for murder using a firearm and the 15-year starting point for murder using a knife. The Government responded to the concerns expressed last year by conducting a review over the summer of murder using a knife. We also consulted the Sentencing Guidelines Council, as required under statute. Guidance to the courts on determining the appropriate minimum term for murder cases is set out in statute, which ensures that there is an element of democratic accountability in the sentencing of this most serious of crimes. Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides for three starting points for those offenders aged over 21: a whole life term, 30 years and 15 years. A court may adopt a 30-year or 15-year starting point for an offender who is aged 18, 19 or 20. There is a separate starting point of 12 years for all murders for offenders aged under 18 at the time the offence was committed. The legislation provides examples of the type of case which would attract the higher starting points, with all other cases attracting a 15-year starting point.

We propose to introduce a new adult starting point of 25 years for murder where an offender aged 18 or over takes a knife or other weapon to the scene of the crime with the intention of using it to commit any offence, or to use it as a weapon, and uses it in committing the murder. The emphasis is on the intention of the offender, since it is the circumstances surrounding the offence which reflect seriousness and distinguish between separate cases. It is these specific aggravating circumstances which would attract the proposed higher starting point. They have been framed to capture the type of case which gives rise to most concern in relation to knife crime. While the focus has, rightly, been on the use of knives, we have included any weapon carried to the scene because there should be no difference in the starting point if the weapon carried was a knife, a screwdriver, a baseball bat or any other weapon. It is not the method of killing that is most important but the intention to carry and use any weapon to kill.

Some issues were raised in the other place about the potential meaning of "knife or other weapon" and there was a discussion around various possible scenarios. I can clarify that under this draft order, "weapon" has its ordinary meaning. Other legislation provides various definitions of knives and offensive weapons for different purposes. However, here it is the intention of the offender which gives the character of the offence, not the character of the knife or other weapon. Ultimately, it will be for the court to determine what constitutes a weapon, as it does in other cases of assault. We predict that it would be unlikely to take the view that the use of hands and feet would be considered a weapon for these purposes unless, for example, a knuckle-duster was used, particularly as the order is drafted in terms of a weapon taken to the scene. However, these provisions may apply where the weapon is a folding pocket knife with a blade of less than three inches. Such a knife

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may be legitimately carried in public, but if the offender took such a knife to the scene with the intention of use and then used it to kill, the proposed new starting point would apply.

We think it is right that we have maintained the distinction between the starting points for murder using a firearm and murder using other weapons. Knives and many other weapons are legally available in every domestic setting and are most commonly used in the heat of the moment where they are readily to hand. Firearms are subject to much more restrictive legislation and there can never be a legitimate reason for carrying a loaded weapon in public. The reality is that firearms are most often used in serious and organised crime and they have much greater potential to give rise to multiple victims. We consider it right, therefore, to retain a higher starting point for murder using a firearm than that for use of a knife.

We must also bear in mind that the Court of Appeal has ruled that a 30-year starting point for murder using a firearm is usually merited only where there is premeditation. Our proposals considerably reduce the gap where there is premeditated use of a knife or other weapon. The proposed new starting point applies to adult offenders. We are making no change to the starting point for juveniles, which is 12 years for all murders. There are good reasons for this. Sentencing for juveniles is extremely complex and encompasses wider considerations than those which pertain in relation to adults, including considerations of the welfare of the child. If we were to amend the starting point for this kind of case for juveniles, we would have to consider the whole structure of Schedule 21 in relation to juveniles. This is because there is currently only one starting point for juveniles rather than the three for adults. If we were to differentiate for them, we would have to put in place a similar structure to that for adults, and consideration of any such change would take time to do properly and would need primary legislation. However, the court will reflect the age, emotional maturity and culpability of the offender when sentencing a juvenile. For these reasons, where the offender is a mature 17 year-old who committed a murder with a weapon taken to the scene with intent to use it, the minimum term imposed is likely to be closer to that applying to an adult in the same aggravating circumstances.

Our proposals are intended to provide for more transparency and a greater degree of consistency in sentencing; they are not intended to impose a straitjacket on the courts, nor do we wish to do so. The court must be free to impose the appropriate sentence in each case and reflect all aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Schedule 21 provides for that flexibility and the court may arrive at any final minimum term from any starting point; it will be what the court determines proper in the circumstances. Nevertheless, it is important that Parliament should establish what it considers should usually be the starting point in this type of case-public confidence demands no less. These proposals are based on proper reflection of the issues and are specifically targeted on murders where the offender deliberately arms himself with a weapon with every intention of using it to kill. The public have every right to expect

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that sentencing in such cases should reflect the severity of such a crime. That is why our proposals have been structured as I have just described.

I know there were concerns about the difference between the costs promulgated by the Government and those referred to by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. The council estimated that between 500 and 1,500 additional prison places would be required if a new starting point was set at either 20 or 30 years; we have estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 additional prison places based on the proposed new 25-year starting point. There will be no initial cost and the provision will have no cost for 15 years from the point of implementation, but will increase each subsequent year over a period of about 45 years, which is when the provision will have reached its maximum impact.

In its calculations, the council has simply estimated that the additional 500 places would cost £19 million each year. We have taken the average cost over the 45 years it takes for the numbers to build up to the maximum impact. We have also used the average discounted cost per year, whereas the council has estimated costs at today's prices. The average discounted cost per year over 45 years is estimated to be between £8.7 million and £13.2 million. On the face of it there appears to be a difference, but that is only because the figures are calculated in a slightly different way. I do not criticise the council for doing that, but we suggest that the Government have calculated the figures in an accurate way.

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